Cheltenham Festival: David Mullins On Why A Five-Day Meeting Is A Bad Idea

Date IconLast Updated: 28 Sep 2022
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Cheltenham Festival: David Mullins On Why A Five-Day Meeting Is A Bad Idea

This is usually a very exciting time of the year with Cheltenham less than a week away, but unfortunately the build-up seems to have been overshadowed by the constant chat of an extra day being added to the festival.

A five-day Cheltenham Festival is a sad thought really, isn’t it?

A Day Too Far

An extra day is too much as in truth it only pleases a few people in the sport. It won’t create more competition and really it will just lead to more events being fought out between the top few trainers, jockeys and owners.

I enjoy a day at the races as much as anyone, it’s one of my favourite things to do, and the Dublin Racing Festival is very enjoyable, but the results are basically decided before the event even starts, especially the Grade Ones. Cheltenham will end up the same if it does go down this path.

I love National Hunt Racing, but it’s all a bit predictable and boring, isn’t it? The big yards can split up their horses, so the biggest owners flock to them as they have no reason to go anywhere else. A five-day event only adds to this problem. This year I’m only going to Cheltenham on the Thursday for the sales as it all seems a bit of a foregone conclusion.

In the past a three-day Cheltenham Festival meant that the races are more competitive and then with trainers unable to split their horses, owners are more inclined to send a horse to another trainer to try and get an edge.

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This clear issue is happening over four days already. A simple look at this year’s markets for the main races backs this up. Gavin Cromwell with Flooring Porter is the only Irish trainer in the first four of the open Grade Ones other than Henry, Gordon, and Willie.

The more races that the bigger yards can split their horses between means the more winners for the few trainers and jockeys, and it will become only tougher and tougher for the little guy.

I find the thought of a five-day festival very sad, particularly as it doesn’t help the smaller trainers at all, it only gives the bigger guys more options. The only way smaller trainers can now survive is to be very clever. It shouldn’t be this hard for the rest though.

Nicky Henderson speaking in favour of a five-day festival should be noted, as Johnny Henderson obviously contributed massively to what Cheltenham is now, but I do disagree with it.

Horse racing is a great sport, but we need to try and make everything more competitive, not the other way around.

My Four To Follow

There is some top class racing to get stuck into and below are four horses who I think are good value ahead of next week.

Jonbon (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)

The Supreme could potentially be a brilliant race, but Jonbon is the one I’m most keen to follow. The rest of these look-like big chasers of the future, while Jonbon seems to be a Champion Hurdle type. He can get the show off to a good start for us!

Viva Devito (Champion Bumper)

This was one who I mentioned at the #Racehour Cheltenham Preview Night and his owner, Chris Jones, confirmed at the event that he will be going. I like this lad quite a lot and he’s a big light framed horse like Kilcruit was last year. He might just be the right type.

I hope Jody Townend keeps the ride, as she has a real gift that you cannot teach someone of slowly bringing a horse into a race without them even realising it. That’s seems to be a recurring theme of how you win a Champion Bumper.

Winter Fog (Pertemps Handicap Hurdle)

This is one of the first horses I got involved with when buying for Paul Byrne and Emmet Mullins, and it would be a real thrill to see him win this.

He ran a great race at Christmas, and maybe just didn’t see it all out on his first start for the yard after a long break and a troublesome passage through the race. That was a big step forward though and if he can improve again, he will be bang there.

Mount Ida (Mares Chase or the Gold Cup)

I know Gordon has said she more than likely goes for the Mares Chase, but I haven’t given up hope just yet as I’d love her in a Gold Cup. She won at the track last year, has improved a lot this season and is the type to finish strongly.

She’s made for a Gold Cup, but I’d fancy her in the Mares Chase as well if she ends up there obviously!

The Rest

The horse who I can’t see beaten this week is Honeysuckle. She’s just a different class and I don’t see how Appreciate It or anyone lining up can beat her with the gears she possesses.

While Facile Vega has looked a bit of a machine, and clearly has the world at his hooves, I’d be worried about anyone steaming into him at odds-on in the Champion Bumper. It’s a race where the best horse regularly gets beaten. I wouldn’t be going near him.

Finally, I can’t wait to see Energumene take on Shishkin again. I think he can improve a lot for Ascot, and I think he’s a better horse than he showed there. He met every fence brilliantly, while Shishkin didn’t, but he didn’t make any ground on him.

It just seemed odd to me, and I think he’s better than that. I actually think Energumene is the best horse in Willie’s stable and I’d be hopeful of him turning that race around.