The Challenges We Face

March 26th, 2024 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there!

The Irish domination of our showpiece meeting at Cheltenham is likely to become one of the main topics of conversation again as we approach the Grand National a fortnight on Saturday, with just five of the 34 sure to get into the race trained in Britain.

The five, following the decision to save Threeunderthrufive for the Bet365 at Sandown, are Nassalam, Corach Rambler, Eldorado Allen, Latenightpass and Mac Tottie.

Last year’s winner Corach Rambler, who ran so well to finish third in the Gold Cup despite racing on unsuitably soft ground, is a general 5/1 favourite, while the next of the home team in the betting is Latenightpass at 33/1.

Although the Grand National will, as usual, be in the public domain on Saturday 13th April  – with people still keen to have their ‘once a year bet’ – to the purist the race is a far cry from its former status.

It is no longer the test of jumping that it once was, with horses able to brush through the top of the fences, while the reduction in the size of the field puts less emphasis on a horse’s trackcraft and alacrity.

It remains a test of stamina, especially if the ground is on the easy side, but the criteria that pointed the way in recent years to Monty’s Pass, One For Arthur, Earth Summit and Bindaree among others no longer applies.

Horse welfare will again be a concern … we lost two horses at Cheltenham this year, to the best of my knowledge, bringing the total number of deaths at the meeting to 70 since the year 2000.

Sixteen horses have died in the Grand National in the same period including five since the fences were modified in 2019.

If there are fatalities this year then I wouldn’t know what the BHA could do. Nobody wants to see a horse injured, or worse, but it is inevitable that this will be the main topic of interest amongst the general public if a horse should lose its life.

I would not be surprised in that instance if there were calls for the race to end.

It would make more sense for the critics to condemn jump racing as a whole, but it’s the industry’s misfortune that the eyes of the world are focused on this one event rather than the hundreds of other races that pass without incident.

As I implied last week, racing is in a bad place at the moment and it is in desperate need of a talisman. Frankie Dettori cast a shining light on the sport’s showcase meetings but he has now moved on to sunnier climes, while we recently had a triple champion jumps jockey who confined his riding to the northern tracks and seldom appeared at the top meetings.

We could all go on and on, but whether it’s about affordability checks, the on-course experience, horse welfare or the Irish domination at Cheltenham and now Aintree, racing is in need of some good news.

Talking to people with no interest I am faced with anything from blind indifference to a downright loathing of the sport, yet on the big day nearly all of them will be watching the one race of the year and the benchmark by which they will judge the standards of our industry.

What a shame they don’t visit Cartmel on a balmy summer’s afternoon or any of our other tracks which are more representative of our sport.

While on the subject of variety, we have a truly international flavour to this Easter weekend, with the All-Weather Championships at Lingfield on Friday, the return of Auguste Rodin at the World Cup meeting in Dubai on Saturday and the Irish Grand National meeting at Fairyhouse on Sunday and Monday.

I have asked our Irish contact Ronan Groome to write a piece for the Weekend Card, focusing on Fairyhouse and the Irish challenge in Dubai, while I will be sniffing around the low-grade meetings in search of a few gems.

I have been chatting with Rebecca this weekend about our services for the new Flat season, I am unfortunately beholden to my health but as long as I continue to be intrigued by a 0-50 classified at Wolverhampton on a Saturday night then I know I still have something to offer.

We’re fast approaching one of my favourite times of year, with the Craven meeting following quickly after Aintree, so keep in touch with Rebecca if you are interested to know what we are up to.


Bye for now