A packed Dawn Run stand watch the action in the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham. 14/3/2019 Pic Steve Davies/Racingfotos.com

Festival Reflections 2019

The stands have once again fallen silent after four breathless days of racing on Cleeve Hill, and the Cheltenham Festival 2019 is now confined to the memory banks and the history books. It was a captivating, challenging, emotional roller coaster of a week; these are my Festival reflections.

Champion Hurdler?

In the build up to the opening day, pundits and punters alike were relishing a duel between Apple's Jade and Buveur d'Air - or in some cases a three-way-go including Laurina - but what came to pass was one of those everyday 'you couldn't script it' scenarios for which racing's glorious uncertainty is known.

First, Apple's Jade was taken on at a helter-skelter lick by Melon, her chance seemingly compromised by this manoeuvre as she faded tamely into sixth. Meanwhile, reigning two-time champ, Buveur d'Air - with his trademark slick low jumping - took a liberty, and a consequential tumble, at the third flight. In so doing, he brought down Sharjah.

With the top two out of the race, as well as one of the key form line horses, surely it was Laurina's Champion Hurdle to lose? Lose it she did, the talk of her ascendancy proving some way wide of the mark. She was the only one of the supposed main three that had the chance to run her race, and she failed big time on this step up in grade. No obvious excuses there.

For Apple's Jade, it was a fourth visit to Cheltenham and a third defeat at a track where she seems to be beset by misfortune whether it's being in season, getting compromised on the lead or something else. It is not unreasonable to assume, given the full body of her work, that she is unsuited by the track.

And what of the winner and the placed horses? Espoir d'Allen, a progressive five-year-old bringing an eight-from-nine career record to the party, enhanced that to nine out of ten on this second attempt at Grade 1 company. He was soundly enough beaten in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, his sole previous G1 effort, in February last year but may have been unsuited to the steady pace there.

This was fiercely run. Mark Walsh sat in midfield, away from the crazy tempo up top and, avoiding the fallers, came through almost in his own time to saunter fifteen lengths clear of a gallant but spent Melon, with 80/1 poke Silver Streak back in third.

Handicapping the race is difficult, especially for those intent on literal interpretations. Fortunately, some clever bods - notably Simon Rowlands in this piece on the ATR website - have confirmed what the peepers were suggesting: that they went way too fast early and slowed up dramatically late.

To contextualise that, Rowlands notes that the Champion Hurdle was run four seconds - about twenty lengths - faster to the third flight, and yet the differential at the line was a mere two-and-a-half lengths. Pace collapse territory. That enabled Mark Walsh and Espoir d'Allen to record even fractions throughout in a sort of tortoise and hare setup - if it's not beyond rude to refer to a Champion Hurdler as a tortoise!

The fact that Melon, spoiler-in-chief for the favourite, was able to cling valiantly to second in spite of running remarkably inefficiently anchors the form in my book. Five-year-olds have a notoriously weak record in the Champion Hurdle and, while that alone is far from sufficient to crab the victor, the nature of the run of the race with - as Rowlands again notes - the first six home in the Supreme bettering the Champion Hurdle runner-up's time leads me to downgrade the race in form terms.

Projecting to this time next year, Espoir can certainly win another Champion Hurdle: he'll be a year older and stronger, and he has that crucial track experience to boot. But he's a lousy price at 7/2 in a place (6/1 tops still not enticing). Buveur d'Air will be nine next year, an age that didn't stop Hurricane Fly or Rooster Booster this century, and won't stop him if his appetite is undiminished after this spill. Apple's Jade will surely not contest this again; ditto Laurina. Melon at 25/1 could be interesting each way though he's shown himself to be beatable, albeit in very different setups and where he's run above himself both times.

But the one which might be most appealing for long-range forecasters is City Island. The Ballymore winner has a much better record than the Supreme winner in the Champion Hurdle, and Martin Brassil's six-year-old was comfortably the best with all the right horses close enough behind to suggest there was no fluke to the performance. Enthusiasm for the 33/1 is tempered markedly by connections referencing the Stayers' Hurdle (for which he is 20/1) as his target in post-race debriefs; with that in mind, splitting stakes may be more sensible (if taking a price 359 days before an event is ever sensible).


National Hunt Chase 'Disgrace'

The National Hunt Chase is the second oldest race at the Festival, after the Grand Annual, but it has been run the most times due to the latter named being dropped for a chunk of the late 1800's - so wikipedia tells me, anyway. I also learn there that the race was considered the second most important, after the Grand National, in the calendar until the 1930's.

