Go Racing Green With Debbie Matthews

A group at Fergal O’Brien’s with Debbie (Centre)

According to the World Health Organisation, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. In recent years, there have been great strides made into defeating the stigmas surrounding mental health issues like depression and anxiety. In January 2019, Debbie Matthews founded Go Racing Green, an initiative which aims “to make racing accessible and inclusive in every way for anyone”.


Life dealt Debbie a number of savage blows in quick succession, including “losing a baby, losing my best friend to a brain tumour at 38, my step daughter-in-law losing her battle with cystic fibrosis at just 22 years of age and a lot of other personal things with work and family. I was diagnosed with depression and PTSD and my anxiety went through the roof.” This resulted in her not leaving the house for several years because “I felt safer to stay at home in my own bubble.”


Horse racing wasn’t something prominent in her life until the age of thirty-nine in March 2017, “I was at home and pregnant with my little boy. I suffered a lot from severe nausea during the first few months especially and I started watching the Cheltenham Festival, which must have been on ITV. It was definitely the second day as I remember watching the Queen Mother Champion Chase and thinking “Wow, that horse can fly.” Turned out that horse was Altior and I then started following him and racing.”

Debbie And Altior


In a way, Altior is partly responsible for inspiring Go Racing Green and he helped Debbie through post-natal depression and to go back out into the world, “Altior will always be special to me for firstly getting me into racing, and secondly getting me through a torrid time. After my son was born in October 2017 I suffered with terrible post-natal depression and it was following him through that National Hunt season that massively helped me through it and gave me focus.”


“On 19th January 2019, Altior was declared to run at Ascot, which is around two hours from where I live. I am not sure why, but I just decided that morning that I was going to go and see him ‘for real”. I put out at a tweet to the effect that I was trying to beat my anxiety and it seemed to hit home with a lot of people. It was picked up on by Stuart Riley from the Racing Post, who did an article with me on the Monday; on the Tuesday, I was at Seven Barrows meeting Altior; I was front page Racing Post on the Wednesday and all of a sudden I was flooded with messages from people facing challenges who wanted to go racing and faced barriers.”


From then on, #GoRacingGreen picked up momentum with the help of Unibet, “I was extremely lucky to be offered community sponsorship from The Kindred Group (Unibet Racing) for the community element of the project, which enabled me to spend more time in terms of the stable visits and social events, and the virtual support taking place at the moment. Also, should a racecourse wish to have raceday sponsorship from Unibet, they must take up the #GoRacingGreen initiative as part of the sponsorship contract, so that’s fantastic.”


To Debbie, there are two elements to Go Racing Green. “Firstly, creating a community of people to support one another, be that online or in person. There is a huge online community, as well as those that meet up at racedays and other social events and stable visits that take place. Some of those people have challenges or love and care for a person that does. Some just want to support the initiative and be there for those that do. We will never ask. If you want to share that information, we fully support openly talking without any judgement. If not, then that doesn’t matter.”


The community are easily recognisable on the racecourse with their distinctive green bobble hats, which were kindly purchased by Tom Lacey. In regard to stable visits, they have been to Seven Barrows, Dan and Claire Kubler’s, Jo Davis’, George Margarson’s, Amy Murphy’s, Phil McEntee’s and Fergal O’Brien’s so far, where they have a look at the gallops, meet the trainers and some jockeys and, most importantly, get hands-on with the horses. “They are for small groups who may find larger visits a little overwhelming, or may not be able to actually get to a raceday yet, so it gives them an opportunity to meet new people in an environment they love, knowing they’re safe. The therapeutic value and love for the horse is at the core of our community,”


In the absence of the Grand National due to the Coronavirus, there will be the first renewal of the Unibet Go Racing Green Grand National. An added bonus is that there will be commentary from Richard Hoiles and Mark Johnson. “It’s free to enter and you have the chance to win a weekend break, which I am sure will be welcome at the end of this.” I am particularly excited for this as I am the owner of number 20 Scrumdillydumtious in the big race! All the information for the event can be found here- https://goracinggreen.co.uk/%23grg-grand-national


On 2nd May, there will be the Go Racing Green Guineas as it sadly looks like racing won’t have resumed by the time the Newmarket showpiece is ran. On social media, Debbie is running a #GRGChatHour, “Whilst we are in lockdown, the community support continues, albeit virtually. Every evening at 7:30pm, there is a #GRGChatHour with a different theme to keep positive conversations going throughout this torrid time we are in, and I will do this every single night until we come out of other side.” This is something I have really been enjoying and the participation from the Twitter community has been excellent.


The second element to Go Racing Green is “working with racecourses to make them inclusive to everyone. To remove labelling; to make race day promotion more inclusive and welcoming; to train staff in areas like Autism Awareness and Dementia Friends, and to create safe and quiet spaces on course should someone need it. Also to produce an online sensory guide and accessibility guide so those that wish to go racing have as much pre-information as possible to help them plan their day. It isn’t just a case of well here’s a space, or reading from a book, or even looking at what other industries are doing that they say is working for them as often feedback from those who use it is very different to what those who have put it in place say. It’s a puzzle and every piece needs to happen to make it complete and make it work.”

At Salisbury


Nottingham, Chester and Newbury are all Go Racing Green racecourses, which means they have quiet areas for people who suffer with invisible illnesses and have trained staff. Two more courses are soon to be added to the list – Carlisle and Salisbury. “The staff at Salisbury have already had their training and have some fantastic work going on there. They are absolutely embracing this for all the right reasons.”


Debbie still feels overwhelmed by the positive response to Go Racing Green – “ I have made so many friends and have so much support. The growing community are vital to the project too, because their feedback on what they need and their raceday experiences mean more than anything you can learn from a textbook because it’s real life. We message each other, support and encourage one another. There isn’t a day that goes by when I am not talking to at least one of the community.”


She went on to say, “Also, I have had excellent support from the racing media – The Racing Post, ITV Racing, At The Races, Luck On Sunday, Chris Cook at The Guardian and local TV and radio, who have all helped spread the word. Racing Together, Nick Rust and his team from The BHA, Rod Street from Great British Racing and Paul Swain from The RCA have also taken a keen interest,”


What Debbie is proudest of is that Go Racing Green has started conversions on subjects that, even a few years ago, would have been considered taboo by some, “One person came into the #GoRacingGreen room at Nottingham and told me his challenges and said to me at the end his wife nor his mother had any idea, but he was going to go home and tell them, and if that room hadn’t been there that day, that conversation would never have taken place and he may never have got help. When I present to racecourses, I always say please do not underestimate the difference this will have on people – it will enable people to live and not just exist.”


The lockdown and this extended period of ‘social distancing’ is going to be really hard on everyone’s mental health, especially those isolated away from loved ones. However, Debbie hopes that some positives can come out of these unprecedented circumstances, “I hope after this period of lockdown more people will empathise with that [the challenges faced by some people] more than ever.” Also, Debbie strongly urges anyone struggling with a mental health problem to not be afraid to talk about it, “However trivial you think it might be. Whoever you talk to. And if you talk to someone and you think they don’t get it – people mean well but often come out with very impractical advice and suggestions – talk to someone else. Or talk to me. Depression and anxiety is a lonely existence and it can lead to many other mental and physical health problems, relationship and family problems, addictions. It isn’t easy, there are still many out there that don’t believe that sharing your problems is the done thing, but this initiative is all about encouraging that.”


The future of #GoRacingGreen looks bright. Along with more racecourses joining in, Debbie is “in the process of the first stages of setting up #GoRacingGreen as a charity so some additional funding options are available to me to allow this project to meet its objectives, so this is the main thing I am looking at at the moment, and am grateful that I have people helping me with this.” After the lockdown, Debbie hopes to reschedule the stable visits and racecourse trips put on hold by the pandemic, “When the period of lockdown is over I will be arranging a couple of #GoRacingGreen social events – one north and one south! No definitive plans yet, it may depend on the time of year, but there has been lots of interest in this amongst the community so I think it would be a nice thing to do.”


To me, #GoRacingGreen epitomises one of the things that is so great about horse racing – the community feel of the fanbase. You only need to look on Twitter to see this – Debbie’s #GRGChatHour, everyone posting their favourite racing photo or saying which four horses mean the most to them. This initiative helps so many people and, crucially, is working towards making racing as accessible as possible, which is a wonderful thing.


For Debbie to have gone through what she has and come out the other side to make such a positive difference to the racing community is something that I am in awe of. Go Racing Green and the work Debbie has done so far should be shouted about from the rooftops. I am really grateful to Debbie for answering my questions and I wish her and Go Racing Green all the best for the future. 💚💚

Golden Days : 1998 Gold Cup


Cool Dawn (Photo Credits- Racing Post Website)

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)


Horse racing brings people together and that was the case with myself and Robert ‘Bob’ Rowley. A friend of my grandparents, Bob and I chatted at length about our shared love of this fantastic sport. He sadly passed away earlier this month and left me behind some beautiful memorabilia. In particular, something that fascinated me was the racecard and ticket from the 1998 Gold Cup. It looked brand-new – even though it is six and a half years older than me.


The biggest difference between the current Gold Cup Day and that of the one in 1998 was that the latter was on a Thursday. The racecard was a mere £1.50 and the ticket Bob had was £15 for the ‘Courage Enclosure’. This year, the racecards were £4 and the tickets start from roughly £40.


The first race was, like nowadays, the Triumph Hurdle and it was won by Upgrade for Nigel Twiston-Davies, Carl Llewelyn and Mr Matt Archer and Miss Jean Broadhurst. The ‘Be My Guest’ gelding was pulled up on hurdles bow but progressed nicely to win three races before his win on the big stage. He moved to Martin Pipe in January 2000 and, by the February, he’d won the Scilly Isles under AP McCoy. After this, he won five more races for his new yard.


Next up was the Stayers Hurdle. This three mile and half a furlong contest was won by Jenny Pitman and Princeful. He was a surprise winner at 16/1 (not quite as big as Lisnagar Oscar at 50s this year though) under Rodney Farrant. After this, he won the King Distance Hurdle and Long Walk Hurdle but was brought down and badly injured on his first start over fences. He couldn’t quite get back to old form, retiring in 2002. Farrant also won the Scottish Grand National for Pitman on Willsford.

