Talking Horses: extra meeting won’t stop Ireland’s Cheltenham dominance

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Greg Wood

Guest
It is prize money rather than tweaks to the calendar that have helped Irish trainers to dominate at recent Festivals

It is still two months before the clocks go back and the National Hunt campaign begins in earnest, but the memory of British jumping’s 23-5 humiliation by the Irish at Cheltenham in March is still painfully raw. As a result, even the vaguest of rumours last week about a possible new two-day meeting at Newbury in early February was greeted, in some quarters at least, as a possible turning point in Britain’s struggle to reassert itself at National Hunt’s showpiece event.

The idea is apparently one of the first to emerge from an advisory group set up after Ireland’s astonishing romp through the four-day meeting five months ago, and an attempt to replicate the success of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown in early February in teeing up horses for Cheltenham the following month. Newbury, which already stages several Festival trials on its Betfair Hurdle card in mid-February, would be the most obvious place to stage the new meeting. To no one’s great surprise, it was reported to be “eager to discuss” the possibility last week.

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