Peter Scudamore's World of Racing: Cheltenham's ambitious goal

In 15 years Cheltenham, who have just staged one of their most memorable Festivals, could be transformed into a multi-sports complex.

While consolidation is the major priority of managing director Edward Gillespie, there are still long-term plans to install an all-seater stadium near the Guinness Tent to home Cheltenham Football Club, currently bottom of League One and facing a cash crisis.

Gillespie says that talks with Cheltenham Borough Council to give Prestbury Park wider sporting appeal are on-going, although there are no plans to do any building at the course for the next three or four years. Of more concern to Gillespie is protecting the sponsorship and prizemoney levels in the current economic climate and renewing the Channel Four contract which expires at the end of the year.


Cheltenham: Big plans

Gillespie, who does not see the need to tinker with next year’s programme of races, was happy to report just one fatality from the 504 horses that ran over the four days. This was due to near ideal ground and Gillespie gave credit to trainers for sending out well-prepared horses in perfect condition.


Sparkling Ruby

What more can you say about Ruby Walsh? He’s a classic rider in the same way that Sir Don Bradman was a classic cricketer. This is not to belittle Tony McCoy because if you said to me give me the two greatest rides I’ve seen at Cheltenham, I’d say John Francome on Sea Pigeon in the 1981 Champion Hurdle and McCoy on Wichita Lineman in the William Hill Handicap Chase last Tuesday.

Unfortunately, McCoy did not have the quality of horses that Walsh had over the duration, but you had to admire the latter’s coolness on odds-on Master Minded when there was two false starts. It looked like everybody was feeling the pressure except him. Here was a man in perfect synch with his horse and no matter who they had backed, everyone roared their appreciation of his skills after all of his seven victories.

Willie Mullins' star hurdler Mikael D’haguenet. I had seen him previously at Punchestown and at Cheltenham he confirmed that he has a physique and manner of a champion. If he can stay the Gold Cup distance, then the best of the home team had better watch out. Let’s hope that he can remain sound because he looks like a king in waiting.


My admiration for champion trainer Paul Nicholls has increased. He’s brought Neptune Collonges and Kauto Star back three times for the Gold Cup and Denman again this year despite an interrupted preparation.

History tells you that is difficult to do. Also his decision to run Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle was inspirational as I didn’t think the horse had the aptitude to pull it off.

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