The Official Racecard


At 3:15, it was time for the big race – the Gold Cup. Jockeys to note in the race were Brian Harding of One Man fame who retired in 2017; Adrian Maguire who is making a name for himself as a trainer; Chris Maude who is a jockeys valet; Andrew Thornton who retired in 2018 and now does TV work; AP McCoy who needs no introduction; Richard Dunwoody a three times Champion jockey; Mick Fitzgerald who presents on ITV Racing and Sky Sports Racing; Carl Llewelyn who is Nigel Twiston-Davies’ assistant and Leighton Aspell who went on to win two Grand Nationals.


The race commenced with a standing start, something that occurred on multiple occasions through the 2020 Festival and much to the disgust of the racing public. Andrew Thornton popped the 25/1 shot Cool Dawn out in front and behind him it was dramatic. AP McCoy sharply pulled up Cyborgo, who was lame, but, in doing so, taking 150/1 shot Indian Tracker and, more crucially, the second favourite See More Business out of the race. That horse got his compensation by winning the 1999 renewal under Mick Fitzgerald. When the 9/4 favourite Dorans Pride, for Irish trainer Michael Hourigan, hit the third last, there became a live chance that Cool Dawn could make all. Because of his impeccable round of jumping and willing attitude, he managed to win by nearly two lengths, under Andrew Thornton, who was seen as a pundit on ITV Racing a few weeks ago.


Cool Dawn passed away a few months before Thornton retired in 2018 at the ripe old age of 30. Before his Gold Cup win, he’d, remarkably, won the Foxhunters under his owner Dido Harding, who bought him from an extension on her business school loan aged twenty-four. Now Baroness Harding, she is involved in racing through her dual Becher Chase winner Walk In The Mill, who had Grand National aspirations, which sadly won’t be fulfilled this year. In February, Cool Dawn’s trainer Robert Alner died in hospital aged 76. He rode as an amateur then took out a license in 1993 to train. He paralyzed in a car accident in 2007 but gave up training in 2010. The response from his passing showed just what a well-loved character he had been.


It seems like a long time since February now. Racing in Britain has stopped for the “foreseeable future” but at least – and controversially so – we got Cheltenham! Gold Cup Day was dramatic from the outset with the Triumph Hurdle. Miles clear from the last, Goshen, under Jamie Moore, missed the stride and, on landing, over reached himself – catapulting Jamie out of the saddle and onto the Cheltenham turf. Paul Townend was the lucky benefactor but he was gracious in victory, as was his boss Willie Mullins. They know full well what it is like to have a disaster in the home straight.


Back in 2018 at Punchestown, a split-second lapse in judgement caused Townend and Al Boum Photo to go out of the wing of the last fence. It caused mass hysteria on social media and Townend’s reasoning was that he heard shouting and thought he had to avoid the fence so swerved at the last minute, taking Finian’s Oscar with him. The incident was a genuine mistake but they redeemed themselves in last year’s renewal of the Gold Cup. Because of this, the pairing came into the race as the horse that would provide the media with the ideal narrative – a dual Gold Cup win! Frodon and Paisley Park had failed to replicate last year’s heroics so it was all down to them.


The jockeys hit the headlines this week with Rachel Blackmore on Honeysuckle and Barry Geraghty on Epatante and Champ to name just two! Townend got The Jockeys Championship title after success on Burning Victory in the Triumph and Monkfish in the Albert Bartlett. Also riding was Daryl Jacob, who’d ridden Concertista on the Thursday; Aidan Coleman who’s week had been a prime example of the ups and downs of racing through the week; Harry Cobden taking the reins on Clan Des Obeaux, the King George winner; Robbie Power in the minion silks on Lostintranslation; Rachel Blackmore and Jonjo O’Neill Jr, having their first rides in the Gold Cup; top amateur Patrick Mullins, who had a frustrating week; Mark Walsh on promising novice Delta Work; this season’s champion jockey Brian Hughes and Nico De Boinville, looking to replicate heroics of his win on Coneygree.


We had the top class jockeys all paired with the best of the equine participants. Sadly, an injury ruled out Native River, the chief pace angle, from the race so it was a fairly slowly ran affair. All the runners were bang there from three out. Al Boum Photo and Lostintranslation jumped the last in sync and Paul Townend shot off on their winning run. But Santini was coming at him in the dying strides, with the cheek pieces working the oracle on him, but Al Boum Photo struck out his proud head and prevailed. It was a deserved success and lit up the sport of horse racing, for a while overshadowing the threat of Corona Virus on the horizon.


This heartbreaking pandemic has caused a blunt end to National Hunt racing this season and has put so much uncertainty and sadness into the world. We’ve all just got to hope it goes away soon and not many more lives are taken by it. I don’t want to end this on a bad note. Horse racing and this country will get through it and come out of the other side for many more wonderful days like when Cool Dawn and Al Boum Photo won their Gold Cups, some twenty-two years apart.

No Racing No Problem

Silviniaco Conti by Niamh Townsend (@NiamhTownsend)
We face an uncertain time at present, and here at Rein It In Racing we wanted to do something a bit different to our usual race previews to take our minds off the current climate. Our idea is that each of us will produce an article focussing on one of our favourite things about racing, whether that be a particular horse, feature or moment, we hope it will bring a bit of joy into our readers lives at a time when there is a lot to worry about. To get us started, I have dug out this article I wrote a few years ago about the first horse I took a real interest in within the racing world – the one and only Silviniaco Conti. From everyone at Rein It In, stay safe and we hope this series will provide a moment of distraction from this unpleasant time. Be kind and thoughtful, we are all fighting this together. Niamh xx

I believe that for every horse racing fan there is at least one horse that captured their imagination and gave them that all important interest in the sport. In my case, the first horse that I followed and became properly interested by in the world of horse racing was the brilliant Silviniaco Conti.
I had watched horse racing properly for about ten months when I first saw ‘Silvi’ race. Before then, I remember watching Synchronised’s Gold Cup on the TV as well as the thrilling 2012 Grand National and of course the fantastic Frankel in his outstanding four year old season. I had gone to Doncaster to go and watch what should have been Camelot making history by winning the Triple Crown as well as a trip to Ascot that ended in a happier result when I saw Frankel go into retirement as an unbeaten superstar of the sport.
My interest continued from the flat season into the jumps and I remember spending most Saturday’s sat watching Channel 4 Racing and trying my hand at picking the winners. Then one Saturday in November I picked one horse to win a race; I didn’t know just how important this race was, nor how big an impact this horse would have on the rest of my life after just seven minutes at Haydock Park. I don’t know what it was that drew me to Silviniaco Conti the first time I watched him race, but his foot-perfect jumping and the way he drew away readily from previous Gold Cup winner Long Run at just six years old meant that I knew I had to keep a close eye on him.
Knowing that he was in training with Paul Nicholls, I knew that Silvi was in the right hands which only strengthened my belief that one day he would become a superstar. There is no other trainer out there that could have nurtured this horse into achieving what he did.
I didn’t hear anything about Silviniaco Conti in what felt like forever over the winter before he made his return at Newbury in February in the Aon Chase which he won easily, beating The Giant Bolster, in what was his prep run for the Gold Cup – this win had me convinced that Silviniaco Conti would be difficult to beat in the Blue Riband in March.
However, we would soon learn that Cheltenham and Silviniaco Conti were never meant to be: he raced there 5 times during his career and never won once. In March 2013, running up to the third last fence in the Gold Cup, he looked as if he was going to win one of racing’s biggest prizes and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was too good to be true. Then when he crumbled down to earth on the rain-soaked ground that day I felt like fate had played a cruel game; I remember the anxious wait to hear whether Silvi had gotten back to his feet and the relief as that news came through. Despite my disappointment, I reminded myself that the best was surely still to come.
The ‘best’ seemed like a long way away between March and December 2013 as two more defeats gave the impression that the events at Cheltenham had almost dented Silviniaco Conti’s confidence. I retained the faith, however, and when Boxing Day came around, despite all of the persistent support for his long-time rival Cue Card, I had the utmost confidence that the son of Dom Alco would get back to winning ways. When Cue Card looked as if he was going to pull away from the field for an easy win turning for home I’ll admit that I had the slightest doubt that Silvi would get back to winning ways, but then Cue Card stopped in his tracks and an opportunity presented itself which Noel Fehily took full advantage of and drove the brave little horse out to a brilliant win in the winter showpiece.
Could it be redemption for Silvi at Cheltenham in March? No. But yet again he looked the winner jumping the final fence but was caught on the run in after tiring up the hill. Let’s not dwell on that. He was a better horse than what he showed at Cheltenham and he showed that at Aintree when redeeming himself in the Betfred Bowl. Renowned for his impeccable jumping (bar the one mishap at Cheltenham in 2013), Silviniaco Conti looked ready to take on the Grand National fences when he nearly tried to tackle ‘The Chair’ rather than jump the final fence on the Mildmay course – but he ran out an easy winner from Dynaste. Justice was served.
Returning in the 2014 Charlie Hall Chase where he was easily beaten by Menorah, it looked as if a repeat of the previous year’s Betfair Chase was in store. Instead, the complete opposite happened. Cue Card was beaten tamely by Silviniaco Conti who in turn reversed the Charlie Hall form with Menorah and shot his name straight to the head of the 2015 Gold Cup market.
Next came what was, in my opinion, his finest hour when he won the King George VI Chase for a second consecutive year. His bold performance from the front brought a tear to my eye as he easily beat a brace of greys including Champagne Fever and Dynaste. That race still remains one of my favourite racing moments that I can remember to this day.
Yet again, Cheltenham was not to be for Silvi as the little horse struggled in the heavy ground in March but I am lucky enough to say that I was in attendance at Aintree on the day when once again he redeemed himself with victory in the Betfred Bowl. I was stood on the rail with my grandad, his wife and my mum as we cheered him on to yet another grade 1 victory. After the race, I met Noel Fehily and spoke with the lovely Gemma who looked after Silviniaco Conti throughout his racing career.
The golden years of his racing career would only see one more win as he took the Ascot Chase in 2016 easily by 20 lengths as a prep run for the Grand National – in which he was pulled up in the heavy ground. When he was retired the following year, yes I was disappointed to see him go and the end brought to what was a wonderful era in my life, but I was also incredibly proud of this brilliant racehorse who brought me many wonderful years and memories and I was happy to see him retire in one piece.
I went to Paul Nicholls’ yard in December 2016, days before his herculean effort to finish 3rd behind Thistlecrack in the King George, to meet the superstar. It was a day I will never forget to go behind the scenes of the champion trainer’s yard and meet the horse that I had admired for four years. I remember he was stabled alongside two Champion Chasers in Politologue and Dodging Bullets – so not only did I get to meet one grade 1 winner, but 3 at once, as well as Frodon who, since Silvi’s retirement, has now taken the pole position as my favourite horse in training.
I miss this horse dearly, he will always be a part of my journey into racing and because of this I won’t ever forget him. For my 18th birthday, my parents surprised me with a unique commission of Silviniaco Conti by Jacquie Jones which now hangs proudly on my bedroom wall and is one of my prized possessions. And perhaps my favourite footnote to this story is that Silvi’s memory is now honoured at Kempton Park which he made his own during the best days of his career with the ‘Silviniaco Conti Steeplechase’ which was run for the first time in February. It only provided me even more joy that the first horse to win the race named after this special horse was the individual I decided would take Silvi’s place as my favourite horse in training following his retirement – Frodon. I was stood next to my good friend Samantha at Warwick as we watched the race, and she can vouch how much that meant to me.
Everyone has that horse that captured their imagination, and for me that horse was Silviniaco Conti.IMG_8189

My First Trip To Cheltenham

Cleeve Hill

By Samantha

Cheltenham Racecourse is incredible.

