06 March 2024

Harrington ‘well aware’ of overwhelming number of Irish-trained Festival favourites

06 March 2024

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington will not be pushing the panic button just yet should Ireland once again dominate at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.

Following a nightmare Festival for the home side in 2021 which saw just five winners for British trainers, the BHA set up the Quality Jump Racing Review Group, with a stated aim “to strengthen the performance of British jump racing at the top end of the pyramid”.

A series of recommendations was then unveiled at the start of 2022, with further tweaks to the fixture list this term in an attempt to improve the upper tier of British National Hunt racing.

Harrington says it is too early to really see those initiatives come to fruition, but with Triumph Hurdle favourite Sir Gino the only British-trained ante-post Grade One market leader throughout next week, with Willie Mullins holding a tremendously strong hand on all four days, the issue remains a high-profile one.

She said: “We’re well aware of the number of Irish favourites across all the days. It is early days and there’s interventions all the way through breeding in terms of incentives for British-bred, retaining your horse here in training, but we’re not naive.

“We know the decision of many owners to place their horses with what they would consider in-form trainers. When you speak to the top British-based trainers, they do understand it is often cyclical which is why the fact it’s early days, you do need to let some of the interventions play out a bit more.

“Is it something we continue to be concerned about and continue to have a watching brief on? Of course. It’s been well debated some of the interventions or potential interventions that we’ve consulted on, but we will continue to do so.”

Talks are currently ongoing between the BHA and bookmakers on levy reform and Greg Swift, director of communications and corporate affairs, believes the issue of competitiveness is ultimately linked to the levy.

“It’s a valid point. It brings us back to the need for levy reform,” he said.

“One of the cases that we have made to DCMS throughout the entire process around the need for levy reform is around the competitive issue and making sure that we have enough money flowing into the sport to maintain Britain’s competitiveness and our position at the top table.

“That is one of the things we will continue to press.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox