D.The contrast could hardly be greater: Where else thousands, often inspired by alcohol, are crowded and loudly cheering for their favorites on the last climb to the destination, the grooms are now only a few. A year ago, the Cheltenham Festival – the Wimbledon of horse riding over obstacles – was the last major sporting event with spectators before the island shutdown.
A quarter of a million racing fans flocked to the otherwise tranquil town of Cheltenham on the western edge of the hilly Cotswolds, around 60 kilometers south of Birmingham, over the four days of racing. Around 4,000 catering staff usually take care of the needs of international guests. This year there are just 40 – for the active, functionaries and media people. Spectators – nil.
The British gallop association BHA had been heavily criticized last year for holding the festival despite the impending corona disaster. Commercial reasons would have preceded the well-being of the people, attacked the pugnacious and controversial journalist Piers Morgan in a television report on Tuesday at the start of the festival. “The importance of the situation has been underestimated,” said Morgan, who just lost his job at breakfast television because of his harsh words about the television appearance of Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry. Former BHA boss Nick Rust dismissed this, but admitted that it would have cost racing around £ 20 million if the festival had been canceled. “In retrospect, it shouldn’t have taken place,” said Rust.
This year, in addition to Corona, a scandal overshadowed horse racing, which could have an impact for a long time. A photo of Irish top trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse and happily talking on the phone shook the scene. Irish obstacle jockey legend Mick Fitzgerald said tearfully: “If there is one thing we need to make everyone understand, it is how we care about the horses. You are the stars. That’s why this photo makes me so sad. “Current BHA boss Julie Harrington emphasized:” The Cheltenham Festival and other large meetings are a real opportunity to put the sport in a positive image again. “
The Irish federation has banned Elliott for six months, with a further six months on probation. His most important owner, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, has continued to trust the 53-year-old, although he was the owner of the dead horse.
Not everyone has forgiven Elliott
Until the suspension expires in August, the Irish trainer Denise Forster will look after the horses in the Elliott stable so that they can take part in the festival. On Wednesday she was able to record the superior success of Tiger Roll for herself. The two-time Grand National winner took his fifth Cheltenham Festival victory and third success in the spectacular cross-country chase, which leads over the long distance of 7,000 meters and 22 jumps. “You can’t put into words what that means, he’s a bloody legend,” said Ed O’Leary, who runs his brother’s Giggistown House Stud team.
Not all owners have forgiven Elliott, however. The traditional Chevely Park Stud withdrew its eight horses and placed them with Henry de Bromhead and Willie Mullins in Ireland. Both have dominated the festival so far. The most important goal for de Bromhead so far has been the Champion Hurdle with the seven-year-old mare Honeysuckle, who is still undefeated after eleven starts over hurdles. In the saddle sat the 31-year-old Irish rider Rachael Blackmore, who became the first woman to win one of the “Big Three” festival races. These include Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and of course the Gold Cup this Friday as the absolute highlight of the meeting.
The success of the mare, which has now galloped together for more than 800,000 euros, is also a success for the German thoroughbred breeding. Because the mother First Royal is bred in Germany, the father is the Derby and Japan Cup winner Lando of the Hof Ittlingen stud. Blackmore has another chance to make herself immortal in the Gold Cup, which is endowed with a prize of 300,000 euros: She rides the promising de Bromhead protégé A Plus Tard. Her colleague Byrony Frost is there on Frodon.
With this horse she was the first woman to win the King George Hunting Race in Kempton at Christmas, which ranked just below the Gold Cup in sporting esteem. The favorite, however, is Al Boum Photo, supervised by Mullins, who has already won the 5200 meter race twice. Best Mate last achieved three Gold Cup victories in a row from 2002 to 2004.
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