It is a four mile race for novice chasers ridden by amateur riders. For as long as I've been blogging and previewing Cheltenham - which is eleven years now, gulp - I've made mildly condescending noises about it. That's because I'm not a traditionalist, you see; I view most races through the prism of the sport as I see it and, naturally, as a wagering conduit.

This year, with welfare and good intentions aforethought, a number of jockeys in the race - notably Declan Lavery, who rode third placed Jerrysback - got into hot water with the stewards for persisting when their horses were considered by the arbiters to be too tired. These decisions have been roundly lambasted by horsemen of all vintages.

I am neither a traditionalist, as mentioned, nor a horseman, and additionally I have sympathy with the less militant parts of the welfare lobby, which leads me to an often conflicted head space on jump racing, a pursuit I love more deeply than flat racing. In that confused context, here's where I've got to: there WAS a problem in the National Hunt Chase - there simply has to be when, despite changes to attract a better class of horse and despite amateur jockeys being closer to their professional counterparts in ability terms than at any other time in history, eighteen horses set out and only four finished.

Of the fourteen non-completions, eight fell, one of which sustained fatal injuries.

Quite frankly, that is bullshit.

I happened to watch the race with a fairly senior member of the BHA, and we both audibly winced when the wonderful mare Atlanta Ablaze came down two out. It was a bridge too far for a pair of hardened NH spectators.

Here's the thing: this race is hideously anachronistic. It is probably twenty years past its sell by date, hence the ongoing tinkering with its conditions.

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I know that the trads will lobby for its retention and I understand the reasons why. But it cannot be countenanced for another year in its current format. Blaming the jockeys for trying their best in a race which makes extraordinary demands of both humans and equines, each group inexperienced in the context of the meeting as a whole, is big-time deflection.

The issue here is the race, or rather its conditions. Here is a suggestion, not intended as a 'we should do this' blueprint, but as a strawman starting point to be discussed, pulled apart, iterated and refined.

The National Hunt Chase should be run over three and a half miles. It would still be the longest main track race at the Festival but it would be one-eighth less attritional. It should be contested only by horses with a defined level of experience and also, potentially, with an approved level of jumping ability. It should have a ratings ceiling to prevent the dilution of the RSA Chase, and a floor to prevent horses being outclassed and put at risk. Horses should be six or older (almost all are), and carry eleven stone rather than 11-06 (and jockeys will have to be able to do the weight without wasting/fasting). Jockeys should have a defined level of ability/experience to ride.

All of the above would make the race less testing; none of the above would make the race less compelling. Let's sort this crap out and stop blaming jockeys for the errors of history and the programme book.


Joyful Thursday

If racing has a propensity to shoot itself in the foot, it also continues to produce human (and equine) interest stories of almost universal appeal. Last Thursday's racing looks set to be as enduring as it was endearing - it truly was one of the great days of racing.

Victory for the resurgent former Triumph Hurdler, Defi Du Seuil, was a terrific start. JP McManus is one of the more likeable of racing's mega-rich, for all that he is domiciled in Switzerland for tax efficiency purposes (he does distribute funds across a number of sports in Britain and Ireland which, I guess, is a more expedient direct contribution to racing), and his colours were worn to victory three times on this day.

Defi is a bit of a forgotten horse in a way. Considering he's won eleven of his sixteen races, and five of seven races at Cheltenham, he has been spoken of in somewhat disrespectful tones in the lead up to the JLT Chase. But he showed his usual class and some of his more occasional mettle to repel a regular rival, Lostintranslation, and confirm the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase form. This was the first winner of the Scilly Isles to double up in the JLT, breaking a sequence of second places.

That was but an amuse bouche for a couple of scintillating main courses. Before those, there was the Geraghty master class on Sire du Berlais, a horse that was sent off 4/1 favourite but traded as high as 240 in running. He looked cooked but BJG conjured a magic ride to get by one challenger and repel another in a tight finish.

Then came those delicious appetisers, starting with the Ryanair. This is a race which has been - rightly, in my view - called out in the past as a hiding place for second tier Champion Chase or Gold Cup prospects; but the 2019 renewal was a proper horse race, one packed with legitimate two-and-a-half-milers and legitimate Grade 1 horses.

From the veteran Un De Sceaux to Gold Cup non-staying fourth, Road To Respect, to Arkle victor, Footpad, to Cheltenham specialist, Frodon, all were worthy players for whom, with the possible exception of Footpad, this was undoubtedly the right race. Chuck in last year's winner Balko des Flos and another winner from Festival 2018, The Storyteller, as well as high class second season chaser, Monalee, and it was truly a deep and classy field.

