Sunday, December 22, 2013


Is it just me, or is jumps racing changing for the worse?  The jumps used to have a massive advantage over the Flat in that the stars would hang around for years and become household names, while the Flat stars came and went like comets.  It doesn't seem to work like that nowadays.  National Hunt racing has a handful of established stars who will endure, each running once or twice during the several months of autumn and winter, and then twice more in the spring; and then it has a transient population of up-and-comers who dominate the big races through the winter, before mostly disappearing in advance of the next season, to be replaced with another huge batch of young one-season-wonders.

The Open Meeting at Cheltenham?  I'd hardly heard of a runner.    The Greatwood Hurdle was a classic example: I couldn't  have told you about any of the first three.  Our XII-To-Follow competition said it all: 27 lists, not a single point earned yesterday (ie no horse in the competition finished in the first three).  On a Saturday, that's very poor - and I mean poor from the point of view of racing, rather than from the points of view of the competitors, because we can't all be that clueless.  Here's a statistic which sums the problem up perfectly: in 1995 there was one runner in the Hennessy aged less than eight, while in 2013 there were 17 (of 21) aged less than eight.  See what I mean?  This is a problem for racing.

Jumps racing is currently very, very popular, but it won't remain that way indefinitely if it continues to go the same way Flat racing has gone, only worse.  The leading stables (Henderson, Nicholls, Mullins, plus their imitators) each recruit an intake of scores/hundreds of youngsters, mostly from France, at huge expense each year, win a couple of prestigious races with each of several of them - and then 90% of them disappear, to be replaced by an equally enormous intake the following the year.  And so it goes, like Flat racing only more so.  What's the answer?  I don't know.  But the current system which, Flat and jumps, hugely favours unexposed horses in all races bar the Group/Grade Ones, has to bear a large part of the blame.  Food for thought (I hope).

On a less negative note, while we've been having stormy nights and while the rest of the country has been having very wet days, we have, at least, been having reasonably pleasant conditions during the few hours of daylight each day at this most benighted time of year - as these three photographs, taken this morning while I was riding Frankie (Douchkirk), confirm.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

Seasons greetings you are right and the only way around it would be to put qualification races in place which need to be run in to qualify for Cheltenham/aintree won't happen as the big battalions would be against it
The current state of affairs is tedious in the extreme personally I follow Irish racing more than British as at least you see the better horse even from the bigger yards run more often it could be because there are decent jumps prizes all year around and there is not solely the focus on one and a half weeks a year