Kim Bailey criticizes Cheltenham’s early closing entries, calling them “absolutely daft”


Kim Bailey criticizes Cheltenham’s early closing entries, calling them “absolutely daft.”

Kim Bailey is advocating for the elimination of early closing entries for races at the Cheltenham Festival, describing them as an unnecessary “drip-feed” for owners to pay during a time of uncertainty regarding their financial situation.

The deadline for submitting entries for Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival, which begin at £780 for a spot in the Gold Cup and £218 for the three top-level novice chases announced this week, is January 1.

A further £1,560 is charged during the scratching phase in February for the Gold Cup, and £780 is charged during the confirmation stage a week before the race, for a total expenditure of £3,120.

The subsequent fees, which total £875, are £439 and £218 for the three Grade 1 novice chases.

Ten of the festival races have already closed, representing a 35% decrease from 2018. Bailey, a local trainer, believes that a ten-day phase that is shorter and less expensive could increase the number of Cheltenham runners and prevent owners from being overcharged if they enter but do not race.

“I can’t see why we should have early closing races, I’d probably say it’s my own big bug-bear,” said the Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer.

“A lot of us have horses we think could be good enough to go to Cheltenham but they haven’t shown us enough on the racecourse. To try to make an entry for that horse has got to be the wrong idea.

“There’s no necessity to go and do it, you could easily have a ten-day entry stage before Cheltenham if that would make a difference.

“Prices for everything have gone through the roof, it’s all expensive, including entries, and it’s not right that owners are being asked to dip into their pocket for an entry when they might not even run.”

Only three horses were confirmed on Monday in the disappointing turnout for Saturday’s Clarence House Chase at Ascot due to early closing entries. The race could not be reopened because of the system for entering.

Bailey said that the National Hunt Chase was one Cheltenham race where early closing entries were not necessary. From 89 at the entry point in 2016 to 37 this season, it has experienced a significant drop in potential runners. Since there is no additional stage, only those who entered in January can compete.

“Early closing entries for the National Hunt Chase is absolutely daft,” added Bailey. “With a winter like we’ve had, racing has been quite difficult and there are a lot of horses around who we don’t know are going to be good enough to go to Cheltenham.

“It’s a really difficult situation to ring up an owner, tell them you want to make an entry and then say, ‘But we’re not sure if we’re good enough’. It’s just drip-feeding money into the racecourse accounts.

“I get there’s lots of attention with the Gold Cup and Grand National, but with some races you look and think, ‘Why would I make an entry for a horse if they’ve got absolutely no chance but between entry and the race they might have improved a long way?’

“Then suddenly you wish you were in. You’re then in a situation where you have to supplement at great expense, and it’s not worthwhile.”

To receive full reimbursement for entry fees in the majority of Cheltenham races, a horse must place at least seventh. The Gold Cup’s entry fee is £3,120, and the seventh place winner will receive £4,125. In order to cover the cost of a second entry, a horse would need to place fourth.


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