Drastic changes expected to jump season to boost winter campaign and cause big clashes with Cheltenham qualifiers

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LIKE many of you, I can’t wait for the actual jumps to resume.

We get a taste of what to expect in Chepstow this weekend – but there is a glaring problem with the national hunting season.

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Al Boum Photo won two consecutive Gold Cups in 2019 and 2020Credit: PA

The big guns of the sport – on both sides of the Irish Sea – spend most of the winter dodging or going the gentle way until spring.

It hasn’t always been that way, but with most of the power concentrated in a handful of teams we see fewer big clashes during the “normal” season.

All in the name of being a ripe cherry one day in March at the Cheltenham Festival, an astonishing appointment but become a monster, casting its shadow over the rest of the season.

The boring way the two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Photo by Al Boum was campaigned is a prime example of all that is wrong with modern high performance jumping races.

For the past three years he has participated in an Egg and Spoon Race in Tramore on New Years Day before heading straight to the Festival.

It’s a dereliction of duty to National Hunt races on the part of coach Willie Mullins.

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People loved old Gold Cup heroes like Best friend, Desert Orchid and Star of Kauto because they showed up at all the big shows.

No one likes Al Boom Photo – except maybe Mullins and his bank manager – and it’s not their fault.

There is no profitable career as a stallion that awaits National Hunt horses at the end of their careers.

The strange defeat here and there does NOT matter. Some of Britain and Ireland’s top coaches failed to get this memo.

The sport should therefore brighten things up a bit by introducing a qualifying system for each of the four championship races at Cheltenham.

There are two ways to do this – the first option is to have a small selection of races you MUST participate in if you want to line up for the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase or Stayers’ Hurdle.

For example, if you have a potential horse for the Gold Cup, he must compete in two of the Betfair Chase, King George, Savills Chase or Irish Gold Cup.

You will have a Christmas showdown between the King George and Savills, but there are plenty of non-acting horses around Kempton and could be forced into Ireland.

A British horse on the way to Ireland ?! Perish thought. Our trainers used to jump their horses on the ferry all the time, now they’re scared.

There should also be a handful of wildcard races to earn your spot, but they should be handicaps.

Do you want to give your horse an “easy” campaign before the Gold Cup? Alright, go do a “Denman” and carry the maximum weight to victory at the Ladbrokes Trophy to book your ticket.

The second option is for a Kentucky Derby-style points system, where riders must accumulate enough points in selected races during the season to earn a starting spot.

If you want a rider in the Champion Chase, your horse needs to earn points based on its final position in races like Tingle Creek, Desert Orchid, Dublin Chase, etc.

The reigning Festival champions would be exempt, but they should still be required to compete in qualifying races rather than moving at odds of 1-16 in the ass out of nowhere.

Jump racing has the freedom as a sport to mix things up and try to increase competition to the elite level throughout the season. We can do better.

Our man calls for the establishment of a qualification system for the Festival

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Our man calls for the establishment of a qualification system for the FestivalCredit: Marc Aspland – The Times

Sheikh ashamed

RACING finds itself in a bit of a mess with Sheikh Mohammed.

The founder of Godolphin was discovered this week for telling agents to hack the phone of his ex-wife and lawyers during their divorce case.

It comes after courts also found that he orchestrated the kidnapping of his daughters Latifa and Shamsa.

In this country alone, the Sheikh employs several hundred people, owns around 250 horses and runs one of the largest stud farms in the world.

The senior officials of Racing are afraid of upsetting him, so they have chosen to remain silent.

Many other sports would distance themselves from the Sheikh after this kind of sorry saga. It’s a public relations disaster for the race.

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Ossie, Ossie, Ossie

SPURS legend Ossie Ardiles is about to dive into horse ownership.

Eagle-eyed onlookers spotted him in the crowd at Tattersalls sales in Newmarket this week.

He is good friends with Graham Smith-Bernal, the owner of Newsells Park Stud who sold 22 horses for £ 11million in the October yearling sale.

Ardiles has revealed he has a keen interest in the sport and that Smith-Bernal persuaded him to get involved.

Keep your eyes peeled for the white and navy colors on a racetrack in the near future.

I don’t think it will take Ardiles horses long to earn more silver than Spurs …

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