Sometimes such setups disappoint, runners failing to show their true ability left and right. Not this time. It was a super race from start to finish, with a fairy tale outcome.

Frodon, incredibly, has only recently celebrated his seventh birthday and yet seems to have been around forever. Since joining Paul Nicholls he's made Cheltenham home, winning five of nine chase starts at the track. That palmarès was rounded off prior to Joyful Thursday by a huge performance off 164 (and top weight) in handicap company, and a battling victory in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase over a trip beyond his comfort zone. Here he added a first Grade 1 success in typical front-running heart-on-sleeve style.

In the aftermath it was left to Frodon's rider, Bryony Frost, to speak for her horse. Her affection for their partnership, her joy at what they'd just achieved together, and her youth and exuberance are the sorts of PR racing can't buy. Her post-race anthropomorphism of Frodon to any microphone that was turned on was beautifully sincere, faintly bonkers and, frankly, absolutely bloody marvellous. That Bryony adorned many of the newspaper front pages as well as their other covers on Friday morning was a much-needed shot in the arm for a sport sometimes struggling for relevancy in a world that increasingly fails to 'get it'.

And, if that wasn't enough, Cheltenham Thursday - so often the poor relation of the four day meeting - was able to sustain the Festival feel-good factor through the day's other championship event, the Stayers' Hurdle. This time it was Andrew Gemmell, a racing nut who has been blind since birth, who was the centre of attention.

His Festival had already been noteworthy when Discorama, a horse he part owns, ran a brave second in the National Hunt Chase. But this lad, owned outright and a strong favourite for the long distance hurdle crown, was the one that carried his hopes and dreams. Trained by Emma Lavelle and ridden by Aidan Coleman, both seeking their first Festival Grade 1's, those who could watch the race were left in no doubt from some way out about who would win; at least not until a horlicks at the last which would have floored a more fatigued horse.

Gemmell, reliant on the on-course commentary, would also have heard a cacophony of gasps to attest to the late drama which unfolded at the final flight. But Paisley Park, and Coleman and Lavelle, and Andrew Gemmell were not to be denied this joyful moment on Joyful Thursday.

What a day of racing that was. Alas, racing is never all 'up'.


Triumph and Disaster

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

Kipling's these days almost trite verse about the journey to manhood will rarely have been more apposite than in the case of the boy-man Joseph O'Brien and the emerging brilliance of his four-year-old, Sir Erec. O'Brien is more than a chip off the old block, he is a carbon copy of the determination, diligence and intelligence of his father, Aidan.

Not 26 until May and rider of the winners of two Derby's, a 2000 Guineas and a St Leger, he already has a Classic victory and a Melbourne Cup win as a trainer. Although not named on the license at the time of Ivanovich Gorbatov's Triumph Hurdle win of 2016, he was widely rumoured to have been the trainer then; this was his chance to get a first Grade 1 win at the Festival.

But disaster tragically did strike. On the landing side of the fourth flight, Sir Erec broke a leg - I'm not sure how, I haven't been able to bring myself to watch the recording yet - leading to his inevitable euthanizing.

As I've already said, I'm an animal lover and a fan of the sport. In these days of heightened sensitivity in all walks of life - it sometimes feels like we're returning to a 17th century puritanical era - harmonising those two attributes, animal lover/NH fan, is increasingly difficult to explain to those who don't follow the game.

How can you love a sport where horses of the quality, beauty and, yes, purity of Sir Erec are allowed to be sacrificed? It's a deep and nuanced question, and it has different answers depending on who is asking. It's a huge issue, maybe for another day, but suffice it to say that I was reminded of Our Conor and that difficult day, and the nausea in the pit of the stomach remained through the rest of Friday afternoon.

But there is more to life. Indeed, JPOB probably couched it better than anyone when he was quoted as follows:

Horse racing in the moment is everything, but when we pull our heads from the trough and see the stuff going on outside...


Gold Cup win no silver lining

We need to talk about Willie. Again. Some won't hear of such as what is to follow, but the evidence is growing and only faintly masked by the excellent performance of Al Boum Photo in winning the Gold Cup. At a time when, as mentioned already, racing is fighting a battle against a rising tide of animal welfare sympathisers, faller - and especially fatality - rates are something which are going to be closely scrutinised.

