Friday, March 25, 2022

Cheltenham Festival 2022 - one week on

One week on and the results of those Festival handicaps have generated some discussion.

British based trainers recorded five wins, Irish trainers four; the BHA head of handicapping Dominic Gardiner-Hill expressed satisfaction with that outcome following 'tweaks' made by his team after last year's 'drubbing'. 

This year 10 Irish trained runners from 100 entries (10%) recorded a top three finish in one of the nine Festival handicaps. 

Corresponding figures for the preceding three years: 

2021 (9 races): 13 from 65 entries (20%); 

2020 (10 races): 17 from 73 entries (23.29%);  

2019 (10 races): 13 from 68 entries (19.12%).

Unusually, Irish runners dominated three handicaps in particular last week: the Boodles (14 of 21 entries); the County (18 of 26 entries); and the Martin Pipe (18 of 23 entries). Those three races account for half the total Irish runners in handicaps this year.

Having won the previous six renewals, the Irish boast a good record in the Pertemps Final but this year British trained horses filled five of the first six places. Hughie Morrison, trainer of winner Third Wind, said: "We'll take a huge amount of heart from British trainers winning five handicaps."

Ben Pauling, trainer of Grand Annual winner Global Citizen, said: "The results show they were right to look at the handicaps."

Unsurprisingly, things looks a lot different from the other side of the Irish Sea. 

In a blog post pundit Kevin Blake describes the tweaks made as 'a substantial and calculated intervention by the British handicapping team to try and tilt the tables in favour of the home team.' 

Still, the domination of the Irish continues. Earlier this week both the Racing Post and reported that Willie Mullins, the Festival's leading trainer with 10 wins, is mulling over a bid for the British trainers' title. Vincent O'Brien was the last Irish trainer to win the British jumps championship in 1952/53 and 1953/54.  

Of course, punters talking prices forms a big part of any Cheltenham Festival week. Take a quick dekko at some of these, reported directly from the track by Rick Broadbent in The Times on Wednesday - they put bookmakers to shame...

Pint of Guinness: £7.00; a pasty: £7.50; gin & tonic: £14.00; Moet & Chandon (20cl): £29.00; bottle of sauvignon blanc: £80.00.

The Racing Post quotes owner Carl Hinchy: "Many, many people are simply saying they won't be coming back to be extorted. These prices are not acceptable."

Finally, on the morning of the Stayers' Hurdle I inadvertently found myself in a branch of Waitrose queuing up to pay for some bottles of craft beer. In front of me two ladies - daughter and mother - of a particular age, paying separately for sundry items and well practised in the art of taking all the time they needed. 

The well-spoken - and well-coiffured - mother removed her gloves and proceeded to engage the cashier in conversation about Wednesday's downpour at Prestbury Park. She continued: "Cheltenham, you know, these days, it's full of tarts in mini-skirts. It never used to be like that - Cheltenham - but I'm afraid that's how it has gone."  

Only in a branch of Waitrose.

No comments: