Sunday, May 19, 2024

BHA Chief Claims Irish Cheltenham Dominance Is ‘Damaging’ The Sport | Balls.ie

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It was a week to remember for the Irish contingent at Cheltenham, as a green wave took over the famous festival.

Of the 27 races held over the week, 18 saw Irish wins, including 12 of the 14 Grade One races.

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The highlight was of course Corkman Paul Townend taking a record-equalling fourth Gold Cup win on Friday atop Galopin Des Champs. It was a second successive victory in the event for the pair, and marked the eighth win of the week for trainer Willie Mullins in a week where he surpassed 100 wins total at the festival.

It was an utterly dominant week from the Irish at Cheltenham – and the chief of the British Horseracing Authority has claimed that said dominance is “damaging” for the sport.

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BHA chief unhappy with Irish dominance at Cheltenham

Paul Townend Cheltenham

15 March 2024; Paul Townend celebrates aboard Galopin Des Champs after winning the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase on day four of the Cheltenham Racing Festival at Prestbury Park in Cheltenham, England. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Julie Harrington, chief of the British Horseracing Authority, spoke in the aftermath of the Cheltenham Festival and chose to raise issue with the wave of Irish wins over the course of the week’s racing.

Though paying tribute to the brilliance of Irish jockeys and trainers – in particular Willie Mullins – Harrington said that she feared the dominance of Irish jockeys was not a positive for the sport.

Harrington said that the “best horses” were going to Ireland exclusively, in something she claimed was not a new problem:

We again tip our hat to the Irish, and in particular Willie Mullins whose achievement in reaching 100+ Festival winners is truly remarkable.

I have no doubt that the men and women who train horses here in Britain are more than a match for their Irish counterparts. However, they need the ammunition and at present the balance of power and the best horses are going to our colleagues in Ireland, and in particular one yard.

This is not a new issue. The direction of travel has been set for a number of years now. The sport has been alive to this and taken measures to seek to address it, through attempting to tackle funding issues associated with the sport, seeking increased investment, looking at the race programme, and more recently the delivery of the recommendations of the Quality Jump Racing Review.

However, the Irish domination of the Grade One races this week has illustrated that the issue is becoming more pronounced and more damaging for the sport on both sides of the Irish Sea.

It is now six years since the Cheltenham Gold Cup saw a British winner, with Henry de Bromhead and Willie Mullins putting their stamp of authority on the event.

The coming years will certainly be intriguing, as British jockeys attempt to reassert themselves on home soil.

SEE ALSO: Ruby Walsh Sums Up Brilliance Of Paul Townend’s Historic Gold Cup Win

Paul Townend Ruby Walsh Cheltenham Gold Cup

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