Any horse can fall of course, and misfortune is as accepted as it is unwelcome in the winter game. But some incur greater levels of misfortune than others. To paraphrase the peerless Oscar Wilde (without intention to belittle the subject),

To lose one horse may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness

The Mullins stable saddled two of the three horses fatally injured at last week's Festival.

Obviously that's a tiny number and could easily be noise. Indeed it is very likely noise in and of itself. But, when looking at larger datasets, we see a similar pattern. Here, for instance, are the fall/unseat rates at this year's Festival:

Total Fall/Unseat - 32/498 (6.4%)
WPM Fall/Unseat - 5/59 (8.5%)

That's still a tiny sample, so let's expand to 2009+ at the Festival, eleven years and all of the data in geegeez.co.uk's Query Tool:

Total Fall/Unseat -  368/5315 (6.9%)
Total Fall/Unseat excl WPM - 327/4852 (6.8%)
WPM Fall/Unseat - 41/463 (8.9%)

Regardless of how many more competitive runners the trainer has, this is a significant outlier at the top of an unwelcome chart. Comparing with his most immediate Cheltenham Festival peers - Messrs. Elliott (14/181, 7.7%), Henderson (19/401, 4.7%) and Nicholls (23/321, 7.2%) - fails to improve the picture by relativity.

And yet still some may contend that the samples are too small. So, as one final set of data, here are the fall/unseat figures (chase races only) for all starters in UK and Irish races since 1st January 2015 for a select group of top trainers:



The obvious next question is, "Why?".

It is not for me to answer that: I don't have any 'in' on the yard nor do I think value is added by speculating on the basis of nothing. However, I will reference this quote from the trainer regarding Cilaos Emery, a horse who missed the Festival, that might just offer a window on this world:

He pulled a muscle schooling in Navan the other day. That's why you didn't see him this morning. We'll have to wait and see how he's going to come out of it. If he doesn't come out of it in the next seven days, then I think we might have to draw stumps for Cheltenham. That's a disappointment, but when you school them you take your chance.

When you school them you take your chance...


Give Back Friday

On a wagering note, the week went well for me personally, and also for keen followers of the previews I penned on here. 40/1 advised William Henry was an obvious highlight from an odds perspective, though I was far more invested in shorter-priced runners, including my biggest bets of the week on Road To Respect - who blew his chance by bungling all of the last three fences - and Native River, who ran a creditable race which was only good enough for fourth. I'd had an overstaked each way bet on Anibale Fly at 33/1 which took some of the heat out of the Gold Cup situation but that, and small nibbles at big prices on Hazel Hill, could not quite cover the Friday losers elsewhere.

The County Hurdle (We Have A Dream 2nd at 25/1), Grand Annual (failed to have a small bet on the 66/1 winner, first time I've not backed him in four spins in this race) and Martin Pipe (over-staked bet on Dallas Des Pictons 2nd at 7/2) are races where you're not supposed to pick up. In fact the first and last of that trio were perfectly gettable - just not by me.

Adding into that a personal and perennial inability to identify the winners of either the Gold Cup or Triumph Hurdle, and the crap shoot that is the Albert Bartlett and oftentimes the Foxhunters as well, you'll see why I consider it 'Give Back Friday'; though of course that assumes that you've borrowed some off those lovely bookie types from Tuesday to Thursday.


How was it for you? Feel free to leave a comment below - I'd love to hear your thoughts.



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41 replies
  1. 10 Things You Didn't Know about Geegeez Racecards
  2. reynard
    reynard says:

    Great preview on the four days matt very interesting articles with much in depth information.
    Have you had time to analyze how the bad bets to avoid at cheltenham finished up after the four days. Another year is a long time to wait?
    Thanks again for all your time and efforts on this site.Kevin

  3. Stuart Parkes
    Stuart Parkes says:

    Finished up over the week my hunch for some shocks proved correct

    £20 win klassical dream 6/1 + forecast
    £3 win espoir d’Allen 20/1
    Mares had the forecast after benie fell

    City island £15 win 11/1
    £3 win envoi Allen 20/1

    Eglantine de seuil £6win at 65 (also had 2nd to win wish I did forecast haha)

    Pentland hills £10 win 20/1
    Minella indo £3 win 65/1
    Al boum photo £10 win 20/1
    Hazel hill £15 win 7/1

    And like you didn’t back croco bay for the 1st time in this race and it romped in gutted

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Well done, Stuart. I presume you also had some losers, too. Otherwise, I need to borrow your crystal ball!!! 😉


      • stu
        stu says:

        yeah my 2 biggest loses were clan des obeaux £20 win at 7/1 and Derrinross £30 win at 12/1. Also talked myself into the mullins pair in the opener so the win on klassical dream was offset by a £15 loss on aramon. overall started with 400 (100 per day before extras from wins) ended on 1800. cant complain although i see rich people like the golfer sticking £240 on 1 bet and wish i could do the same lol

    • Jossy
      Jossy says:

      Worst type of ‘after-timing’ comment ever!

