Sir, - Call it off. The Cheltenham Festival is no longer the stuff of dreams and theatre. Instead we are in an era of domination, short-priced hotpots, British decline and unrealistic expectations for the names of trainers without the letters W.P. next to their surname.

I am a National Hunt fan through and through but, like a child who believed in Santa Claus, I can no longer believe in the “magic” of the Cheltenham Festival.

I watched my first Festival in 2004 where I screamed home War Of Attrition in the Supreme Novices’ with my €2.50 each-way bet invested by my dad, only to be denied a short-head by the great Brave Inca.

Ever since then I have been fascinated, intrigued, hooked and loyal to National Hunt racing. Horses trained by various different trainers. Great memories of Alan King’s success with horses such as My Way De Solzen, Katchit and Voy Por Ustedes.

Gallant efforts in Champion Hurdles from Macs Joy and Harchibald without success. Inglis Drever digging deep to win his third World Hurdle with Denis O’Regan, who looked the closest thing to Frankie Dettori over a hurdle.

My point is, it was variety, it was different, joyous, unpredictable and magic.

The characters of Walsh, McCoy, Geraghty, Russell, Choc Thornton, gone and replaced.

It’s 20 years on from my first gaze and sound of the roar from the television as 20-odd runners ran to the first in the Supreme. All with a chance, even the 200/1 shot who was still a maiden after two uninspiring runs at Plumpton weeks before.

You see, we were all believers in the magic. This year I lost belief in the magic.

I don’t believe it is a blame game. The mammoth connections in Ireland have taken over and to me that’s modernism. We see it everywhere in every industry. National Hunt racing was never going to escape.

I remember distinctly Willie Mullins was interviewed on the Tuesday of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival and he noted that the chances of him having so many hot favourites on the one day was a once-off and may never happen again. Nearly 10 years on it has doubled-down and the competition is whittling away. We are left with a declining product.

Forget about the fairytale stories of the small man winning any of the flagship races. Those days are gone and, to continue to support the Festival, we need to accept that. The problem for me is, I find it hard to accept as I remember what has gone before.

The Jockey Club has a real problem on its hands as the once runaway train of the Festival is coming to halt, possibly even going off the tracks.

Reform? Reduce? Possibly. Will it sort the ongoing issues of dominance and lack of magic? Unlikely.

For me, I may have to acquire a new hobby from September to May. I never thought I would say it but thank goodness for flat racing. I will watch it, keep an interest, follow my broodmares’ progeny but it won’t replace the magic unfortunately.

We are no longer in love, the magic is gone. - Yours etc.,

Harry Coleborn,


Co Wicklow

Dear Cheltenham, you’re killing the golden goose

Sir, - As we reached the railway bridge overlooking the Cheltenham vista, it was wonderful to be back for the first two days of the Festival, having first visited in 1969.

The first troubling signs we saw was the sardine-like packed car park, full of Rovers, Bentleys, Rollers, all parked at a fee of £20, their owners seemingly unaware of the forthcoming rain on already slippery, muddy grass. At least we were happy we had safe parking in our secret tarmac parking spot, a 15-minute walk from the main entrance. Our appetites had been sated with a huge breakfast for £14 there.

We had £80 admission tickets for the Tattersalls enclosure and we were disappointed to find all the racecards were gone before the first race! A very inadequate ‘form’ card (£5) had to do.

On wandering around we wondered were we at the same course that, six years previously, had allowed three of us to enter for just £60.

A venture into the Club enclosure (£20 extra but far easier to just walk in) showed a vacant area in front of the stand that a good-sized hurling match could be played on.

The saga continued the following day with the scars in the car parks still visible. A country point-to-point would be ashamed to offer such a situation to their valued patrons.

It was no surprise to read attendances were down 10,000 on last year, continuing the downward trend.

Prestbury Park, you are not only strangling the golden goose but trying to burden your patrons with 12st 7lb at the same time. Let go of the goose’s neck before it’s too late. You’ve already published prices for 2025 and they are unchanged! - Yours etc.,

Edward Lynch,


Co Waterford

Here’s how to help smaller owners and trainers to compete

Sir, - In National Hunt racing both the small trainers and owners have been leaving the scene and it is obvious the big trainers and owners have mostly taken over, winning so many races and most of the prize money, especially in the big races.

It’s just the same as the small grocer in a handy-sized town or village competing with the big supermarkets.

Make no mistake about it, those big trainers are great trainers, turning out winners day after day at home and abroad.

At most National Hunt meetings, if not all of them, there is a race of some sort - generally bumpers - for amateur jockeys.

Why not have a race or two confined to trainers with 30 or fewer horses in training, and owners with less than 15 horses?

I know a trainer with a small number of horses who is training mice to jump, just for a little recreation. He knows it won’t pay the bills but at least it is interesting to watch. How the mice are trained is a story for another day! - Yours etc

D. Turner