Jane Mangan: Tough time for amateur jockeys with Cheltenham ban  

The point-to-point season is already suspended as riders feel the impact of Covid restrictions
Jane Mangan: Tough time for amateur jockeys with Cheltenham ban  

The Cheltenham Christies Foxhunters winner It Came to Pass with Maxine O’Sullivan in the saddle. Picture: Healy Racing

IMAGINE dreaming that you live in a world where the Kim Muir, National Hunt Chase and the Cheltenham Hunters’ Chase are dominated by jockeys such as Townend, Cobden and Coleman.

Then you wake up...

Boris Johnson’s roadmap hasn’t come in time to allow Amateur Riders to participate at the Cheltenham Festival and while not all that surprising, it doesn’t make it any less disappointing for those involved.

Many riders have taken the news on the chin, accepting the British Government guidance as gospel, others have already opted to turn professional. This isn’t a tactic to swerve the rules, it’s simply an attempt to salvage an income.

Since pointing was suspended in early January, riders who would ordinarily be experiencing their harvest season have been experiencing a drought of sorts.

Riders such as Richie Deegan and Jordan Gainford have already turned professional and I would expect a few others to follow suit.

Aside from Cheltenham, the next major step for our industry is to get point-to-points back on track.

As Level 5 restrictions are due to stay in place until April 5, pointing won’t return until after that date. We must now ask the question of whether additional races should be scheduled on the track to facilitate demand for opportunities for young horses to showcase their talents?

I appreciate the above suggestion is easier said than done but when we consider the livelihoods at stake across rural Ireland, I think all possibilities should be explored.

Cheltenham is significant on countless fronts but one we must remember is that next month will mark the first anniversary since one of the biggest PR scandals that horse racing has ever experienced.

Did racing cause Covid-19?

No.

Did racing break any government guidelines by running Cheltenham in 2020?

No.

Do we need to be on guard for racing ahead of Cheltenham 2021?

Absolutely.

On to a more immediate matter, I’m headed to Fairyhouse tomorrow for the Bobbyjo Chase meeting where the aforementioned race features a number of horses hoping to salvage their seasons including last year’s winner Acapella Bourgeois.

Fifth when last seen in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park, the Willie Mullins trained 11yo beat stablemate Bellshill and the re-opposing Alpha Des Obeaux in last year’s renewal but this year’s strongest opponent could prove to be 7yo The Long Mile.

Trained patiently by Philip Dempsey, The Long Mile came good for connections when winning the Tim Duggan Memorial Chase at Limerick over Christmas when beating Articulum by 22 lengths.

Never sighted behind Off You Go at the Dublin Racing Festival, I think the ground wouldn’t have suited at Leopardstown and while he is stepping into Graded company for the first time, his rating of 145 suggests he’s worth his place in the line-up.

The Fairyhouse card opens with the Grade 3 Norman Colfer Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle, won last year by subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory.

Teahupoo may have been a fortuitous winner when he beat Druid’s Altar and Autumn Evening over course and distance in January (Youmdor fell at the last hurdle) but it was an impressive Irish debut nevertheless.

Purchased privately after winning at Auteuil for Gabriel Leenders in October, Teahupoo will have another exciting import to negotiate tomorrow in the shape of Willie Mullins’ Tax For Max.

Bought by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede for €200,000 after winning on the flat in Germany, Tax For Max contested the Group 1 Preis Von Bayern in Munich on his final start for Henk Grewe and while he proved no match Sunny Queen on that particular day, it is notable that connections thought him worthy of a place in Group 1 company.

In the same juvenile division, Cork jockey Adrian Heskin will be hoping Tritonic can continue his upward trajectory in the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton tomorrow afternoon.

 Tritonic and Arian Heskin win. Picture: Healy Racing.
Tritonic and Arian Heskin win. Picture: Healy Racing.

Trained by Alan King on the flat and now over hurdles, Tritonic came from last to first at Ascot on his hurdles debut to beat Casa Loupi having failed to relax in the early stages of the race.

He’s an interesting horse for the future if he races more professionally tomorrow, but if any horse hopes to get near Zanahiyr and Quilixios in the Triumph Hurdle, then the least they can do is relax and conserve their energy!

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