All roads lead to Cheltenham

The holy grail is almost upon us, four days of top jump racing, the pinnacle of national hunt horse racing, as they say on Sky Sports Super Sunday ‘Annnnd it’s Live’ The tradition, the quality and depth of the fields, the shamrock on your blazer on St Patrick’s Day roaring home an Irish Banker’ as the horse passes the winning post in the old enemies back yard. This is Horse racing, this is Cheltenham Races. 

Cheltenham races in March has similarities to the Christmas lead up, while the main event is on the 25th of December, the events leading up to lá Nollag hold a special place in many an Irish heart, no different to Cheltenham. For starters we have preview nights the length and breadth of the Country with jockeys, trainers, and pundits discussing and analysing each race, the form of the jockeys and horse, the going, trip, weight, etc.

This leads me to Barberstown Castle Preview night in the glorious surroundings in Straffan, Co Kildare on Friday 24th February. The Grassroots Gazette being a proud media partner on the night. Shane McCarthy CEO has put together a strong field for the night including Zoe Smalley from Henry DeBromhead racing, heading up the racing team, Shane Rooney aka The Peakyblogger,  instrumental in the recent success of the HAYCampaign with a hurdle race in Fairyhouse named after the initiative. Brendan Murphy Chief Equine Strategist, horse trainer having success at some of the biggest festivals, John Fitzgerald Chair of the Restricted Trainers Association, trainer/owner at Little Orchard Stud in Limerick, Aoife Brady Project Manager, Gary Monahan Community Manager amongst others and yours truly amongst the field! 

The event is in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund with all proceeds from the event to be donated to same. The Injured Jockeys Fund in many ways is a lifeline to jockeys who have been injured or whose careers are cut short. It is important to recognise the sacrifices and risks the jockeys take and this gesture from Barberstown Castle is to be commended. Some big names make up the panel including Ruby Walsh, Davy Russell hence it is a night not to be missed. 

Many have sought the festival to be extended to five days but in my humble opinion this would dilute the quality of racing and affect attendance, the Dublin Racing festival is a prime example of a festival that strives for ‘less is more’ which takes place over a weekend, with records attendances flocking to Leopardstown this February. 

As young children, many of us dream to play Premiership Football, on par with having a horse run and win in Cheltenham on Lá fhéile Pádraig, syndicates can make the sport more accessible to many and are often overlooked as a big contributor to the sport. Pioneer Racing are leading the way in this field with some of their big stars aimed for the festival. A syndicate with a Midlands National winner as notable mention.  

Traveling by sea, air or road to gather in a town in the county of Gloucestershire to watch four-legged creatures race around a track in simple terms and pay a pretty penny for accommodation, the non-race goer may see this is insanity but to the racing folk it is simply the ‘norm’ like having your cup of coffee before work on a Monday Morning! The famous Cheltenham roar is a moment to saviour. The Prestbury Cup should be a close-run battle this year with many of the British trainers having strong fields, Paul Nicholls is having a strong season and is expected to bring a strong field over. Honeysuckles final bow and grand finale will be a moment in the future when once can comment ‘I was there’ whatever the outcome similar to when Tiger Roll bowed out in the pelting Cheltenham rain last year. There was not a dry eye in the racecourse in the lead in to the parade ring. 

In summary, if you are a seasoned festival goer or a first timer, embrace it, the uniqueness of the festival, the Guinness tent, the shamrock suits on St Patricks Day, the peaky blinders haircuts and suits, nod and a wink from the tipster, the beauty of the animal.  #Everyracingmoment


All roads lead to Cheltenham

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