countryside day cancelledThe much anticipated November Meeting 2019 did not get off to a good start as organisers have cancelled the race card owing to water-logging on the course.

Countryside Day (Friday 15th November) was completely abandoned and no racing took place.  The cancellation was announced at 1pm Thursday, two hours before the scheduled 3pm course inspection.

Saturday's race card for Gold Cup Day was in doubt but following an inspection on Friday at 3pm racing is now set to go ahead with the going being soft and heavy in places.

Ask the average punter to name a racecourse and they’ll probably tell you about the likes of Aintree, Cheltenham or Ascot. That’s not a major surprise, given that those courses are the ones that host some of the biggest events in the industry. Yet that also means that they are the most protected from tough times, such as those being experienced by the United Kingdom thanks to austerity policies and the confusion of Brexit.

Smaller courses enjoy no such protection, meaning that they are vulnerable to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The result of that is that when tough times come, the lesser known venues are more likely to have to find ways of pinching pennies or else risk having to shut down altogether.

The British Horseracing Authority announced in mid-August of 2019 that there would be a new Grade 2 race introduced at the Cheltenham Festival from 2021 onwards. The race will be run over 2 and a half miles and will be for mares only, meaning that it will join the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle as being races run during the Festival that are exclusively for female horses. It will also join the former of those two races in being a Grade 2 race, whilst the OLBG is a Grade 1. 

At the 2019 Cheltenham Festival an amateur jockey called Declan Lavery was punished for continuing on what the meeting’s stewards decided was a ‘tired horse’. Three jockeys in total were punished for the same offence, all of which were racing in the National Hunt Chase.

Lavery was given a 10 day suspension as a result of the stewards’ findings, which legendary jockey AP McCoy branded as ‘the worst decision for 25 years’. The Chase, which has been in existence for more than 150 years, found its future in some doubt in the wake of the stewards’ enquiries, given that it is run over four miles and is only open to amateur jockeys .

woman on a horse outlinA PhD student at the University of Liverpool Management School named Vanessa Cashmore has conducted some analysis into the betting patterns of punters when it comes to female jockey in jump racing. She looked at more than 1.6 million rides over an 18 year period and discovered that female jump jockeys are being underestimated by bettors, perhaps because of negative opinions by the public surrounding the abilities of female jockeys.

At the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, for example, female riders took part in 9.2% of all available rides and won 14.3% of the total number of races. The public not giving female jockeys due respect will please bookmakers the more races that they win, given that it means they’ll be paying out less money to bettors.

hijab wearing jockeyIn the world of sport, everyday racism and everyday sexism can only be combatted by more people from minorities and more women being involved in sports at the highest levels.

Earlier in the year I wrote a piece looking at how female jockeys are under-estimated by punters, whilst recent performances at the likes of the Cheltenham Festival have shown that they’re every bit as capable as the men of producing top-notch performances. Whilst the battle against sexism in horse racing and sports in general is far from won, news of a female referee taking charge of the UEFA Super Cup between Liverpool and Chelsea means that we’re at least heading in the right direction in sport overall.

The horse racing industry has announced that there will likely be a fall in the amount of money paid out in prize money after the levy that funds the sport was £17 million shorter than was expected. The reduction is being blamed on the lack of profits being made by bookmakers this year, due in no small part to the introduction of the maximum stake cut for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.

cheltenham racecourse signsLike a Sunday lunch that takes hours to cook and is demolished in a matter of moments, the Cheltenham Festival seems to have gone in the blink of an eye in comparison to how long we were all looking forward to its arrival.

2019 feels like a year in which plenty of things threatened to happen but none of them did; from the equine flu crisis that seemed as thought it might cause Cheltenham to be cancelled through to the drones that we were led to believe would be invading the course via the wind that might have seen Wednesday’s racing called off altogether, it was a Festival that was nearly threatened but ultimately survived.

cheltenham gold cup representation

The Cheltenham Festival week is one of the most exciting in racing, if not sport in general, but it’s unquestionably true that it has been building up to this moment.

The Gold Cup remains the standout race of an excellent week, with seasoned punters and those with only a passing interest in the sport alike getting up for this one.

There are three Grade 3 races and three Grade 1 offerings in among it all, with the Gold Cup obviously being the feature race, hence the moniker of Gold Cup Day being attached to this one.

festival 12Two days of racing down and two to go by the time St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, with 14 top-class races having already run their course.

St. Paddy’s Day is also when the shift happens and the racing moves off the Old Course and onto the New, so information you’ve gleaned about the running has to be taken with a pinch of salt until you see how the New Course runs.

The key race today is the Stayers Hurdle, which has seen some brilliant horses crowned as champion on numerous occasions. The Ryanair Chase is also worth watching, arguably being even more exciting than usual this season as you’ll discover.