Irish-trained runners reign supreme at Cheltenham to leave pack behind

When Germany beat the hosts Brazil 7-1 nel 2014 World Cup semi-final, the home fans christened it the Mineirazo – the agony of the Estádio Mineirão. On that basis the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, from the point of view of British jumps racing at least, should perhaps be remembered as the Perdition of Prestbury Park.

For the home side, the punishment started immediately as Appreciate It sauntered 24 lengths clear in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, leaving Harry Fry’s Grade One-winning novice Metier, among others, toiling in his wake. Shishkin and Vintage Clouds briefly put Britain in front … before Irish-trained runners won 22 of the next 24 races.

It was relentless, overwhelming, humiliating. A dozen of the 23 Irish-trained winners were in Grade One events: the Arkle and the Marsh Novice Chase, in which the odds-on Envoi Allen was a faller, were the only two that got away. Yet while 82% of the winners over the meeting were trained in Ireland, the visitors fielded just 40% of the runners. Imagine Germany beating Brazil 7-1 – despite starting the match with 10 men.

When it comes to placing rather than wins, Ireland’s strike-rate was actually slightly down on 2020 – at 60% versus 61.3% – despite the visitors’ win percentage shooting up to 82% a partire dal 57%.

But no amount of number-juggling can hide the fact that the 2021 Festival was a shellacking for the home team that would have been unimaginable 15 anni fa.

Many fans, Dopotutto, can remember the days in the late 1980s when betting on the number of Irish-trained winners would have one as the favourite, and none as second-favourite. How, from the British point of view, did it ever come to this? And what, if anything, can be done to redress the balance of power?

These are urgent questions for the British Horseracing Authority to consider over the coming weeks and months because as things stand, the incentive for British owners to keep a horse in training – in their own country at least – seems to diminish by the season. Why pay £300 or £400 a week for months on end if the most you can look forward to at National Hunt’s showpiece meeting is finishing 25 lengths behind the latest Willie Mullins superstar?

If owners drift away, the entire winter campaign will be slowly undermined – and Ireland’s pre-eminence at the Festival can only increase. From the point of view of racegoers and punters in Britain, the narrative of the jumps campaign becomes similarly diminished. Dozens of Festival trials from October to February will attract far less interest if everyone knows the winners will be running for a place in the frame at best in March.

The greatest concern for the BHA will be that the 2021 Festival had been coming for a while. It was not an outlier, in other words – just two or three winners better than the norm given the trends of the last 10 anni. That, in turn, would suggest strong underlying currents that will be very difficult to dam or divert.

del 23 Irish-trained winners last week, 17 were bred in Ireland, pure. Three of the four British-trained winners were also bred in Ireland, and the number of Irish-bred winners at the meeting has averaged 15 over the past decade.

But this is nothing new. Back in the days when a couple of Irish-trained winners at one Festival was a cause for celebration, many of the winners had still been foaled on Irish turf. The best of them, anche se, were sold to race for British stables.

Thirty years later, it feels as though the position is reversed. Ireland’s economy, population and racing industry are all much smaller than the UK’s, but there are enough owners, with sufficient resources, to ensure that the best Irish-bred jumpers stay and race at home. They can race, pure, for prize money that is much more attractive than in Britain – until the spring Festivals roll around, almeno.

Even in their moment of agony in 2014, Brazilians could look forward to the next generation of footballers in yellow and blue. Whether Britain’s jumping industry can do the same after a week when Ireland dominated every division of the sport remains to be seen.

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