      Put them all up beforehand did you? Link to it? If not, then do one!

  4. Ben Blane
    Ben Blane says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your comments on the national hunt race. The welfare of the animals and jockeys should be paramount. Its got to change.

  5. RonCombo
    RonCombo says:

    Thoughtful, well-nuanced piece Matt. Enjoyed reading that. Thank you.
    Native River and Crooks Peak (amongst others!) did for me. I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart for City Island and William Henry.

  6. Chris
    Chris says:

    I thought JPOB’s comment was the best contextual comment of the week in the face of so much hysteria.
    No greater animal lover than me, but I recognise that death is part of the venture for both parties, human and equine, and will never give up the game – despite the casualties.
    The worst maybe yet to come, in terms of adverse publicity.
    I think it is relevant, after this year, to remind ourselves that a crippling injury, or a mortal one, has yet to happen to a female rider, at one of the annual festivals.
    The virulent anti-sport posting, following the deaths of our equine participants, will be as nothing, if such a severe accident befalls a woman.
    The sport may never recover from such an adverse occasion.
    Be prepared.

  7. kemal
    kemal says:

    Unfair to cast aspersions on Willie Mullins I think..a few reasons that he has more fallers and unseats…his horses are usually bang in contention so therefore run further in races than a lot of others which have been pulled up and so are under pressure at the business end of the race.Ruby and Paul Townend seem to make a lot of mistakes at the last as they have a tiring horse in with a winning chance. Also Irish horses tend to run on soft or heavy ground more times than English horses due to their weather in Ireland!…and therefore might be more tired coming to the final stages.The man is a genius..we should revel in his expertise not make snidey comments! I know you don’t like criticism Matt so I look forward to your reply! 😉

    • Matt Bisogno
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Kemal

      I (obviously) don’t agree. My reply, based on reference to the facts I’ve already published, is not that I don’t like criticism but rather that you have nothing to support your statement that ‘the man is a genius’.

      There are direct comparisons with Gordon Elliott who runs twice as many horses and has just about as many winners. I strongly feel that the comments and observations – not aspersions by any stretch – are both contextualised and justified. The comments are not snidey – the quote is from the trainer himself. Whatever your preconception about his ‘genius’, data are data, and they paint an incontrovertible picture.


  8. Adrian Rigby
    Adrian Rigby says:

    I am very surprised to see someone who makes his living from the support suggest we are “sacrificing horses” for our enjoyment. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the sport was stopped because comments like yours are taken to heed.
    I would much rather listen to the comments of Sir AP McCoy, a man with just a little bit more experience of riding these great animals than most, before listening to a “bandwagon bill”.
    FWIW, my take is that some of the fences looked a lot stiffer than at previous festivals,and I noted to friends that mistakes were ending in falls a lot more than usual, very much like we saw on Betfair day, up at Haydock earlier in the year.

    • Jim
      Jim says:

      McCoy has nothing to offer the debate. His sole concern is maximising what jockeys, trainers and owners can get out of a horse. Saying that people who are concerned about animal welfare know nothing about horse racing is just cretinous. What do they need to know? If, as Matt says, there are inexperienced jockeys riding inexperienced horses that is a recipe for disaster, If a horse is clearly out on its feet and being whipped to get into a place that’s abuse. McCoy, like Ruby Walsh, has never shown genuine concern for animal welfare and there are more intelligent people than him outside of horse racing whose opinions are much more valid.

  9. Paul
    Paul says:

    great article Matt, very difficult to summarise all 4 days isn’t it, but you did a great job. We also got to see the brilliant Altior win at his 4th successive festival and a really good RSA where the front 2 in particular and first 3 looks fabulous 2nd season prospects.

    And also, some of the other stories, Rachel Blackmore of course, Kielan Woods riding a winner for Ben Case, Jamie Codd’s 2 winners and finally, the maestro himself, Tiger Roll winning at his 4th festival by a mighty 22 lengths.

    I’m going to spend this week myself going through the Festival. The National Hunt Chase is a tricky problem, but I think you’ve made a good start with your proposals there.

