Is the Jump Season just all about the Cheltenham Festival now?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

IS IT just me or is the monolithic Cheltenham Festival casting such a giant shadow that the rest of the jumps season is in danger of shivering to death, worse still, becoming as dull as an empty casino in Las Vegas?

Every race in the ever-lengthening lead-up to the festival seems to be a ‘trial’ for the ‘real’ racing at Prestbury Park.

Last year champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls described the Game Spirit Chase as “my favourite trial for the Champion Chase”; talking about the Aon Chase at the same time, he called it “my favourite stepping-stone to the Gold Cup” and discussing the 3m novice chase, he opined: “I’ve always considered this race an ideal trial for the Royal & SunAlliance Chase”.

As m’learned friend might say, ‘My case rests’.

In my day, admittedly some time ago, the Game Spirit Chase was a top-class race in its own right and I can remember setting off for Newbury on many occasions looking forward to a fascinating contest.

Nowadays valuable and well-supported races like the Game Spirit and the Aon are being relegated to minor slots, in the pageant that is the ever-burgeoning Cheltenham FestivalI can’t believe that loyal sponsors are taking all that kindly to providing the nibbles before the main course.

I’m not knocking Cheltenham which is a marvellous celebration of all that is so wonderful about the great jumping game, I’m just worried that the festival’s gravitational pull, as it were, is exerting an unhealthy influence on the rest of the jumping season, which provides so much interest and excitement on an almost daily basis.

If the trend continues – and there seems no stopping it at the moment – there is, I feel, a danger that by the time we reach 2pm on Tuesday March 10 when the tapes go up for the first race on the first day, we’ll be over the top, weighed down by hype and hyperbole.

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