Tuesday was one of the most incredible days I’ve ever had at a racecourse. Since the age of about six, I’ve been desperate to go to Cheltenham and I actually couldn’t believe I was there. It’s still, three days later, bonkers to think I attended Champion Hurdle Day. I was in awe. It’s hard to put into words how awesome this course is. Everything from the architecture to the atmosphere was just spectacular!

The parade ring is completely enclosed by the stands and the viewing area on the winners circle edge. This creates an amphitheatre atmosphere and it must be absolutely incredible to be a jockey riding into the winners enclosure with the applause of the knowledgeable crowd ringing around. It, without a doubt, deserves its title of the ‘Home of Jump Racing’.

The grandstands are absolutely huge. They stretch high into the sky and, if you were at the top, you’d have an incredible view of the course. In all honesty, it was extremely daunting at first as they towered over my tiny form way down below next to the rails. I was shocked at how much of a hill the ‘Cheltenham Hill’ is. By being there, you really appreciate the test it is on a horse and what makes it such a famous track. When they say it’s undulating, it is VERY undulating. The runners seem to be constantly going up and down. Because of this, I was impressed by what a view you actually had. Tuesday was a clear day and you could see all the way to the other side of the course.

Annacotty looked excellent under Hannah Bishop

It was wonderful to see some old favourites as part of the Retired Racehorse Parade. Taking park were Cue Card, Annacotty, Master Minded, Saphir Du Rheu and many others. For me, the horses are the stars of the show and I loved seeing these horses looking so well and loved. It advertised just how wonderfully versatile racehorses can be and what excellent qualities animals have!

To watch the racing, we found a space at the bottom of the chute. We could see the runners go to post but also get a great view of the last fence and hurdle. I really recommend getting that position as it was so busy and moving between the parade ring and rail was difficult. The coronavirus definitely didn’t scare many people away. There were multiple hand gel dispensers just to be safe too!

Shishkin

Now, we’ve got to talk about the ‘Roar’. This was one of the things I was told I would love about the day and it was incredible – the whole way it echoed around the course, sheltered by the magnificent Cleeve Hill gave me goosebumps. The unfortunate thing was the false start of the race. If they’d gone first time, it would’ve been even more spine-tingling. Second time round, the runners for the Supreme actually started and it was an incredible battle between Shishkin, who drifted at the off, and Abacadabras. But the money didn’t tell the story and Shishkin gamely battled on under Nico De Boinville.

The extremely pretty Put The Kettle On

The false start was, annoyingly, a recurring theme of the day. The same happened in the second race, which, arguably, completely ruined the chances of Notebook who ended up on the hurdles track. Like the Supreme, this resulted in a tenacious battle between two runners – Fakir D’Oudairies and Put The Kettle On. Obviously, I was screaming for Fakir but the mare out-battled him under a wonderful Aidan Coleman drive for Henry de Bromhead. Looking back, she’d actually won at Cheltenham earlier in the season and had a 7lbs allowance which could’ve tipped the scales but what a mare! She deserved that. There were some nasty falls but luckily all live to fight another day. Maire Banrigh is being treated at an equine hospital but she should be ok according to her owner John Hales.

My favourite boy Mulcahys Hill.

The next race was the Ultima Handicap Chase. Obviously, I was so excited to be at Cheltenham but that was because of this race. As anyone who follows me knows and the Rein It In Racing team tease me for, I absolutely adore Mulcahys Hill. He’s a bit of a live wire and was difficult to get out onto the track for him groom Caoilin Quinn and jockey Adrian Heskin. He got out safe and sound and finished the race in the same way – much to my relief – coming twelfth but looking very pleased with himself. It was a thrilling contest with The Conditional and Kildisart, who showed a good return to form, battling down the straight. It was Brendan Powell Jr who took the honours aboard The Conditional though! The horse completely deserved it and so did his trainer David Bridgewater. They were all over the moon! Myself and Niamh had seen him at Warwick in January when well-fancied for the Classic Chase.

Barry Geraghty happy on board Epatante

The next was the feature contest, the Champion Hurdle. Annoyingly, there was yet another false start and it was getting a bit silly by then. I think it ruined my selection Not So Sleepy’s chances as he never got into a rhythm. A mare that did was Epatante and she proved why she was a long-time, worthy favourite. She won by three lengths, beating the ever consistent Sharjah and, in third, the exciting Darver Star. Barry Geraghty was obviously delighted! He was riding out of his skin all week and this was remarkably his fourth Champion Hurdle. Even more impressively is that it was Nicky Henderson’s eighth and JP McManus’ ninth. I believe McManus deserves all of the success in the world for the way he treats his horses in retirement and his lovely, caring attitude towards the stable staff who look after his horses!

Rachel Blackmore and the Mares shone on day one!

Next was probably the race of the day- the Mares Hurdle! Two lovely mares, Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle, headed the market clear from the rest and that was how it finished! They were very wide apart but so tenacious! In the end, it was the Rachel Blackmore drive that won the race on Honeysuckle. The response was mind-blowing. There were a group of lads who had lost considerably on Benie Des Dieux but were in awe of the ride Blackmore gave this mare. It was excellent! She’s such a wonderful ambassador for the sport and it should be shouted from the rooftops about such talented riders, both males and females, like Rachel and Paul Townend riding at the top of their game.

Smiles all round with Imperial Aura

The newly-named race, the Northern Trust, came next and it was a big win for David Bass and Imperial Aura, despite idling. It was lovely to see the groom so emotional about her horse winning! They finished relatively strung out in comparison to earlier races and David Bass gave this horse an excellent ride.

Finally, on the day, was the National Hunt Chase. It has become shortened and made safer for the runners but three runners unseated and five pulled up. Lord Du Mesnil made a bold bid in front but only managed second. Jamie Codd, a great rider not just in the amateur sphere, ride Ravenhill into the lead at the last and the pairing won by three and a half lengths. The favourite Carefully Selected unseated at the last and was so tired he stopped there. The vets were fabulous- they were right on the scene and cooled him off as he was very hot.

Overall, I had the most amazing day. I’d imagined finally getting to the home of jumps racing so many times and the day was more incredible than my wildest dreams. I’m so grateful to the McNeil Family for the tickets and the privilege of being there to see Mulcahys Hill on the racetrack for the first time.

Make sure to visit Cheltenham – you’ll love it!

Cheltenham Festival Day Four Preview

Allmankind (JTW Equine Images)


By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22) and Luke Keena (@Lukekeena1)


It’s the final day of the Cheltenham Festival! We’ve seen some incredible performances and Friday promises to be a cracker!


The Irish are currently leading 11 to 9 in the Prestbury Cup but the English have a good chance in the first race of the day – the Triumph.


Read Luke and Samantha’s Irish VS English take on the racing….

JCB Triumph Hurdle


English –


In this race, England are responsible for the top three in the market – Allmankind, Goshen and Solo. Very little splits them. I’m siding with Allmankind. This horse was bred to be top-class on the flat but is three from three over hurdles. His first win was by thirty seven lengths and then by two and a half in a grade two. Last time, he won a grade one on bottomless ground from Cerberus. He was keen and ran from the front but that is just what he does. He’s a live and the form is strong. Solo jumped into favouritism on his English debut for Paul Nicholls by thirteen lengths. The form is questionable for me. Goshen likes to jump right, he did so when he won by twenty three lengths on his hurdling bow bow; next time he won by thirty four lengths and he jumped significantly right when last seen, beating the smart Nordano. His jumping is my worry and he could cause chaos like Asterion Forlonge in the Supreme. Nathaniel sired a Festival winner on day three and has Navajo Pass. He could go well considering he won a grade two, beating Lord Lamington.


Irish –


Five Irish runners head to post for an exciting renewal of the JCB Truimph Hurdle. The English look to have a strong hand, but I will take a chance on Aspire Tower. He is currently the second highest rated horse in the race. He seemed to be running below par last time out when he fell at the last , when he wasn’t bet. What makes me question if he was running his race was that he was joined at the last and how close Wolf Prince finished behind the winner. On his penultimate start he bet Wolf Prince by eighteen lengths. If he can return to that form, I think he will go close.

County Hurdle


English –
Dan Skelton has won this for the past two years and Mohaayed won this in 2018. He last won in December of that year but has been well-beaten since. He’s back on a winnable mark. Stolen Silver was second to Chantry House on his third start and next time he won a tight grade two. He was targeted at the Betfair Hurdle but only finished eighth. He stayed on well and cut in the ground is a good thing. That race could be a good form line into this with Ciel De Neige 2nd, Sir Valentine 4th, Zanza 6th and Oakley 7th. Sir Valentine has done nothing wrong over hurdles so far, putting some good runs in. Ciel De Neige is my fancy for the in form Willie Mullins after a huge run in the aforementioned contest.


Irish –
Ciel De Neige looks to me, to be the pick of the Irish. Originally, I liked Janidil who has swerved the race for the Albert Bartlett. Back in December Janidil won at Fairyhouse and Ciel De Niege was back in forth. He was last seen finishing second in the Betfair Hurdle at Sandown. He was in front along way from home which I don’t think suited him. With a more patient ride I think he will be hard to beat.

