Carberry: Ireland’s Cheltenham Festival Dominance Will Continue This Year
Ireland’s Cheltenham Festival dominance in recent years has been a big storyline in horse racing and one that is celebrated among the Irish.
This past decade for Irish racing has been a golden age. In 2023 it looks like this golden age will continue as Irish trainers and horses are set up to dominate once again at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Here at BoyleSports we got the chance to catch up with multiple time Cheltenham winning Irish jockey Paul Carberry to give us his take on all things Cheltenham including the battle between Britain and Ireland at The Festival.
Carberry gave us his analysis of the state of horse racing in both regions and what British racing can do to turn the tide.
Why Ireland Are Dominating At Cheltenham
The Irish have dominated Cheltenham in recent years – will that happen again?
It’s been unbelievable, really. The last ten years or so have been unbelievable.
A lot of the horses were being sold to England years ago, now a lot of the big owners are over here, paying for them, and that’s the big thing.
It’s a big help when you have the likes of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott, the jockeys are fairly good as well so that certainly does help, especially when the good horses are staying in Ireland. Had they remained in England, it may be a different result.
I think this year the Irish will definitely remain dominant at Cheltenham, they have a very strong hand again. For the next couple of years probably, it looks very strong for Ireland.
The racing scene in Ireland is thriving at the moment, though
It is very strong. The Dublin Racing Festival is a big thing, we have just had Fairyhouse, we have Punchestown Festival later in the year, they’ll be massive again.
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How Can British Racing Overtake Ireland Again?
What can the English do to reverse that trend?
I suppose the money over there is a big problem. Even when I was riding over in England years ago, the races were only worth £2000 sometimes.
Over here, we would race three times a week on a Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and you’d be getting more money for those three days than you would do for six days over in England.
Something has to be done there.
Cheltenham Is The Biggest Horse Racing Festival Of All
Is Cheltenham really the be all and end all of Festivals?
I think it is. There is a big build-up to it, it is always great to get a winner there but it is also a very lonely place when you walk away without a winner.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to leave there without a winner too often but the hype, the best horses, they are all trained for that day.
Was it always something you targeted as a rider?
At the start of the season, you might ride a couple of nice horses and you’d always be hoping that they would make it to Cheltenham and that they’d stay right during the year for you to get there with them.
Jockey’s Experience Of Riding At Cheltenham Festival
What is it like to ride at the Cheltenham Festival?
It’s the best festival in the world. It’s very emotional, you always get a great feeling when you’re coming up that hill.
I was very lucky that in my first race at Cheltenham, it was a winner in a bumper so I got that out of the way early.
It’s a great place to win but I also remember when I got beaten there on Harchibald, that was a long walk back to the parade ring after. It’s an amazing place, an amazing theatre. There is no other place that compares to it.
The Irish come over in swarms and they certainly give you a big cheer when you’re coming into the winners’ enclosure.
The New Whip Rule In Horse Racing
Whip review – what are your thoughts on the changes in England?
I think it’s silly because you’re basically going to end up with no whip at all in the end. It’s going to be very silly having it in before Cheltenham, because there are going to be so many suspensions and then people are going to say ‘oh, we’re just going to have to get rid of it’.
You can’t just change. You’re going to have a lot of Irish going over there and are not going to be able to adapt straight away. That’s going to be a big problem for them.
The first thing you do when you go for a horse is turn the whip into the other position, it is going to be so hard for jockeys not to do that as it is embedded in their brain automatically.
If I was riding now, I would just have to throw away the whip when I was coming to the last, that’s the only way I’d get away with it. You’re probably just going to get done and disqualified anyway.
It’s asking a lot, on this big stage, to obey those rules straight away.
Keep up to date with all our Cheltenham Festival coverage as we keep you updated with all the latest betting odds, tips and news in the lead up to the biggest festival of them all.
Ireland’s Super Yards
Is the dominance of the super yards in Ireland a good thing or a bad thing?
I think they are all very good trainers. Willie Mullins is phenomenal and to be able to look after them all and get them all right is amazing. All his runners at Cheltenham and Dublin recently, whatever he is doing, he is doing it right.
He’s buying up all the good horses when they are young, they are always coming along and always up to the job. It’s the same with Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead, that’s what keeps it going – the owners are not afraid to spend.
The Challenges For Smaller Trainers
Is it harder though for the smaller trainers to break through and smash the glass ceiling?
It really is very, very hard. Even Gavin [Cromwell] has had a few Grade 1 winners but it is really hard to get really good horses to compete against the big three yards. For the smaller trainers, it’s hard to go to the sales and buy good horses because you are getting outbid all the time.
Even the point-to-point lads are coming in with loads of money, from every side it is very hard for the trainers.
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