So another Cheltenham Festival has come and gone in the flicker of an eye, the wait and the many endless preview nights which seemed to last longer than the whole of the jumps season itself is now a distant memory with stories and performances that will live long in the memory bank and because of the Internet they can be easily replayed at any time on YouTube when you feel a bit bored watching Royal Ascot or a Kempton night meeting during the summer.

Throughout it though we had a question constantly being asked that had many answers from professionals, fans and punters alike.

Should the Festival go to five days?

Now this quite rightly caused much division, many people gave good reasons for and against while many just backed away and abstained, it is a huge talking point for sure.

In sport many fans and competitors dream about being on the big stage, during the cricket season you will see in September two teams living their actual dream when Lord’s hosts the National Village Cup Final at the Home Of Cricket, Football players at Non League level will grace Wembley when it’s the FA Trophy and FA Vase Finals Day and away from sport you will get drama students having ambitions of treading the boards in London’s West End, for many it will happen and for others it will remain a dream that could still happen.

Now the reason I mention this is that during the Festival some of the races did have small fields, notably the Turner’s Novices’ Chase and the National Hunt Chase and with that you would have to wonder how a fifth day would work when field sizes for four days weren’t quite in double figures for some of the races.

All owners of horses want to experience and have a runner at the big flat and jump festivals, it’s the dream every owner has and i think i have the best solution to solve the F word!

My local course Haydock hosts the Challenger Series Finals at it’s Easter Saturday meeting, now this series is designed to offer horses rated under 140 a chance to have a big payday as they would usually struggle to make the cut for the big Festival handicap races and it also gives a bit of structure to the middle of road horses during the season.

While the finale of the whole series produces some good and competitive racing at Haydock it does seem to lack a bit of bite though, the course doesn’t have any signs or insignia around the place advertising the series and there is no fanfare when the winning horses return to the winners enclosure, it’s a typical appreciative applause from a good crowd but still it doesn’t quite have that feeling you would get at a major festival.

Personally if Cheltenham wants a fifth day then rather than create new races i would just move the Challenger Finals to the home of jump racing and that way the owners and trainers at the mid to lower end can have a chance of lifting a trophy up in the same way that the captain of the local village cricket team wants to walk out to bat through the Long Room at Lord’s or the same way that the egotistical lead actor of the local am-dram society wants to take the applause at the Barbican.

Five days is more than likely to occur so instead of thinking up new races why not just move what you already have in place, surely this makes more sense then continuing to over egg the festival pudding?

Article – Neil Watson ( @WattyRacing)

An Arseonlineracing Publication – March 2022

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