Ramses De Teille (JTW Equine Images)

Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle


English-
Thyme Hill has been the favourite for a while. He won the Persian War on hurdles bow and then a grade two here at Cheltenham. Last seen in December, he beat The Cashel Man in the Challow, a grade one. He came third in the Champion Bumper and has a live chance. One of the training performances of the season, for me, has to be David Pipe’s handling of Ramses De Teille. He’s an exposed chaser but they exploited his novice status and this resulted in him winning two grade twos at Haydock and Doncaster. You can’t discount him. Redford Road won her in a grade two in December beating Kiltealy Briggs, but was fifth last time. I would love for either Kiltealy Briggs or The Wolf to run well for the McNeills. Harry Senior is a progressive young horse. He won here on Trials Day, beating House Island, and us trying three miles for the first time. I’m going with Latest Exhibition. He’s done nothing wrong in four starts this term. It’s great to see Bryan Cooper back on the big stage with a good horse!

Harry Senior (JTW Equine Images)


Irish –
Nine Irish runners will head to post for this ultra competitive race. Latest Exhibition really impressed me at Leopardstown. He stayed on very strongly to get well on top at the line. Prior to that race he showed his class over two miles and a half to beat Andy Defruesne over an inadequate trip. Prior to that run he was second behind Abacadabras over two miles. I think the stamina test will suit, and I think he will go close.

Lostintranslation (JTW Equine Images)

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup


English –
Clan Des Obeaux won the 2018 King George but only cam , fifth in this the next March. He followed in Kempton and came second on seasonal bow subsequently. Last time, he absolutely hacked up in the King George and I think he’d the leading English challenger, based on that. Santini is a leading player too but he made hard work of a listed at the start of the season. He landed the Cotswold Chase and he stays all day so would like it if it turn into a slog. He beat Bristol De Mai that day and he came second to Lostintranslation in the Betfair Chase. Bristol De Mai made a mistake last time which seems to knock his confidence and he didn’t warm to the test when it mattered. Lostintranslation was well-fancied for the King George but pulled up with a wind issue. Hopefully he’s got over that. Elegant Escape hasn’t won since the 2018 Welsh National and isn’t up to this. I’m with Al Boum Photo as he won last year and has had the most ideal preparation.

Real Steel (JTW Equine Images)


Irish –
I would be surprised if the Irish don’t take this years renewal. Al Boum Photo is a worthy favourite, last years winner comes into the race after the same preparation as last year. Delta Work brings in two standout pieces of form, those both came at Leopardstown when he won the best staying chases in Ireland this year. He has to have a big chance. I am going to take a chance on Presenting Percy. He has been improving run to run this season. I think they have been training him with one race in mind the Gold Cup. He travelled very well, before flattening out up the straight. I think he will come on again for the run. He has proven his stamina on numerous occasions, he has previously won over three miles five furlongs at Fairyhouse on testing ground. His win in the RSA in 2018 was an exceptional performance and if he can bounce back to that I think he will outrun his odds. Real Steel goes for Willie Mullins.

Hazel Hill (JTW Equine Images)

Foxhunters Amateur Riders Chase


English –
This looks an open race but I’m with Minella Rocco. He defied a 1000+ day winless run at Warwick in January, when he beat last year’s winner Hazel Hill, and he won again under Derek O’connor at Wetherby. Hazel Hill is twelve and had won the race at Warwick before his Cheltenham victory last season. He won here in May over course and distance. He’s rated 147, 5lbs more than Minella Rocco. Caid Du Berlais won the Punchestown equivalent of this in good style. David Maxwell is a great supporter of the game and rides Shantou Flyer.

Gino Trail (JTW Equine Images)

Grand Annual Handicap Chase



English –
Gino Trail put up a bold show thirteen days ago to win at Doncaster on his first start for Fergal O’Brien. He’s a darling horse. Croco Bay won this last season under Keilan Woods. He was third at Punchestown next time and was seventh on seasonal bow. He put up a decent run to be second in January which will be a good prep. Two Taffs was third off a long absence in November and the sixteenth in the Ladbrokes Trophy. He ran a blinder at Warwick last time. His yard also have Marracudja who controversially got put up significantly in the handicap for a third place to Defi Du Seuil and Un De Sceaux. I’m with Paul Nicholls’ Greanateen. He likes to win this race and this horse has won his last three in splendid style.


Irish –
Five Irish runners head to post for the penultimate race of the festival. Éclair De Beaufeu was impressive last month at the Dublin Racing Festival. This Gordon Elliot trained improving six year old was well on top at the end. Sean O’Keefe rode him on that occasion and gets the ride again. Sean’s claim will be invaluable. I think he is a horse on the up and can go close for the inform trainer Gordon Elliot. At a bigger price, Us And Them is interesting. His form this year has been bad, but as a result his handicap mark has been dropping. He was second in last years Arkle, albeit bet along way when a standing start cost him his chance. If he can bounce back to form I think he will outrun his odds.

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle


English –
Ben Jones has shone this season and rides Pileon, who is round about a 10/1 shot. This horse won last time by a whopping twenty lengths and could be a big player. Espoir De Romay has done very little racing but won well last time and I rate Chester Williams. I’m with The Bosses Oscar. He’s a promising horse with two wins and two seconds under his belt. His rider Sean O’Keeffe is extremely talented.


Irish –
My nap of the week on last weeks podcast was Front View. He was an eye catching second the last day at Thurles. Prior to that he won a good maiden hurdle at Cork. Both, Uhtred and Jon Snow have boosted the form. Prior to that, on hurdles debut he finished second behind Envoi Allen. I think he is very well handicapped and will be hard to beat.

Cheltenham Festival Day Three Preview

Frodon (right) (JTW Equine Images)

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22) and Luke Keena (@Lukekeena1)

Thursday’s card at Cheltenham looks so exciting with Frodon and Paisley Park looking to defend their crowns in the two big races.

Read Luke and Samantha’s Irish VS English take on the racing….

Mister Fisher (JTW Equine Images)

Marsh Novices Chase

English –


Itchy Feet comes into the race in great form after winning both of his Chase starts. The latter was the grade one Scilly Isles, beating Midnight Shadow. He came third in last year’s Supreme so he has a great chance. I’m going to stay loyal to Reserve Tank. He comes good at this time of year as he won grade ones at Aintree and Punchestown last year. He was beaten on chase debut then won at Wincanton in a grade two. He was beaten last time and didn’t like the tacky ground. I’m worried he won’t like it again but it’s bad luck to change your mind. Mister Fisher won well here in December and then won a grade two at Doncaster. This is the most appropriate race for him. A mare won the Arkle and Annie Mc is no mug. She has won three in a row in lower races and has beaten some nice mares.

Faugheen (Luke Keena)


Irish –


Five Irish runners head to post for this intriguing renewal of the Marsh Novices’ Chase. Many eyes will be drawn to the legend that is Faugheen. It’s amazing to think that this twelve year old has gone Novice chasing and proved to be top class. He just held on last time out at Leopardstown, winning the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase. He was out jumped by Battleoverdoyen on that occasion and put in some sketchy jumps. I think he will need to be on his A game to win. It would be a great story if he was to win.
I am torn between Faugheen and Samcro, two of my favourites. Samcro was impressive on chase debut at Down Royal winning by seventeen lengths. Next time out he came down two out when I thought he would have won. Fakir D’oudairies has since boosted the form, finishing a close second in the Arkle. Last time out he was slightly disappointing finishing so far behind Faugheen. The ground was heavy at Limerick. He will enjoy the quicker ground here. He has since had a wind operation which will hopefully see him improve again. If I had to side with one, I would just side with Samcro, this could be the race of the festival after the disappointment of the Champion Chase.

Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle

English –

Two leading English horses in this are Welsh Saint and Skandiburg. The latter hasn’t been seen for 71 days, beating Rapper and Kilbricken Storm at Cheltenham. He’s won half of his races from the Olly Murphy Yard. Welsh Saint’s only blip is falling at Huntingdon last May. He came second in a Listed on New Years Day and then won nicely at Haydock to beat Kilbricken Storm, Unowhatimeanharry and Guitar Pete. Kilbricken Storm won the Albert Bartlett under Harry Cobden, who rides again, but the horse has only won once since in a chase. JP McManus did insanely well on day two and the leading English horses of his are Sunset Showdown and Dream Berry. The latter came second last time off a long break but he’s yet to run in 2020. Sunset Showdown has won three races since June and came second in a hot handicap here in October. David Maxwell has a good ride on Jatilwih.

Sire Du Berlais (JTW Equine Images)


Irish –


Eight Irish runners head to post for this extremely competitive handicap. The Irish have three of the top four in the market. One of those is last years winner, Sire Du Berlais who has top weight. He carries seven more pounds than last year and I think he may struggle. The Storyteller ran an eye catching race last time out in the qualifying race at Leopardstown. He is nine pounds lower rated over hurdles and has a good chance. I think the best handicapped horse in the race is Relegate. She ran a good reappearance at Punchestown last time out to finish fourth. Back in 2018 she was an impressive winner of the Champion Bumper beating a decent field. She then went Novice hurdling for Willie Mullins and was slightly disappointing. Her problem then was her jumping was very sketchy at times. Last time out she jumped the best I’ve seen her jump before. I think she has lots of talent and can go close.

Ryanair Chase

English –


In this small but select field, we have the first two from last year – Frodon and Aso. Frodon was an emotional winner of this but was, as a shock to some, beaten on seasonal bow. He then came third in the Betfair Chase and had an ideal prep in January for this. He loves it round Cheltenham. Aso came second in this last year and was then third in the Charlie Hall Chase. He underperformed at Huntingdon and was then fourth in the King George VI Chase. He was third as well in this in 2017 and has place claims. Saint Calvados ran well in two handicaps between coming last to Defi Du Seuil. I’m going to side with Riders Onthe Storm. I like this horse because of the bold, willing way he goes about his races. He won at Aintree and Ascot nicely before proving himself, at the latter track once again, in top company. Last time, he got Cyrname in trouble on tacky ground. He jumps superbly and I’m looking forward to see how good he really is!


