The ten biggest Controversies at the Cheltenham Festival

Starting us off at number 10, was the 50 million pound fall. The opening day of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival has been renamed Mullins and Walsh day in recent year’s, as the trainer and jockey combination was swept the board. In 2015 it was no different, as the punters had flocked to the bookies to get their Mullins lucky 15 on; Douvan, Un De Sceaux, Faugheen and Annie Power were the four most fancied horses in the history of the opening day of Cheltenham. The first three had all won with ease, and the bookies feared one of the biggest losses in racing history. Annie Power was sent off the odds-on favorite for the OLBG Mares Hurdle, and half way round Annie Power looked in cruise control. With two to jump Ruby Walsh had Annie Power at the front, as she came to the last jump Annie Power was three lengths clear, and the punters were smelling their money. Then disaster struck as Annie Power clipped the hurdle and fell. There was a stunned silence around Cheltenham, apart from the bookmakers who were jumping for joy. It’s been deemed the 50 million pound fall. Many since have said that the fall was deliberate and that Walsh was paid to make sure that Annie Power didn’t win as it would have bankrupted many bookmakers.

Coming in at number 9, the banning of the Racing Post from the 2012 festival. In 2012 the racing world’s premier paper was banned from the Cheltenham Festival. We never got to know the real reason for the ban, and has never been satisfactory explained why the Racing Post was banned. The ban has been lifted since, but we still don’t know the reason why it happened in the first place.

Entering at number 8 is a ban on the Festival. In 1829 the Festival had become a hotbed of activity as people traveled for days to attend. With the number of people now attending Cheltenham the local parish tried to have the festival banned citing pickpocketing and prostitution as the main reason for their case. The motion was never carried, and festival continued.

In at number 7 we have, John Inverdale dropping the c-bomb live on BBC 5Live. In 2015 during the BBC’s coverage of the festival on 5Live, Inverdale dropped the unforgivable word and was later forced to apologize.

During a phone in the following happened. Mr Francome said: “You get wet, you’re mucking out, and it’s hard work… But through all of that, it’s a way of life that most of them wouldn’t swap, a lot of people go off and do other things and then come back to it.”

Mr Inverdale replied: “This is looking at it through rose-c*****… rose-tinted glasses from the past. I apologize there for a slip of the tongue, but Lizzie your love of the sport just shines through.”

Joining is at number 6. Paddy Power had their television banned. In 2012 Paddy Power had their Cheltenham television advert. The advert showed a hitman going around the racecourse shooting ‘chavs’ with tranquilizer darts, so they didn’t have a chance to ruin the festival. This was banned from TV after thousands of complaints.

Jumping in at number 5. In 2012 on the opening day of the festival, three horses were forced to be put down after breaking legs during falls. Many top jockeys and trainers criticized the conditions of the course. The course was very firm which was out of context for the time of year, jockey including Ruby Walsh felt it was unsafe for jumping, and that tracked needed watering or be called off.

Just missing out on the top 3 at number 4, is the 2001 cancellation of the Cheltenham Festival. In 2001 the UK was in the middle of a Foot And Mouth epidemic, due to the easy way the disease was spread between animals. The Festival was canceled for only third time in the history of the Cheltenham Festival.

Into the top 3 and at number 3, is Willie Mullins the year of the cloud. In 2014 the Top Irish trainer was anxious about a doping scandal and feared horses would be ‘nobbled’ and that Irish Turf Club wasn’t doing more to tackle the issue.

“We have some very fancied horses, and it would make a lot of money for someone if they were going to Cheltenham and they could alter the course of events,

“Everyone should be vigilant, especially if you have a fancied horse. You’ve got to be.

Mullins says legitimate concerns over anabolic steroids have overshadowed the dangers of horses being sedated by criminal elements.

“Everyone’s going on about the anabolic steroids, but I’m always warning my lads here about guys using sedatives,” he added.

“If you wanted to nobble someone, who would you nobble? Nobble us. The one I had to look out for was the sedative. That was the one that was going to harm me. Everyone else was looking in the other direction.”

Another Irish trainer, Philip Fenton, faced charges of possessing anabolic steroids and other named substances.

But the case was adjourned until after the Cheltenham Festival.

Mullins said that delay would “put a cloud over our game in the biggest festival of the year. That’s what it will be known as – the year of the cloud.”

Missing out on the top spot at number 2, is the Wee The People scandal. In 2016 two shamed professional footballers, were caught urinating into glasses then throwing them off a VIP balcony. Samir Carruthers (MK Dons) and James Collins (Northampton Town) were both fined two weeks wages and forced to issue public apologies, for their antics and were both later banned from the racecourse.

BHA spokeswoman Rosie Margarson said: “The British Horseracing Authority is responsible for protecting the proper conduct and good reputation of horseracing in this country.

“As a result of their behavior at Cheltenham racecourse, the BHA applied to its disciplinary officer to have Katie Salmon, Jessica Hayes, Samir Carruthers and James Collins excluded from all licensed premises, including all racecourses in Great Britain.

“The disciplinary officer was satisfied on the evidence put before him that all individuals should be excluded from the sport.”

On the top at number 1, Death Rides A Horse. In 2016 one of the most unwanted records was set, as Eleven horses died over the four-day festival. This is a record that no one wants to see, and let’s hope that the 2017 Festival go without any deaths


Top Ten Cheltenham Controversies - SBAT

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