  10. Peter Borg-Neal
    Peter Borg-Neal says:

    What did you make of the way Donagh Meyler rode Dallas Des Pictons? Looked to me that he was over confident and Jonjo Jnr caught him out.

  11. PeterBN
    PeterBN says:

    What did you think of the way Donagh Meyler rode Dallas des Pictons?

    • JB
      JB says:

      He traveled like the proverbial good thing through race. Jockey should have put the race to bed a bit earlier. He stays 3m so stamina wasn’t an issue.

      A year’s a long time to wait but he will win next years RSA.

  12. Tonto
    Tonto says:

    Another first class article Matt . Thank you . Couldn’t agree more with you regarding you comments on the Grand Annual . And as for Sir Erec….. having stood stock still for several minutes whilst being re- shod , his poise and beauty were breathtaking .
    He became my new favourite horse in those moments . 3 fences later…….I still feel sick about it now . Thursday’s tears of joy turned to Friday’s tears of despair . Lostintranslation looks like a huge Gold Cup player for next year , and don’t rule out Lalor bouncing back when he gets his ground . Thanks for all your great work Matt .

  13. JB
    JB says:

    Hi Matt,

    Spot on in regard to the National Hunt Chase. I wrote an article, not as eloquently as your good self I may add, which briefly covered the race.

    A race over a marathon trip, for novice chasers, many of who hadn’t raced beyond 3 miles and ridden by amateur riders. A recipe for carnage just waiting to happen.

    Now, I don’t have a problem with a 4m Chase at the festival, I wouldn’t have a problem with reducing it 3m 6f either.

    What I do have issue is why the sport allows amateur jockeys to do the riding. People will say that amateur riders are part of the very fabric of Cheltenham festival history. I get that and that’s why we have the Foxhunters Chase and the Kim Muir Handicap Chase for the amateur riders.

    If the National Hunt Chase is to stay in its present format, which I hope it does then it’s time for the professional jockey to be called in.

    The end of the race was tough to watch and really didn’t portray horse racing in the right sort of light at all.

    My recommendation would be to make the Cross-Country race, one for the amateurs only and get the professionals in for the four-mile race or 3m 6f. It really is that simple!


    • Adrian Rigby
      Adrian Rigby says:

      Wow. How misguided is that comment? So you don’t want amateurs to ride over regulation fences fences over 4m but would rather see them doing it over 3m6f over the most demanding of obstacles instead…….I wont be taking time to read any of your articles if this is your logic process.

      • Matt Bisogno
        Matt Bisogno says:

        Your tone is pretty condescending and, I’m afraid, too confrontational for this site, Adrian. We welcome opinions, but we most certainly do not welcome personal remarks of the type in both your comments.

        All perspectives on the racing are welcome here, but please keep your personal slights to yourself (thank you).


        • Adrian Rigby
          Adrian Rigby says:

          I hear what you are saying, but Kemal seems spot on, in that, rather than answer a perfectly acceptable point, you really don’t like any criticism of your posts. As I said, AP came out with similar comments, is he being disrespectful to you too?!

          Do you also think that sending ams over 3.6m of cross country is a good solution to taking them off 4m of regulation fences?!

          • Matt Bisogno
            Matt Bisogno says:

            I have responded to every point Adrian, and again, you’re trying to make it personal!

            Amateurs don’t go over 3m6f in cross country, pro’s do. Some amateurs ride in that race as well. I thought it was pretty clear that my suggestion for the NH Chase was a starting point and that I (obviously) don’t have the answers.

            I am fine with constructive criticism when it is supported by evidence. But a person – any person – simply saying it is x because I (or Tony McCoy or anyone else) say(s) it is, doesn’t work on this site. We use data to support our assertions. There are other websites for people with unfounded opinions, or for re-stating the opinions of others. This one is not like those, whether you like that or not.


          • Roddo
            Roddo says:

            Not sure what point you are trying to make about Matt Bisogno or why you are wanting to have personal attacks against him. God knows who this bandwagon Bill is you are on about either. I must be one of the longest serving Matt Bisogno members as i think i have been with him since the first few posts he put up. There is not a more genuine person out there and the value of the Geegeez gold is unbeatable in racing. I have had my disagreements with matt in the past but neither of us have fallen out. An absolute top man who has kept an old man like me informed and up to date. . You are bang off the mark Adrian. BTW i have never been employed by Matt so its all from my experience of his work.