Irish –


This is between the Irish trained pair in my opinion, A Plus Tard and Min. I will side with the Henry De Bromhead trained A Plus Tard. He was impressive last time out when getting the better of Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown. While Chacun Pour Soi needed the run, he still showed lots of speed to lead over the last. He was very impressive last year at the festival when winning the Close Brother Novices Handicap over the same distance. While he is rated four pound inferior of Min, A Plus Tard is a six year old on the up. I think he will be hard to beat.

Paisley Park (JTW Equine Images)

Stayers Hurdle

English –


Paisley Park looks extremely hard to beat in this. He’s won seven in a row, including last year’s Stayers Hurdle, and won the Cleeve Hurdle, beating Summerville Boy, Lisnagar Oscar and Tobefair. Aidan Coleman is riding high after his Arkle victory and Emma Lavelle had a winner on Wednesday. Killian is a really big fan of Lisnagar Oscar and tipped him up on our Podcast as a placed horse. Emitom needed his seasonal debut but beat Donna’s Diamond eight lengths at Haydock last time with West Approach in behind. Summerville Boy won a Supreme so I’m not convinced he has the stamina for this. Tobefair would be a nice story for Deborah Hamer. This horse loves Cheltenham but was fourth to Paisley Park when last seen. L’Ami Serge hasn’t returned to his old form after an absence and Ask Dillon, Donna’s Diamond and West Approach are all big prices.


Irish –


It is very hard to see Paisley Park being bet, but two horses I will take a chance on hitting the frame are Apple’s Jade and Ronald Pump. This looks like being Apple’s Jade swan song, as retirement looms. Prior to her win at Leopardstown she didn’t show much signs of a spark, but in first time cheekpieces at Leopardstown she ran them ragged from the front. She was then disappointing last time out at Gowran. First time blinkers are tried which will hopefully see her spark again. Richard Johnson is a perfect jockey booking, he will just let her roll in front and if she is on a going day she will outrun her odds.

Ronald Pump steps into unknown territory, as he runs in his first Grade 1 over hurdles. He has been improving at a rate of knots climbing the handicap of late. He put in a fantastic effort last time out to be bet at Leopardstown, giving the winner two stone and one pound. The winner has since won again. He will enjoy the strong pace to run at and I think he, like Apple’s Jade, will outrun his odds.

Mister Whitaker and Happy Diva (Right Pair) (JTW Equine Images)

Brown Advisory & Merribelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase

English –

Last year’s winner Siruh Du Lac is number four and notched up a four timer last season but pulled up behind Happy Diva at this track in November. Happy Diva is one of two mares to note as she only went down a head to Lady Buttons and was fourth in a hot race at Ascot when last seen. The other is La Bague Au Roi. She won two grade ones in her novice campaign and didn’t run too badly at Leopardstown in the Irish Gold Cup, making her an interesting contender. Deyrann Du Carjac won at Huntingdon in May but then followed in RSA winner Champ and came third in a grade two. He’s intriguing. Nine year old Oldgrangewood has hit a rich vein of form at the minute. He’s won his last two, one at Newbury and the other in a grade three here at Cheltenham. He last ran off 147 in this race in 2018. Mister Whitaker has won at this festival before. I’m with Simply The Betts as he was very impressive and game last tien out to win here. He was two from three before that and finished third in the 2018 Supreme.


Irish –


Simply The Betts looks like he will be hard to beat. Ben Dundee is the shortest price of the Irish but I wouldn’t be a fan if his. I will take a chance on Robin Des Foret. He always travels into his race strongly but struggles to get home. Since his last run he had a wind operation which I think will help him see out his races. He ran over course and distance in December, he looked to be traveling best before flattening out. He will travel well into the race and hopefully he can power up the hill in front at a good price.

Daylesford Mares Novice Hurdle

English –


The Irish are very good in this and I’m actually siding with Minella Melody and Ard Abhainn, each way, who is part of my 20 To Watch. Nicky Henderson’s Floressa won a listed race at Newbury in November and then followed in Lady Buttons. Dan Skelton is good with his mares and has Emmas Joy, who won nicely by three lengths, beating Vienna Court, at Warwick. Rosie And Millie could be a bit big at 50/1. She’s a lovely, tenacious little mare and showed that when only going down a neck to a horse who ran in the Mares Hurdle. Vienna Court beat her at Ffos Las and her form is tied quite closely to the aforementioned fillies.


Irish –


Minella Melody sets the standard here. She was impressive last time out beating some of these, giving away weight all round. She steps down to two miles over hurdles for the first time but I don’t think it will be a problem. She jumps and travels well and I don’t see the step down in trip being an issue. I think she will go very close for Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead.

Le Breuil At Home (JTW Equine Images)

Kim Muir Challenge Cup

English –


Champagne Platinum has a notable jockey booking of Derek O’connor, who I think is excellent. This horse is yet to win over fences and came third in the Scilly Isles, which, if Itchy Feet wins earlier in the card, will be good form. One Style is right at the bottom of the weights and won a class three under today’s partner last time, as well as his four previous outings. Millie Wonnacott has a good relationship with Fingerontheswitch, who only went down a half length in the Sky Bet Chase and is very consistent. Bob Mahler won over three miles four at Musselburgh last time and The Young Master is a grand old servant but looks up against it at eleven years of age. I like Le Breuil under the talented Jamie Codd who won on day one. They liked this horse for the National and Codd gets on well with him. It doesn’t seem likely he’ll get in but he won the National Hunt Chase last season.


Irish –


Six Irish runners head to post for this competitive handicap to end the day. At a big price, I will take a chance on Go Another One. He was third last time out at Cheltenham, behind subsequent Grade One winner, Slate House. Prior to that he was disappointing, beaten at odds on at Uttoxeter. Back in July he won his Beginners Chase at Clonmel, beating Plan Of Attack. The slight worry I have is that he hasn’t been seen since October. I think the extreme stamina test will suit and he can go close at a big price.

Cheltenham Festival Day Two Preview

By Luke Keena (@lukekeena1)

Racing gets underway on Wednesday with the eagerly anticipated Ballymore Novices hurdle.
Envoi Allen (pictured) comes into this race as the Irish banker in my eyes. He is unbeaten to date and I don’t see him losing. He proved his stamina last time out at Naas when powering clear up the run in beating a talented field. Longhouse Poet runs again today but I can’t see him reversing the form and he will be playing for a place at best. Envoi Allen has the best form in the book, that form comes form the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse when he bet Abacadabras and Darver Star over two miles. Over this trip I think he will be better again and will hopefully get Wednesday off to a flyer. The other three Irish runners are The Big Getaway, Easywork and the aforementioned Longhouse Poet. Of those I think Easywork is overpriced. He got bet for speed last time out at Leopardstown behind Asterion Forlonge. Prior to that he was very impressive at Limerick when beating Unexpected by twenty two lengths. I think he is being forgotten because of his last run but if he can bounce back to his Christmas form over a trip he will prefer he could outrun his odds and get a place.
Sporting John and The Big Breakaway come into the race unbeaten. Sporting John has more experience, he comes into the race with three runs while The Big Breakaway only has the two. These two both step into Graded company for the first time and I think they will struggle to cope with the big step up in class. I can’t see them challenging Envoi Allen.

RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase
The Irish again come into this race with a strong hand with five of the ten runners. Minella Indo is a horse who will relish the test of stamina that is the RSA. He was a surprise winner of last years Albert Bartlett. It is well documented that he needs plenty of work to get fit. His seasonal debut over fences was a nice run behind Laurina at Gowran over an inadequate trip. He then won last time out beating Captain Cj who has since boosted the form. He has achieved more this season in the lead up to Cheltenham as last year he didn’t win prior to Cheltenham. He is a spring horse who I think will be in peak form on the day and it will take a good one to beat him.
I think Allaho may struggle to get the better of Minella Indo. He finished behind him twice last season and I don’t think he has improved enough to beat him. I don’t think he quite stays as well as Minella Indo and I would have preferred to see him in the Marsh.
Battleoverdoyen will relish the trip. He jumped great the last day up till the last fence. He out jumped Faugheen at every fence. He faded too quickly for it to be his true running. I think he will relish the test of the RSA and could outrun his odds. The other two Mullins runners, Easy Game and Castlebawn West would be suspect stayers in my opinion and may struggle to get home.
Champ is the shortest price of the English and I would be keen to take him on. He comes into this race after a fall in his last start at Cheltenham. He steps up to three for the first time over fences and I think Minella Indo will out stay him.

Coral Cup
Fourteen Irish runners head to post and the two I would side with are Alfa Mix and Black Tears. Alfa Mix has improved significantly since stepping up in trip to two miles and a half. On his penultimate start he won well beating a nice horse of Joseph O’Brien’s, Top Moon. He stayed on strongly after the last to get the better of the runner up. The extra furlong in this race will be no issue. Last time out he ran a good prep race, finishing second behind Kilfenora. They pulled eighteen lengths clear of the third home, Court Maid. He has subsequently been bought by JP McManus and I think he will go close at a double figure price.
Black Tears sneaks in at at the foot of the weights and I think she can run well at a decent price. She was last seen finishing second behind Elfile in a Grade 3 at Punchestown, staying on well at the end to pass Laurina . Prior to that she won impressively at Leopardstown. She ran into trouble in the straight but was still well on top at the finish. I think she will relish the step up in trip and she is a six year old on the improve who can outrun her odds.

Champion Chase
Only the one Irish representative in this race but it’s a case of quality over quantity. Chacun Pour Soi looks to have a great chance. He has two standout pieces of form, beating Defi Du Seuil at Punchestown and last time out beating Min at Leopardstown. He was impressive the last day at Leopardstown , he jumped magnificently. Prior to that he needed the run when he finished behind A Plus Tard who is a good horse. He put in an amazing jump three out that day but blew up in the straight. For an eight year old, he is relatively inexperienced over fences. I think he is the horse with the most potential in the race to go on and dominate the division.

IMG_8111
Chacun Pour Soi

Defi Du Seuil has done nothing wrong all season. He has won his three starts this season. His form of his last two runs looks strong. He has stepped into open Grade 1 company and showed his class. At the back end of last season Chacun Pour Soi bet him well over two miles. I think Chacun Pour Soi has improved again and is the one to beat.

