Is British Racing In A Bad Place? Noel Fehily Gives His Opinion
There has been a lot of chatter in horse racing circles in recent times around the question of – is British racing in a bad place?
The success in recent years of Irish racing has seen UK owners, trainers and jockeys take home less of the silverware in some of the biggest events in the National Hunt racing calendar including the likes of Cheltenham and the Grand National.
Does this mean that British racing is in a bad place? Or is it a testament to a successful spell for racing in Ireland that won’t last forever?
These are fascinating questions and we caught up with King George Chase and Champion Hurdle jockey Noel Fehily to give us his insight on the topic.
I don’t think there’s too much racing in Britain – Ireland would love more
In Ireland, I think there are a lot of trainers and owners who would love more racing. If there’s a problem and the fixtures are interrupted, for instance, most will get balloted out because there could be 80 entries and the majority are going to get balloted.
Then you have to wait a week and you get balloted again, then you might have to wait another couple of weeks. It has happened to us with horses we have had in Ireland.
When you do run, there’s going to be 24 runners and Willie [Mullins] might have three, Gordon [Elliott] three Henry [de Bromhead] two or three. So, out of 24 you have perhaps four with a genuine chance. The rest? None.
British Racing Is Made Out To Be In A Worse Place Than It Is
People love complaining and moaning. I don’t think British racing is in as bad a state as everyone is saying.
Everyone wants the prize money to be a bit greater but I think from my point of view, I’d rather have a slice of a small cake rather than no slice of the big cake.
That is what happens in Ireland, where you have racing dominated by the big owners and the big trainers, so trying to get a slice of that cake isn’t very easy. Whereas in England, you can dodge and duck and dive and at least you’re going racing and being competitive.
In terms of getting owners into the game in Ireland, it’s tough.
Irish racing is strong and you have some brilliant horses, but it isn’t easy getting owners into horses if you’re buying a horse not at the top end.
Look at Gigginstown and Michael O’Leary. He had said he was cutting back and he may well be with the number of youngsters he used to buy. But, he still seems to be buying a few form horses who are ready to go.
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There’s no need to reduce the British fixtures too much
They could cut down a little bit but there’s not a massive need to reduce it too much and it is not as bad as people make out.
Maybe some of the summer jumping could go – there should be a break of maybe six or eight weeks to make it more competitive, say after Sandown in April.
For all the big British fixtures coming up this year check out our 2023 Horse Racing Calendar.
You get nice ground through May and June and then you get to July, August and the start of September and the ground is so hard.
The timing of Dublin Racing Festival suits the Irish owners
It is a brilliant Festival and I am not surprised it has become so successful so quickly. There are some great races and they’ve pumped a lot of money into it with €2million in prize money on offer.
The timing of it probably suits the Irish trainers more before Cheltenham.
Irish owners take on each other because they have to, they have no choice as they haven’t got the amount of racing. They can’t say “well we‘re not good enough to go to a certain track or meeting, so we will lower our sights a bit and go somewhere else” because they are only racing three days a week.
Dublin Racing Festival Doesn’t Suit Trainers In British Racing
The timing of the DRF doesn’t help English trainers. You don’t want to be travelling a horse over to Ireland at this stage.
You have to leave a couple of days beforehand, which is fair exertion on the horse, and then come back and run at the Festival.
For instance, Willie wouldn’t bring his big guns over to England to run a month before Cheltenham to run in England again at the Festival.
Michael O’Leary and Willie Mullins seem to have made up after their high-profile stand off
Gigginstown took their horses away from Willie a few years back because O’Leary wouldn’t agree to pay the increased prices quoted by Willie. Willie said, ‘OK, pick your horses up then.’
So O’Leary did – all 60 of them. Neither of them would give in. Willie stood his ground and now O’Leary is back. That tells you something about Willie.
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