  14. David Priest
    David Priest says:

    Hi Matt
    Nice review of the week, and you raise an interesting question about the faller rate of Mullins’ horses.
    However, you fail to address one aspect of this subject…
    the ability of the jockey!!
    Consider, if you will, the propensity of the jockey to fail to stay in the saddle when a horse makes a mistake.
    Some jockeys are just better at “clinging on” (usually for dear life) than others.
    I raise this, not cos I have any great insight, but cos I read an article about it just prior to the Festival, on another (nameless) racing site.
    Be interested to see your conclusions on the matter, should you decide to have a go at analysing it.

  15. alpha2
    alpha2 says:

    Good article Matt, wish I’d heeded your opinion and laid off my 50/1 about Clan Des Obeaux instead of saving on four others, not including Al Boum of course!

  16. Sam Carson
    Sam Carson says:

    Thanks Matt There is no finer sight than a chaser in full flight. Like yourself I feel as guilty as hell when a horse loses it’s life. I had never really given it a thought until I witnessed the wonderful Combermere fracture a leg several strides after the 2nd last in the Scottish National. I also note that the same jockey was on two of the fatalities , what is his record like in chases as opposed to bumpers ?

  17. Sophia sadiq
    Sophia sadiq says:

    No amount of excitement can make make up for the sickness I feel when I think of the horses that lost their lives and the pain they must have endured. We should all lobby the BHA to make the changes to ensure it never happens again. It’s a disgrace

  18. Frank McClure
    Frank McClure says:

    Great read again, Matt, but, why the need to highlight the fallers and unseats table? Makes no sense to publish, then not proffer an opinion on it. Heard the usual, “Ruby jumping off at the last” crap! As the great man himself said when this came up previously, “would you jump off a half a ton of horse travelling at 40mph? Well, neither would I” Personally, Thursday and Friday were tremendous for me, betting wise. Ctibello, was particularly sweet! Less than a year now till the Festival!! Best racing ever, win or lose!

  19. phill
    phill says:

    Matt quoting Wilde ? Who would ave thunk it….maybe only Alice Plunkett
    Great week, more winners this year than any other

    On the Sir Eric theme Ive often thought is their any merit on the idea that flat horses
    going to hurdles should be gradually introduced so as to strengthen their muscles?
    Great shame when he looked so peaceful being shod too

  20. vasilis
    vasilis says:

    An insightful analysis, clearly by a person who does care about horse racing in all of its aspects

  21. Graham Willetts
    Graham Willetts says:

    Hi Matt,

    There are far too many ‘head in the sand’ and dinosaur types in the racing industry when it comes to issues of horse welfare. It is not so long ago there was an outcry in certain quarters about proposals to make it less likely horses would die in the Grand National by modifying the structure of the fences.

    Vested interests abound and there is in my opinion a concerted effort underway to undermine the efforts of Nick Rust at the BHA to address some of the longstanding issues within the sector which have resulted in horse welfare not being given the priority it should attract.

    The latest outburst suggesting that trainers rather than the BHA be given the responsibility for animal welfare overlooks, inter alia, the competing pressures on trainers, especially those struggling to make a living. Furthermore, anyone with an understanding of what happens to many horses after their careers are over will be concerned about the ramifications of such a proposal.

    As the equine flu saga demonstrated, views differ and many trainers would hold very different views on the actions of the BHA on that and many other current ‘controversies’. There are too many racing journalists and pundits only too willing to put the boot in without any serious effort to consider the evidence or question the agendas and motivations of those rushing to make comment.
    The criticism you have received for merely raising questions and stimulating debate is sadly typical of the defensiveness so often present when people are resisting change and reform. Somehow if you are a big name trainer or jockey your views on equine welfare must therefore be accepted without question. Calling for people to be sacked or agencies having responsibilities taken away from them says more about the people making such comments than those on the receiving end of them.

    A very thoughtful piece and one deserving of measured and reasoned responses.

  22. Boggy2
    Boggy2 says:

    As ever Matt well scripted well thought through and plenty of food for thought. I had some winners and some losers and more or less broke even. I was in tears at Frodo and Sir Eric the calmness of a stallion being replated an dthen for that to happen was heart breaking. The delight in animals and the issues of welfare I also share and whilst any death is one too many if we didn’t have racing these horses would not exist in the first place, they live in a life’s of luxury pampered beyond belief and sadly sometimes give their life in pursuit of running and jumping which is what they do naturally and happily in the wild. I say this as. Avery poor horseman with 6 horses.

  23. wednesday31
    wednesday31 says:

    That was a great read Matt, thank you.

    Could not agree more with your comments regarding the NH chase. The race conditions are outdated and need reform before next year. I backed Atlanta Ablaze and it was a huge relief when she appeared on her feet from behind the screens. Ran an amazing race but in the end the trip was just too demanding for her, as was the case for most.