Cross Country
What an unbelievable story it would be if Tiger Roll was to get his fifth win at the Cheltenham Festival here. He is going for a hat trick in the race and he looks very hard to oppose. On official ratings he is nineteen pounds clear of the second favourite, Easyland. He ran a good race at Navan for a long way before tiring in the straight. He will come on plenty for the run fitness wise and I think he will be very hard to beat. I think the rest of the Irish runners will struggle to be involved towards the finish of the race.

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Aramax was my nap on the podcast when he won the last day and I have been keen on him for this race ever since. He bet Recent Revelations impressively by eight lengths on that occasion. Prior to that he finished behind Wolf Prince at Fairyhouse. Wolf Prince has since boosted the form and finished second in the Spring Juvenile at Leopardstown. I think he is a worthy favourite.
At a bigger price I think Theatre Of War will outrun his odds. He showed signs of improvement last time out when finishing second in a Maiden Hurdle. He stayed on strongly towards the end and was only just bet. He will relish the more stamina demanding two miles. Prior to that he fell and unseated his rider. On his second start over hurdles he finished third and was half a length behind A Wave Of The Sea. He has some nice form and I think he is running off a fair handicap mark. He has been off since Christmas and comes into the race fresher than most. Providing he gets around I think he will outrun his odds.

Champion Bumper
The Irish have a very strong hand in this race. Appreciate It looks to be very special. His performance at Leopardstown the last day was breathtaking. He cruised into the race and once Patrick gave him the signal to quicken he put the race to bed in a matter of strides. On his penultimate start he showed he also has stamina as he won a bumper over two and a half miles. He would appear to have it all, the perfect mix of speed and stamina. He looks to have an excellent chance of ending the day on a high note.

IMG_8112
Appreciate It

Cheltenham Festival Day One 2020 Preview

The International Hurdle is a good form line for the Champion Hurdle. (JTW Equine Images)

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22) and Luke Keena (@Lukekeena1)


The Cheltenham Festival is upon us! We’ve got four days of top quality National Hunt action to savour.


Day one looks excellent, with Samantha and Luke previewing the card from an English VS Irish point of view! Make sure to keep an eye out on our social media for exciting content right from the track!


Enjoy…

Supreme Novices Hurdle (Grade One)

The Supreme Novices Hurdle is for horses who had their first wins over hurdles this season and is raced over a trip of two miles and eighty-seven yards.


English-


The leading English Challengers in this race come from the Nicky Henderson stable. He last won the race in 2016 with Altior and he has three entered- Shishkin, Chantry House and Allart. Shishkin is highest up the market as he won by eleven lengths in a listed event at Huntingdon. He fell and won before that and he goes on pretty much any ground. Chantry House beat Edwardstone on rules debut at Warwick. His debut over hurdles was good and he quickened clear impressively at Newbury to win by four and a half lengths. Both of these are really exciting prospects. Henderson’s other runner is Allart. He fell in behind Ecco at Ascot in November. He didn’t run again until January when he won by nine lengths at Ludlow and, in February, by fourteen lengths at Doncaster. He has a bit to find on official ratings.


Fiddlerontheroof is the highest rated of the English at 154. He’s never been out of the top three in his seven race career. He ran three times in Ireland before moving to the Tizzards and coming second to Thyme Hill in the Persian War. Next, he was second over two miles behind Edwardstone then he finally got off the mark over obstacles. He won the Tolworth in good style too. Edwardstone runs in this and was second on his first three starts, one of those behind Chantry House. When he beat Fiddlerontheroof, he was extremely keen and was so on his next two outings, one beating Harry Senior, subsequent grade two winner, and then second in a grade two. The fast pace they should go will hopefully let him settle. Fiddlerontheroof may get caught for speed when push comes to shove.


Sam Twiston-Davies is a notable booking on outsider Mario De Pail for Sam Thomas. He had a few starts in bumpers, the best of those at Ffos Las when beating subsequent impressive winner Getaround. Next time, he won at Kelso and then lost out by a short head to Eden De Houx. Jabbaar, despite being a huge price, is a big ride for young rider Connor O’farrell. His maiden win was good and he was behind decent horses the last twice.

Irish-

The shortest priced Irish horse in the race is the Willie Mullins trained Asterion Forlonge. This unbeaten six year old has passed every test so far in his career. He started life on the track this year in a bumper at Thurles when he was far from impressive, he just got the job done under a strong ride from Patrick Mullins. Next time out was when we got to see a better horse, he won his maiden hurdle at Naas by ten lengths, the second has since won by a similar margin in a maiden at Punchestown. Asterion Forlonge then stepped into Grade 1 company next time out and won very impressively. He was given a very positive ride by Danny Mullins to get he better of Easywork by nine lengths. He will have a good chance but I think he will be the second best of the Irish runners. Abacadabras is a horse I have liked for this race for some time now. He brings in the best Novice Hurdle form in the book in my opinion, which is the Royal Bond form from Fairyhouse. He was a length and a half behind Envoi Allen and two and a half lengths in front of Darver Star. He was impressive next time out in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown when winning by eight lengths. He will sit off the pace and come with a late run. I think he is the one to beat in this year’s festival opener.


Samantha’s Selection – “ABACADABRAS has ran to really high form lately. He was second to Envoi Allen on his penultimate start and in third was subsequent Irish Champion Hurdle second Darver Star. He won a grade one last time in good style.”


Luke’s Selection – “I think ABACADABRAS is the one to beat in this year’s Festival opener.”

Rouge Vif At Warwick. (JTW Equine Images)

Arkle Novices Chase (Grade One)

The Arkle Trophy, named after the legendary racehorse, is the first novice chase of the meeting and is raced over two miles.


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The Arkle could kick off a good week for Olly Murphy with Brewin’upastorm. Champion jockey Richard Johnson rides. This horse was fourth in the Ballymore and then second to Reserve Tank. In a grade one. Both of those were obviously over further but he won by a head on fences bow, beating a good field of Good Boy Bobby, Midnight Shaddow and Global Citizen. Last time, he won by four lengths beating a subsequent winner over two miles two. They must think he is speedy enough. After Global Citizen got beat by Brewin’upastorm, he beat Rouge Vif and Al Dancer in a grade two at Kempton at Christmas. He’s not ran since but goes we fresh. He won the Dovecote last term so is a classy individual. Al Dancer was well-fancied for the is at the beginning of the season after showing he was smart in the Betfair Hurdle. He won by four lengths on fences bow and then came second to Put The Kettle On, both times at Cheltenham. Next time, he was fourth to Global Citizen and then second when last seen.


Esprit Du Large had had three starts over fences. The first was when second, beaten half a length by a subsequent winner. He probably needed that because he won well at Exeter next time. Next time, he strongly won the Henry VIII. It probably wasn’t the strongest of renewals but he beat Nube Negra one and three quarter lengths. That horse was second to Rouge Vif in the Kingmaker, beaten seven lengths. We’ve not seen Esprit Du Large since the grade one but the trainer has wanted to keep him fresh. He could’ve gone under the radar. Rouge Vif won by seven lengths on Chase debut but he was then last of four behind Put The Kettle On and Al Dancer next time. He was second to Global Citizen before getting back on track in the Kingmaker, which was a great run.


The English mare Maire Banrigh has great form figures to her name. She’s won her last six, two hurdles and four chases. The first of those four was by fifteen lengths ;then she beat the smart Thomas Darby and then she went to Doncaster and won by thirteen lengths. She was stepped up to listed company at Huntingdon and scored by eleven lengths. She would prefer good to soft. Last to mention is Our Merlin. No disrespect to this horse or connections but he’s a bit out of his depth here.


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I think the Irish runner hold the key to this race. Notebook, Fakir D’oudairies and Cash Back all line up in what will be an intriguing race. I think Notebook is the horse to be with in this race. He has improved no ends since switching to fences. He has ran four times over fences and came out on top on each occasion. He has got the better of Cash Back and Fakir D’oudairies in his last two races. Beating Fakir D’oudairies giving him seven pounds on his penultimate start, they now race off levels which should put Notebook further ahead. He is a magnificent jumper who can get a bit buzzy in the prelims. He is going to wear earplugs on the way to the start which should help him settle. I think he will take a lot of beating.


Samantha’s Selection – “I think that FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES is fabulous jumper and that will aid his cause. He’s a grade one winner over fences too. Admittedly, he’s been beaten by Notebook but I think the form will be switched around at Cheltenham.”


Luke’s Selection – “I think NOTEBOOK is the horse to be with in this race.”

Cogry (left) (JTW Equine Images)

Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade Three)

The Ultima Handicap Chase is a three mile and one furlong chase and is the big handicap on day one.


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Two of my 20 To Watch run in this ultra-competitive handicap – Mulcahys Hill and Cepage. Everyone who follows me on any sort of social media knows of my love for this guy! He’s a second season novice but got off the mark over fences at this track in October. He disliked the Becher and he probably should’ve won the Two runner race last time. After his Tolworth second, I’ve always thought he had a good prize in him. Cepage had been knocking on the door in three grade three handicaps this year before carrying a huge weight to win over two miles four at this course. He proved his class that day and, until a certain point, he had Gold Cup and Ryanair entries. I hope the occasion doesn’t get to him.


The Nicky Henderson yard won this last year. He’s represented by Brave Eagle and Burbank. Brave Eagle won two nice races over the summer but hadn’t been seen since coming eighth in the Ladbrokes Trophy, in which The Conditional came second and Mister Malarky sixth. The Conditional jumping could’ve lost him the race that day. He was well-fancied for the Classic Chase last time out. He was a good forth but this trip is better for him and he won here in the autumn. Mister Malarky pulled up in a listed handicap at Ascot after Newbury but ran brilliantly to win at Kempton last time. He’s hard to judge. Burbank was fifth in December in a class three, then won a similar event at Newbury and, last time, he was eighth in the SkyBet Chase. Cobra De Mai and Quarenta finished in the two places ahead. Cobra De Mai last won in April 2019 of this same mark but was behind Vinndication earlier this season. Quarenta won nicely at Fontwell in December but isn’t quite up to this.


In last year’s race, Vintage Clouds was second, Big River fourth and Activial sixth. Vintage Clouds hadn’t won for a long while before Haydock in January when he won the Peter Marsh impressively. Last time, he ran in the Grand National Trial but the trip was probably too far. Big River has PP1 next to his name but his win last time was decent. He’s been as short as 8/1 for a Scottish National. Soupy Soups ran all through the summer and won at Perth. He’s not been seen since coming second in the Badger Beer which was a great run!


