Horse Racing: STEAMING! Four-Dayer Has Killed Festival Frolics for Me

Article excerpt


CHELTENHAM'S top brass said they would hold a review of the four-day Festival after its first three years - and that time is now up.

I'm assuming my invitation to throw in my two penn'orth with Edward Gillespie & Co. got lost in the post, so here goes.

When the fourth day was introduced I was a member of the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' brigade - and little has happened since to change my view.

I don't have a problem with the commercial reasons (or greed, if you prefer) for the extra card - if I had a cash cow, I'd milk it for all it was worth, too.

But that doesn't mean it makes for a better Festival than the three-day affair it replaced.

As with most things in life, the issue isn't black and white - and there are some positives.

Although the aggregate crowd is up, the throngs of punters - on the first three days, at least - are more manageable than before.

Six, as opposed to seven, race cards - usually three conditions events and three handicaps - also work well.

More punters - including Cheltenham virgins - get the chance to see what all the fuss is about, and, long term, that can only work in the sport's favour.

But most people agree the atmosphere at the remodelled fixture isn't what it was - and the reason is simple.

It was possible - just - to sustain the electric tension over a high-octane Tuesday to Thursday. With the extra day, there also comes the need for a lull.

But the Cheltenham Festival shouldn't be about catching your breath and collecting your thoughts - there's plenty of time for soulsearching and post mortems after the County Hurdle. …