FOLLOWING Willie Mullins’ domi-nance of the Cheltenham Festival, training 10 winners, and with a last fence faller and a short-head defeat that would have made it 12 winners, there were many comments online last weekend to the effect that this was ruining the sport.
“It’s all about money and the domination is boring.” “The dream is going out of the sport, there will never be another Norton’s Coin or a Limestone Lad, the normal trainers just can’t compete” were typical comments.
Yet, for those who have Cheltenham as the highlight of the racing year, was it really that bad last week? The dilution of the Festival is another question but, by and large, Cheltenham 2022 did as we had hoped.
The great thing about the television coverage of racing, compared to most sports, is that you get the emotions delivered down the airwaves immediately after the success and we had lots of that last week from a huge variety of owners and trainers. And it is only seven years since Coneygree took the Gold Cup. There is room to pick up tasty morsels from the top table. Paul Hennessy did it last year, Paddy Corkery did it this term.
All sports have similar dominance at the top-end. Formula 1 was a two-horse race last year but that didn’t seem to reduce the interest in the drivers’ title, though I personally don’t have the interest I might have had 10 years ago. The dream of an FA Cup win by a smaller team is pretty much gone as that competition no longer rules a half day Saturday TV
Last week Jonbon (£570,000, Classic Getawa (£570,000), Ginto (£470,000), Envoi Allen (£400,00), Pied Piper (225,000gns) and American Mike (£195,000) showed those who spent huge sums are not guaranteed success in National Hunt racing, while horses like Flooring Porter, Corach Rambler and Love Envoi emphasised that there are bargains still to be found.
Yes, the best horses are in a few hands, but Chacun Pour Soi and Energumeme still took each other on. Willie ran Asterion Forlonge and Tornado Flyer in the Gold Cup. From a punting point of view, did it matter who trained them?
Does it really take away from watching horse of the calibre of Constitution Hill, Honeysuckle or Allaho that they are owned by wealthy owners?
Yes, the rags-to-riches stories are central to keeping the public engaged but that takes little away from the thrill of watching a horse like Allaho or Constitution Hill any more than it did with Sea The Stars or Frankel.