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BHA: Changes to be made in Quality Jumps Review after 23-5 Cheltenham Festival thumping to Ireland

“Subtle” changes will be made to the BHA’s assessment of handicaps following the Cheltenham Festival pummelling local horses received from Ireland last season



Vintage Clouds Cheltenham

A more “proactive” approach will be taken by the BHA when handicapping horses in the wake of the heavy Prestbury Cup defeat to Ireland at the Cheltenham Festival, Dominic Gardiner-Hill confirmed.

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Britain’s counterparts across the Irish Sea won seven of the nine handicap events at National Hunt’s biggest meeting back in March, which was subsequently followed by five tri-colour flag-bearers leading home the finishers at the Grand National.


Gardiner-Hill argued that while there were “not a lot of alarm bells”, subtle changes will now be made.

He told the Racing Post: “If you go back to the three previous festivals, there were ten handicaps and on each occasion, they were split five apiece.

Saint Roi Cheltenham
The 2021 renewal of the Festival was the second time in the last 5 seasons that Ireland have claimed more handicap successes than their British rivals, while home-based contenders haven’t won this battle since 2016

“We were aware of the analysis that showed Irish-trained handicappers were doing slightly better overall, but you would imagine horses sent across from Ireland would be fit, healthy and in form and that they would fare a little better as a result.”

Older horses will be given bigger drops in the ratings when beaten, while novices entering handicap company will be given lower ratings in order to keep their chances in the sphere more competitive.

Belfast Banter won the County Hurdle off bottom-weight at the Cheltenham Festival before winning a Grade 1 at Aintree a month later

“It’s a case of lessons learned; we’ve got to make use of the data that we know our analysts can now produce. I’ve got so much more confidence now in the analysis we are using.

“I will hold my hands up. Perhaps we should have done this sort of in-depth analysis earlier. But we’re doing something about it now, we’re being proactive and we will get it done by January 1.”

Cheltenham Supreme
The 2022 Cheltenham Festival takes place between Tuesday 15th and Friday 18th March

The head of handicapping did, however, reiterate that the organisation would not be held accountable should a similar position arise in six months’ time.

“It could be that we’re sitting here on March 20 next year and the Irish have won seven of the nine handicaps again.

“If that happens, we may well have another look. But even if they do, I don’t want anyone to be able to say to us: you lazy buggers, you got battered last year, you swept it under the carpet and did nothing.”

Dominic Chapman is senior content writer at Low6 with a passion for horse racing. He provides a NAP and NB every day throughout the week on selected National Hunt and Flat cards in both Britain and Ireland. Additionally, he hosts the Paddock Picks Podcast with former Welsh Grand National-winning pilot, Charlie Poste - the pair interviewing and discussing current racing topics with a special guest every week.