Cheltenham ready for starter’s orders but shadow of Brexit looms large

first_imgShare via Email Since you’re here… Read more Facebook Jack W Kennedy celebrates with the Irish tricolour after winning the JLT Novices’ Chase on the Irish horse Shattered Love last year. Photograph: Jon Buckle/The Jockey Club/Rex/Shutterstock For a good part of Cheltenham Festival’s nearly 100-year existence the first day was also Budget Day in parliament, much to the annoyance of racing-minded MPs who were forced to listen to the Chancellor while the serious action unfolded elsewhere. At Cheltenham, meanwhile, racegoers could cheerfully cut themselves off from politics for an afternoon, in the days before wifi and smartphones at least, save for the occasional whisper about a penny off income tax or 2p on beer.Whether it will be as easy to block it all out on Tuesday afternoon must be open to doubt. Attention is likely to be gripped by an unfolding drama drenched with uncertainty and wild plot twists, where no one can say for sure what the ultimate result will be. And yes, it is the Cheltenham Festival as well – the last, in theory at least, before Brexit is upon us on 29 March. Support The Guardian Share on Pinterest Twitter Pat Kelly, quiet man of horse racing, could make big noise in Gold Cup Read more Racing is a sport that long ago transformed into an industry too, and an increasingly global industry at that. It is labour-intensive and stables are often located in rural areas where other jobs are scarce. It directly supports tens of thousands of jobs in Britain, Ireland and France alone, and contributes indirectly to the livelihoods of thousands more.It is big business, and nowhere more so than at Cheltenham, which brings together horses, people and their money for the most intense four days of competition all year. It is National Hunt racing’s grand annual conference of the stakeholders, both the end of one turn of the industry’s economic wheel and the beginning of the next.Cheltenham is why owners are willing to go well into six figures for a raw young chasing type in the French provinces or at an Irish point-to-point. Almost all male National Hunt horses are geldings, with no potential value as a stallion when they retire. Cheltenham is the ultimate target and dream that keeps the market buoyant.“We export 60% of the horses we produce each year,” Kavanagh says, “and 80% of those go to the UK. Someone showed me a list of the entries for the Arkle [Trophy] at the four-day stage and every horse entered was bred either in Ireland or France. That shows the dependence of the British programme on sourcing their product in the EU.” Share on LinkedIn … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Share on WhatsAppcenter_img Share on Facebook Cheltenham Festival 2019 Sport politics Horse racing The British Horseracing Authority has also been working hard to plan for a possible no-deal Brexit, while earnestly hoping that all the effort will go to waste. It is satisfied that in all but the most extreme no-deal situation there would be no fresh barriers to the movement of horses into Britain but, whether they arrive to race or to breed, most of the horses that enter Britain return home again soon afterwards. As yet there is no confirmation that there will not be extra checks and red tape when they go the other way.“We have been working closely with Defra for some time now and the main focus of our preparations since the start of the year has been a no-deal departure,” Will Lambe, the BHA director leading the Brexit planning, said on Monday.“We believe that the pragmatic position announced by the UK Government, to maintain current systems for free thoroughbred movement in the event of no deal, will mitigate the worst impacts but the EU is not currently reciprocating this and has said that additional checks will be required for horses travelling back into Ireland and France.”So, among the professionals at least, many thoughts will be turning to events at Westminster on Tuesday even as the action unfolds down in Gloucestershire. The impact, after all, for the Festival and many other major racing events, could prove far more significant than tuppence on a pint. Topics Share on Twitter Pinterest Cheltenham Gold Cup jockey Harry Cobden: I chatted football with Fergie … I didn’t understand it So take a good look because it is still very possible that the Festival will never be quite the same again.Many factors have contributed to this meeting’s remarkable expansion and booming popularity over the last 30 years, from the marketing brilliance of Edward Gillespie, its former managing director, to the revolution in training methods pioneered by Martin Pipe from the mid-1980s.But it would also have been impossible for the Festival to reach its current scale and economic significance – £100m to the local economy alone – without the frictionless movement of both racing and breeding bloodstock between western Europe’s three major thoroughbred industries in Britain, Ireland and France. There are no delays for border checks on documentation for either the horses or the stable staff travelling with them, and no money or time wasted beforehand to ensure that every necessary docket has been completed to official satisfaction.Even if a deal is passed on Tuesday – which is trading at around 6-1 against on Betfair – some barriers are likely to be erected to the free movement of horses, or at the very least, those moving with them. A sudden downturn in the UK’s overall economy would also be very bad for business, dampening the demand for young Irish and French jumping stock that make up the majority of the Festival fields.But it is the possibility of a no-deal departure – also an outsider on Betfair but also at a single-figure price – that is the major concern for the racing authorities in both Ireland and Britain. A 7-1 winner would normally be very welcome at the Festival but this one could be a disaster.“The real fear we have is a no-deal exit,” Brian Kavanagh, the chief executive of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), said this week. “That has huge negative implications for the industry and I don’t see how anyone could advocate that because, in the worst-case scenario, all movement would stop.“I think that’s unlikely. If there was a no deal it would require a listing of Britain by the EU and we assume they would give Britain the highest possible listing [to allow continued movement] but even in that circumstance it would still require movement of horses to happen through border posts and there would be extra documentation and certification required.” features Share on Messenger Reuse this contentlast_img read more