Nigel Twiston-Davies has two runners – old favourite Cogry and Townshend. Cogry is the pick of Sam Twiston-Davies. This horse was third to The Conditional at the beginning of the season and then won here. On New Year’s Day, he came second and it would be great to see him win at the Festival. Townshend won on seasonal reappearance at Ascot in January. He used to be with Willie Mullins but he’s now in the ‘Splash Of Ginge’ colours and will be ridden by the owner’s son.


Vinndication heads the field. He was a good novice chaser and followed in Defi Du Seuil twice in the backend of last year. He won at Ascot in November, in good style, but hasn’t been seen since due to an injury. We’ve not seen Atlanta Ablaze for ninety four days when she came fourth in a mares listed chase. Before that, she won at Market Rasen. Kildisart won at the Aintree National meeting but has struggled to win since. He followed in Mister Malarky last time. He’s a talented horse but is 2lbs higher than his Aintree win.


Who Dares Wins is very classy, having won on the flat, hurdles or fences. He won the Pendil last time so it is very interesting that he is running in this. No Comment hasn’t won since January 2017. He’s not ran badly since but fell in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. We haven’t seen him since. He’s still a novice over fences. Not sure why he’s still as short as 10s. At the bottom is Ice Cool Champs and Vivas who are 66/1.


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The last Irish trained winner of this race came in 2006 when the Tony Martin trained Dun Doire won the race. The bad record in the race doesn’t put me off the Paul Nolan trained Discorama who is part owned by Andrew Gemmell. His best run of the year came at Wexford when he finished second behind Champagne Classic. He slightly lost his way from there finishing well bet in his next two starts. He has been freshened up for race. This was the first time he hadn’t won on his first outing of the season, so freshening him up should help him to recapture his form. He finished second on this card last year behind Le Breuil in the National Hunt Chase and if he returns to that form I think he can get the Irish a rare win in the race. Elwood is the other Irish runner but I think he will struggle to get up the hill.


Samantha’s Selection – “I’m going with MULCAHYS HILL here. Not just because he’s my favourite but also because he’s still got a lot left to come over fences and I’d love for him to win the race his owners sponsor! Cepage is my second choice.”


Luke’s Selection – DISCORMA goes well fresh and has been off since his run at Christmas. He was second in last year’s National Hunt Chase and, if he returns to form, I think he will go close.”

Unibet Champion Hurdle (Grade One)

The Unibet-sponsored Champion Hurdle threw up a shock last year when Espoir D’Allen landed the odds. Raced over two miles, this is as open as it has been for a while.

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Nicky Henderson has won this for two of the past three renewals and has four this season – Epatante, Fusil Raffles, Call Me Lord and Pentland Hills. Epatante is the head of the market because she easily won a listed race in November and then she won by five lengths in the Christmas Hurdle, beating Silver Streak, Ballyandy and Fusil Raffles. She’s been reported to be coughing and boiled over at the Festival last season. Fusil Raffles won the Champion 4YO Hurdle at Punchestown and won at Wincanton in November, in a grade two. He pulled up in the Christmas Hurdle. Call Me Lord started the season coming second to If The Cap Fits over two miles three. He won the International Hurdle, beating Ballyandy, Pentland Hills, Gumball and Le Patriote. Last time, he got turned over at odds-on.


Pentland Hills won the Triumph and Aintree equivalent last season. He probably needed it when behind Call Me Lord and Ballyandy at Cheltenham. Last time, he ran against Ballyandy, Cornerstone Lad and Darasso at Haydock. He led down to the winning post but got headed on the line by a tenacious Ballyandy. The latter has been a revelation this season and deserved that success. He’s been putting in some super performances against some of the best English challengers. He won the Champion Bumper here so is a player. At Haydock, Cornerstone Lad was only beaten a length into third. Before that, he beat an injured Buveur D’Air in the Fighting Fifth. He’s so consistent and a big runner for the yard.


The same can be said for Silver Streak. He won a listed at Kempton at the beginning of the season, then came third in the Fighting Fifth. He probably hated the ground then but it wasn’t too bad at Kempton when he came second. He was third in this last year and then was fifth behind Supasundae. Not So Sleepy was a good horse on the flat but absolutely hacked up on his second start of the campaign in a grade three. He stayed on gamely to the line. Last time, he didn’t get a good position and stropped his way round in the Betfair Hurdle. If he’s allowed to stride out in front, hell be hard to peg back. Gumball and Le Patriote look out of their depths.


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The Irish have a strong team of horses heading for this wide open race. Willie Mullins reverts Cilaos Emery to hurdles after a spell over fences, and also runs Sharjah who is the highest rated horse in the race. Gavin Cromwell has the significant improver Darver Star. Also running for the Irish are Coeur Sublime, Petit Mouchoir and Darasso. The horse I like is the Jessica Harrington trained Supasundae. This ten year old son of Galileo may have age against him, but in an open renewal I think he could be the pick of them. He brings the best two mile form into the the race. He finished second behind Buveur D’Air at Punchestown. Every year he comes back needing the run and ran a nice race in defeat at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Hurdle. I think he will improve plenty for the run and go close at a decent price.


Samantha’s Selection- “The start will be crucial for NOT SO SLEEPY but he has so much speed and should enjoy this test!”


Luke’s Selection- Epatante is a worthy favourite. I will take a chance on Supasundae. He has won at the Festival previously and if he can handle the fast tempo of the race he should run well.”

Close Brothers Mares Hurdle (Grade One)

This is a mares-only race over nearly two and a half miles. It is a smaller field than normal due to the top two in the market being extremely talented.


Three English trainers have runners. Phillip Kirby has Lady Buttons and Desaray Girl. Lady Buttons is one of the most popular horses in training. She’s a darling little mare. She dabbles successfully between fences and hurdles and won a grade two last time. Desaray Girl completed a treble at the turn of the year but has so much to find. That’s the same for the Fergal O’Brien trained pair of Cap Soleil and Crossgalesfamegame. Dan Skelton round up the field with last season’s winner Roksana. She was second to Top Notch is November, fifth to If The Cap Fits and second to Summerville Boy. The Irish mares are much superior.


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This race looks to be between the Irish trained pair of Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle. I’d side with Benie Des Dieux and I think she is one of the Irish bankers of the week. Since joining Willie Mullins in 2016 she is unbeaten when standing up. She fell in last years race when looking to have the race at her mercy. She won in great style last time out and will be very hard to beat in this race.


Samantha’s Selection- Honeysuckle is a nice mare but BENIE DES DIEUX wins for me.”


Luke’s Selection- “I’d side with BENIE DES DIEUX and I think she is one of the Irish bankers of the week.”

Northern Trust Company Novices Handicap Chase (Listed)

This is a really tight race for novice chasers over a distance of two miles and four furlongs.


Mick Channon has a nice horse in Hold The Note. He was a very good second at Warwick in January and was only just beaten. He finished ahead of Whatmore and Highest Sun. He was second last at Newbury last time so will need to improve from that. Dan Skelton has two representatives and Beakstown seems to be the favoured. He earned his place in my 20 To Watch because he looked a ready made chaser last season. He’s been beaten by Sam Spinner, Champ and Mister Fisher. This is a more winnable race. Knight In Dubai won at Bangor and Doncaster before coming second to Sam Brown in a grade two. Champagne Court goes for a small yard and he won at Sandown and Plumpton before coming fifth to Simply The Betts at this track when Imperial Aura and Jarveys Plate ran. Imperial Aura was second. He’s so consistent and has been knocking on the door behind good horses.


Previous Cargo has top weight. He’s been second and third in grade twos on the last two occasions. Top weight will be difficult. Espoir De Guye has won his last two at Exeter and Ascot. He’s only six and has more to come from the Venetia Williams stable. Champagne Mystery has lots of 2s beside his name but he’s been significantly beaten on all occasions so it isn’t an attitude issue. He’s an unexposed sort. De Plotting She’d won by a neck to subsequent grade two winner Who Dares Wins at Plumpton for Suzi Best. He’s no mug.


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Five Irish runners head to post and none look as well handicapped as Galvin. The Gordon Elliot trained horse showed promise over hurdles and finished sixth in last years Ballymore at the festival. He switched to fences this season and showed bits of form. Last time out he finished second behind Salsaretta at Punchestown in November. He has been off since and I think this could have been the long term target. He runs off a fair mark of 142 and I think he will go close.


Samantha’s Selection- “I think BEAKSTOWN should hopefully be suited to this kind of race but it’s hugely competitive.”


Luke’s Selection- “I think Galvin could be well-handicapped.”

National Hunt Challenge Cup (Grade Two)

Purely for amateurs, this races conditions have been revised lately and it is now ran over three miles and five furlongs.


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The leading contender from the home team is Lord Du Mesnil. The owner owns a pubs nearby and it would be a lovely story for him to win. He’s gone from 122 to 153. Sam Waley-Cohen rides. Ocean Cove has Lisa O’Neill riding which instantly boosts his chances. Noel George is a good jockey and hasn’t partnered Springfield Fox before but the horse has won his past two. Lamanver Pippin won comfortably last time and is from the Colin Tizzard camp.


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Four Irish runners head to post with three of them towards the top of the betting, Carefully Selected, Ravenhill and Forza Milan, who has got the eye catching jockey booking of Derek O’Connor. This race has cut up badly and I think if Carefully Selected gets around he will win. He is unbeaten over fences but hasn’t been impressive with some rather bad jumps along the way. He made a very bad mistake last time out three from home and was lucky to stay on feet. He beat Forza Milan on that occasion and I would expect him to uphold the form. Providing he gets around he looks to be another possible Irish banker on day one.


Samantha’s Selection- “Carefully Selected will be so hard to beat.”


Luke’s Selection- “Carefully Selected has had a few jumping scares but if he gets round he goes close.”

Chatting With… Ed Chamberlin

Ed Chamberlin (Facebook)


By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)


Since January 2017, Ed Chamberlin has been a regular fixture on our TV screens as the main presenter of ITV Racing. So, as you can imagine, I couldn’t wait to talk to him about his career and what drives him. Something that struck me from our phone conversation was how he seemed as enthusiastic to talk to me as I was to talk to him. The passion is contagious and, without a doubt, one of the reasons why his presenting style is so successful.