    Thursday was an incredible day of action and was a great advert for jump racing..it was made all the better by backing all the JP winners and Paisley Park 🙂

    So to Friday and being utterly convinced I would be celebrating another JP winner, only to witness that terrible sight in the triumph. That kind of ruined the day for me and like you said brought back memories of Our Connor. Another with huge potential and who provided one of my favourite Cheltenham moment’s when hacking up in the very same race.

    Now having emerged from my Cheltenham bubble it’s easier to get some perspective on events and look forward to seeing how the festival form pans out at Aintree.

  24. Rotund legend
    Rotund legend says:

    Excellent write up matt.
    I struggled over the four days to find winners at a meeting I usually do OK at. I did a lot of prep for it and that may have dulled my brain for the gruelling four days punting?
    Although Gordon Elliott had some winners his horses did seems a bit under the weather.
    I plan to look out for those horses finishing fourth to eighth in the bigger field races to see how they get on next time. I thought that there were some horses who struggled to get in to races until it was too late.

  25. northern
    northern says:

    I well written and thought provoking article as ever Matt.
    If only people would engage in a proper debate on some of the issues facing our sport without resorting to emotive, outdated, unreasoned arguments. My fear is that unless we put our house in order, someone is going to come along and do it for us, in a way that non of us would want. The world has moved on in all aspects of life, you just need to talk to the young generation and their take on the world, really quite different to people aged 40 plus.

  26. Roddo
    Roddo says:

    Can anybody explain to me what this personal attack from Adrian is all about. Matt Bisogno is possibly the best person i have come across in racing (i have over 50 years involvement). I have followed Matt since his first posts and i have also had disagreements with him but neither of us have resorted to personal attacks. He has developed and improved what he delivers to get to the stage where his Geegeez Gold is far and away the best product on the market. I am very hard to please as well. I hope to meet Matt one day and thank him for directing an old man into the right direction. Stop the personal attacks and use constructive criticism like Matt does. An absolute top man who takes criticism well and is always prepared to discuss subjects with one and all.

  27. Ian Murray
    Ian Murray says:

    As ever a thought provoking piece. And some forthright views which adds spice to the article – aside from the festival which I enjoyed for the most part there are two main issues which seem to have drawn most comment: safety and WP Mullins. Sadly some folk seem to delight in being personal – a sickness of the Internet age – hiding behind the keyboard. So as a longstanding Gold member I respect Matt immensely. He was the first to introduce a web based package that frankly knocked the socks off anything else in terms of accessibility and at ridiculously good value. More to the point he showed me the importance of research into form in a long video requiring the necessary mug of tea or your favourite choice of whatever – mine tonight is Wadsworth’s Old Timer. However, to the main points: safety should be paramount but in a sport like horse racing there is always a risk of broken bones, fatalities and other mishaps. Ok we don’t ask the horse, but Briony Frost spoke so eloquently about the rider and horse relationship that while we still want to race horses and horses enjoy doing so then we have to accept things can happen, heartbreaking thought it must be. I agree that changes should be made to safeguard horse and rider, remove races that are from the past and increase risk. Second issue revolves around Mullins. I understand where Matt is coming from but the data is exactly that and in my view can only point towards possible consequences – it also depends on a fiendishly detailed understanding of the individual case for complete verification. I don’t think you can imply that Mullins has a certain approach to the “schooling of his horses” from data. Let us instead think about how a set of Irish trainers tend to dominate racing, namely O’Brien, Mullins and Elliott. These are the stables that command many horses, can fill races with four or more horses, can effectively try to dictate outcomes from races. The trainers have to satisfy their owners etc. Think too how flat racing at the top end is dominated by money from the Arabian nations. These are facts not just confined to horse racing. Data is data – a guide, a vital informative telescope but it does not reveal the whole picture. I should stop here as I have run out of Old Timer.

  28. bigvern63
    bigvern63 says:

    Great read Matt, as were the daily previews, which I have always loved for the big meetings.

    A real weeks of highs and lows, as is often the case with this great sport, which is what makes it so dramatic.

    On the punting front, Geegeez formed the foundation of my portfolio and managed to bag enough of the bookies cash on the first 2 days to ride out flat days on Thursday and Friday…..Gold Cup winner never even hit the radar, let alone come under consideration.

    Next stop Aintree…..although will hopefully be heading to Wembley when the National is on…..Seagulls!!!!

    Cheers, Chris

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