Is the Cheltenham Festival under threat?

The Cheltenham Festival has long been known as one of the top races in the United Kingdom.
Yet, two of horse racing’s leading owners have called for other owners to not race at this year’s
Cheltenham Festival. The Cheltenham Festival and other top
NJ horse betting events will get started this spring with a full calendar of events. Paul and Clare
Rooney have stated they are “concerned” with their horses becoming injured at the racecourse.
According to reports, the owners sent letters to their race trainers to notify them of their stance.
Will the 2019 Cheltenham Festival take place as expected?

What’s the problem?

The issue behind the Rooney’s decision to boycott the Cheltenham Festival is safety. There is
belief the racecourse is leading to injuries to horses. The Rooneys have informed their trainers
not to enter horses owned by the couple. The owners want to withhold their horses from the
racecourse’s events until safety risks are resolved. Only twice this year have the Rooneys been
at Cheltenham for events at the racetrack.

Their issues with Cheltenham began in 2017 when Starchitect, running in the Caspian Caviar
Gold Cup, suffered a fatal injury near the end of the race. In 2017, a total of four horses died in
three days of racing. Meanwhile, last year, six horses lost their lives at the famed race. A
seventh horse, owned by the Rooneys, was put down following the festival due to severe

Can the issues be fixed?

After last year’s fatalities, 17 recommendations were made by the British Horse racing
Authority. The group reviewed the course and its jumps, and decided on ways to make
Cheltenham safer. The implementations are set to begin at this year’s festival. Some of the new
measures that will be introduced include:

-Pre-race veterinary checks on all runners at the festival,
-Monitoring and analysis of fall rates, and
-A continuation of trials by Jockey Club Racecourse into the use of padded hurdles and
methods for improving obstacle visibility.

The issues with Cheltenham come on the back of other issues in British horse racing. In recent
months, the use of the horse racing whip has also come under scrutiny. It is believed new,
stricter rules are about to be implemented for the use of whips.

The future of Cheltenham

Horse racing experts expected safety to be an issue at this year’s festival. Yet, they didn’t expect
to start the year – with over three months until the Cheltenham Festival – with the course’s safety
being such an issue. The Rooneys’ decision to announce their boycott now has truly caught many by surprise.

Cheltenham didn’t need two of horse racing’s top owners to be so vocal about the course.
Especially, after being watched by so many people following horse deaths the last two years.

While other owners have not joined the Rooneys in their boycott, the press headlines are not
good for Cheltenham. Not all owners are concerned and many have already praised the
racecourse for being “first class”. It is unlikely a large number of horse owners will join the
boycott and stand by the Rooneys. Despite the scrutiny it is under, Cheltenham should run this
year just as it has previously.