Born in Somerset, Ed began his career “on a financial TV channel called Bloomberg TV, talking about sport and Sky Sports picked me up from there.” In 1999, he began working on Sky Sports and became the chief football presenter in 2011 up until May 2016 presenting Super Sunday and Monday Night Football, alongside Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher.


However, despite working in the football industry for nearly 20 years, Ed has always had a passion for horse racing. His interest stemmed from – like myself and many others – his Grandfather, “My memories of him, when I can remember him, he was almost forced to sit in a chair and watch racing as he wasn’t able to do much else. He loved cider and racing. He loved the ITV7 and I would help him with that.” With the influence of his grandfather, the Grand National rapidly became of interest to him, “The highlight of his year was the Grand National and it quickly became the highlight of my year.” Ed’s first bet came, “at the age of 7 or 8”, in the 1981 Grand National. “I finished second to Aldiniti without really realising what an amazing story that was and my horse was ridden by a fifty-four year old jockey. I was furious to finish second and from then I got hooked on the National and it sort of spiralled from there.” The story of Aldiniti is one of the most famous in racing. Bob Champion was followed in by fifty-four year old amateur John Thorne riding 8/1 favourite Spartan Missile.


These kind of narratives make sure that “every week is different” and that is what Ed likes most about his job. ITV took over the rights for horse racing on terrestrial TV in 2017. But the transition was far from easy for Ed, “It is hard to describe just how difficult it was for a presenter like myself to make that change from football to racing.” From the few occasions I have spoken to Ed, there is no doubt in my mind that he loves his job, “It’s just fantastic to travel the country to all these wonderful racecourses and see all these amazing horses and great people in the sport. As you can tell, I feel very lucky to do it but I do genuinely, absolutely love it.”


ITV Racing has had its critics and a thick skin was required at times, “Football is tribal, as the best way to describe it. I wouldn’t say quite so many people have a strong opinion about the TV side of it, while in racing there are lots of opinions flying around, which is great, what it’s all about.” However, Ed relished the challenge, “I’ve enjoyed proving people wrong from the way we started.”


A few weeks into their coverage, the racing world was shocked to its core by the devastating passing of 2015 Grand National hero Many Clouds after he gallantly battled Thistlecrack to victory in the Cotswold Chase. For Ed, it was “one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my television career.” The sensitive handling of this tragedy acted as a “coming of age” for ITV Racing. Suddenly, the show became much more respected and racing fans came around to the fact that the presenting team had the qualities needed to do horse racing justice. This was reflected in their viewing figures, “Last year, our viewing figures went up 17% and continue to grow.”


The transition from Channel 4 to ITV brought about a change in presenters. A big thing for Ed was the team ethic he wanted to develop within the cast and crew, “I made a rule when I first joined ITV that everybody – whether you were Sir Anthony McCoy or the young lad who made the tea – was you had to join up with the team at 6 o’clock the night before. We have a drink together, we have a production meeting and then we all go out for a meal.” On the show, Ed presents alongside many experts in the game, like Jason Weaver, who he describes as “one of the finds of our tenure”; Ruby Walsh, who’s “dissection of races is just brilliant” and “great friends of mine” A P McCoy, Luke Harvey and Mick Fitzgerald. We can’t forget those who put in such hard work behind the scenes and Ed is quick to give them a mention, “Paul McNamara, the director, has put a fresh pair of eyes on racing. Paul Cooper and Richard Willoughby, the editors, too. It’s a great gang of people who I always look forward to seeing.” I was keen to assure Ed that this camaraderie came through on screen.


In the summer, for the flat season, Ed’s co-host is Francesca Cumani, daughter of maestro trainer Luca Cumani, “I’m very proud of the fact I present with Francesca Cumani. There aren’t many male/female combinations who present, certainly not in sport, you’ve got your Holly and Phil and all that kind of thing, but there aren’t many in sport. I’m proud of the fact we won the Sports Broadcaster of the Year Award, which got racing onto a different platform.” They’re a combination which work well on screen because, according to Ed, “I know nothing about the actual horses while she knows everything!”


Horse welfare is evidently something Ed has an interest in. Around the time of Many Clouds’ passing, ITV Racing brought vet Eva O’Donoghue on to the team and she made frequent appearances to help educate viewers, “We’ve always wanted to explain things because, if you explain things, a lot of it makes sense.” The BHA seem to be adopting this ideology of late with social media videos exploring the misconceptions surrounding horse racing, with input from top jockey Tom Scudamore and vet Sally Taylor. This topic is something I am extremely passionate about so these videos are a wonderful addition and Ed is “delighted” by them.


Another crucial development of late is the ‘Welfare Report’ and this is great because, as Ed says, it’s about “being on the front foot”. This addresses the use of the whip; talks through ways to approach communication with the public surrounding the misconceptions and the tracking of racehorses throughout their lives, from birth to their racing career and into retirement. “Full marks to Annamarie Phelps, Nick Rust and the team for doing that and we [at ITV Racing] will help to get that message out there. So welfare is the biggest challenge but we are on the front foot with it and spreading the word of what this magnificent sport does with these great horses.”


It is so important to remember within these welfare reports just how well-treated these horses already are. The ITV Team are all very passionate about calling attention to stable staff and the work they do, “We try to bring them to the forefront of our coverage as well because they’re such a big part of it. When a horse is led in at the end of a race, I’m always very keen to name check the groom and any little stories we’ve got about the owners or the staff involved are so important to bringing those stories to people at home and it’s part of making them feel part of what’s going on at the racecourse.” I love that ITV mention the grooms – they work with these animals day in, day out and deserve the recognition.


One of the wonderful things about horse racing is how close you can get to the superstars of the sport – whether that be the horses or the jockeys. In Ed’s background of football, he believes that there is a “major disconnect between fan and player”. However, “contrast that to horse racing – the players, which are effectively the jockeys – the access to them is terrific and they’re brilliant with it as well. With ITV, we’ve tried to really make the most of that with our ‘Beaten Jockey Interviews’ and interviews with jockeys down at the start.” The same access isn’t just reserved for the TV cameras, it is on offer when you go racing too- “When you come racing, you can chat to these guys. They’re very open, very warm and, when a kid meets Frankie Dettori, hopefully, that means that they’ll keep following him and it spirals from there. We’ve got a real opportunity with the players”.


At Rein It In, we are really lucky to have the support of Ed as getting young people into racing is a topic of much interest to him, “I want to attract people to ITV Racing for starters but, more importantly, I want to attract youngsters to come racing because if they come racing, the chances are they’ll get hooked on it and watch it down the track. Hopefully, they keep coming back to racecourses as well.” However, Ed doesn’t believe the message of how good this sport is gets out enough, but Great British Racing do a “terrific job” in their ‘Under 18s Go Free’ scheme over the summer. He proceeded to say, “I wrote an article comparing Legoland with a day at Ascot with your kids. Ascot are sensational at entertaining families and anyone really should go along and try Ascot, particularly their Christmas and Family Fun Days. They are brilliant. So, you’re paying nearly £300 for a family of four to go to Legoland when down the road you can spend £60, depending on the enclosure, and you’re kids are in for free.” Ed has ideas for racecourses too, “When we get these kids racing, let’s create a ‘kids zone’ for people to have a little space to watch the racing and cheer the horses.” From a personal point of view, it’s wonderful that Ed and the ITV Racing team hold such strong ideals about the importance of attracting young people into horse racing and, with their influence on terrestrial television, I’m sure they will!


I was intrigued to know what Ed’s main piece of advice to someone looking at a career in racing and, handily for me, his answer was get your work out there, “If you are a young person, now, if I was 15, 16, 17 or a little bit older again, I would be blogging; I’d be interviewing; I would be getting stuff out on social media because, as my career will tell you, you never know who’s watching, listening or reading!”


Cheltenham is one of the highlights of the National Hunt fan’s year and Ed believes these four days are “the envy of all other sports – the way it brings the season to a crescendo. Sporting seasons are always looking for how they can build best to a crescendo!” The incredible atmosphere tempts not just racing fans, but the wider public too, both sides of the Irish Sea. “I love the fact that the British and Irish horses have been kept apart and now it all builds to this big collision at one of the big sporting venues in the world. I think that that is fantastic and we should treasure it.”


Everyone has an opinion about who will win at Cheltenham and Ed has explained his take on the Festival – “I’m more excited about this Cheltenham than I have been for a long time for a number of reasons. I think the two novice hurdles – the Sky Bet Supreme and the Ballymore are fantastically exciting. We’ve got Rachel Blackmore, who is an absolute global superstar, in a sport where we should be shouting from the rooftops that we offer a level playing field for female and male participants, which is a sensational selling point for the sport. We’ve got the best Champion Chase for years. We’ve got a little horse called Tiger Roll going for a fifth festival win on the Wednesday and that won’t even be top of the bill with that Champion Chase and Envoi Allen running with the whole of Ireland cheering him on. That is going to be the most sensational sporting day you can imagine. Then, on Thursday, we’ve got Frodon and Paisley Park trying to repeat what they did last year. What a few days we’ve got ahead – and a really competitive Gold Cup.”

Shishkin (JTW Equine Images)


I couldn’t let Ed go without discussing his fancies at Cheltenham and he’s given three to look out for:


• “SHISHKIN is a bit special. He’s buzzy – but I think he’ll win the Supreme.”


• “I like ASO in the Ryanair, who will be written off again but will run well as he always does at Cheltenham.”


• “I’m a big Santini fan but I do think Al BOUM PHOTO is going to take the world of beating in the Gold Cup as he tries to retain his title, which not many do, but every year we say Festival form is the key factor at the Cheltenham Festival.”


Of course Tiger Roll got a mention too! “He has touched the nation – he is the best thing and best known horse in sport. He resonates with people who don’t even like racing – they’ve heard of Tiger Roll. It’s so powerful and the fact that he is going for history, not just at the Cheltenham Festival but for a third Grand National. He is a household name and, in racing, you can’t ask for much more than that!”


I’m positive that, if Tiger Roll wins at Cheltenham and Aintree, he will promote racing to a wider audience, as ITV Racing continues to do week-in-week-out. It was an absolute pleasure to interview Ed Chamberlin for this piece as, on a personal level, I look up to him massively. I can’t thank him enough for the encouragement he has given to me and Rein It In Racing.