Sir, - It was with dismay that I realised, during the running of the Risk Of Thunder Chase on November 27th at Punchestown, that quite major alterations to the usual cross country track had been made. This included omitting Ruby's Double as one of the early obstacles. I am told that these modifications are to be retained.

After speaking to some of the cross-country fraternity it appears that this was done unilaterally by Punchestown Racecourse management without proper consultation with leading banks racing participants, as a knee-jerk reaction to the fatalities over the course last season.

Punchestown need to decide now how to deal with cross-country racing going forward. This kind of measure lessens the spectacle considerably and will render the course more and more like the pale imitation that Cheltenham built. It emboldens the opponents of jump racing who grow more strident every year.

It further tilts the balance to the classier chase horses from the bigger and more powerful stables in a discipline where the smaller outfits previously felt they had a chance to compete on the basis of superior jumping technique. The great old tradition of banks racing at Punchestown will die under this approach.

Surely it would be better to be on the front foot, and take a new attitude to allowing horses school over the banks regularly, whether that be over the main course or perhaps over a purpose-built strip alongside.

Horses could be required to complete a section well before getting a “ticket” to compete over the banks rather like a stalls cert. In this way management can be seen as proactive by anyone concerned with equine welfare and the historic spectacle can be preserved.

Hopefully then the spectacular sight of well schooled horses jumping banks at speed which Punchestown crowds have enjoyed for 150 years can thrive and continue for another 150. - Your etc.,

Denis Beary.


Co Kildare