Does Cheltenham need a new mares’ chase?
There was mixed reaction, to say the least, to the news that the Cheltenham Festival was to have a new race in 2021, a mares’ chase. And, significantly, it was going to replace one of the four-day meeting’s existing races.
A Racing Hub Twitter poll recorded 67% of the votes against introducing the new race. At the same time, races vulnerable to getting the chop were being promulgated.
Four races quickly came to mind:
- Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
- Kim Muir
- National Hunt Chase
- Novices Handicap Chase
And, in some quarters, the cross-country was being suggested. So that’s five possible Festival races. Goodness, it almost seems as if an entire day could be jettisoned, let alone a single race.
If there is room for a new race, which is highly debatable, maybe jump racing would benefit if it wasn’t held at the Cheltenham Festival. Perhaps another race meeting around the middle of March would be a better venue.
There’s not a lot to look forward to immediately after Cheltenham, apart from Uttoxeter’s Midlands Grand National. Add a quality mares’ chase to the card, and it might help life the post-Cheltenham blues.
That would benefit the mares’ breeding programme as well as another meeting. It’s hard to see it adding anything of merit to the Cheltenham Festival.
Shergar Cup needs beefing up
A week ago these scribblings gave their continued support to the Shergar Cup after there was a bit of negative reaction on Twitter to our guide to Ascot’s one-off team event. As it happens, the guide found three of the six winners and turned in a decent profit.
But, there’s no getting away from it, this year’s teams were a tad underwhelming in terms of star-name participants.
It’s likely that the best known rider was Hayley Turner (pictured), captain of the Girl’s team and the best individual jockey on the day. Jamie Spencer was probably a distant runner-up in regards to jockeys people had heard of.
Indeed, a friend who had a runner in one of the Shergar Cup races knew the name of the jockey but not that she was female.
This year’s Shergar Cup enjoyed a boost in prize-money. Fair enough if incentives are needed to attract the requisite number of runners for the six, 10-runner handicaps.
That said, the Shergar Cup has never seemed short of runners given entry is free and connections enjoy some very decent Ascot hospitality.
In the same way that Ascot’s Nick Smith trawls the world for headline horses to race at the track’s prestigious meetings, maybe next year it wouldn’t go amiss if the same effort was put into getting more of the world’s top jockeys to take part. That’s where the financial incentives look like they should be directed.
Whilst we’re on racing’s team event, it’s achieved that rare thing, being in agreement with Mark Johnston. He thinks there’s not enough to distinguish between four team silks. He’s right, more should be done to help spot individual horse, and racecourse commentator Mike Vince could well agree, as he got one or two runners muddled up.