BBC SPORT Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC Sport
 You are in: Other Sports: Horse Racing: Cheltenham Festival  
Sport Front Page
-------------------
Football
Cricket
Rugby Union
Rugby League
Tennis
Golf
Motorsport
Boxing
Athletics
Other Sports
Statistics
US Sport
Horse Racing
Snooker
Sailing
Cycling
Skiing
-------------------
Special Events
-------------------
Sports Talk
-------------------
BBC Pundits
TV & Radio
Question of Sport
-------------------
Photo Galleries
Funny Old Game
-------------------
Around The UK: 
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales

BBC Sport Academy
BBC News
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS

  Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 12:20 GMT
No weak end for Cheltenham
The crowds flocked to this year's Cheltenham Festival
The crowds flocked to this year's Cheltenham Festival
BBC Sport's Cornelius Lysaght welcomes back the Cheltenham Festival - but warns against tampering too greatly with the event's format.

What a glorious return for the Cheltenham Festival.

Great drama and top-class racing were played out - as ever - to sell out crowds.

And just as predictable as the packed stands are the arguments that the festival should be extended to a fourth day.

This one splits the fans down the middle, with people either passionately in favour, or fervently against.

But, to employ a fashionable phrase of our times, I believe that a 'Middle Way' can successfully be put in place.


The midweek dates may seem eccentric in the work-mad 21st century, but it works magnificently well
BBC Sport's Cornelius Lysaght

On the one hand, changes would mean more action, extra fun, and another bite at the commercial cherry for the racecourse.

But equally, it would increase the strain for all the professionals involved - and there are serious issues about whether the actual turf and facilities could cope with the strain.

Marketing gurus would tell us it is better to send the crowd home wanting more - although it is unlikely the Cheltenham hordes would boycott the Festival in any event!

I feel any extension of the meeting is as possible as it is perfectly desirable.

Best Mate laps up the applause after Gold Cup victory
Best Mate laps up the applause after Gold Cup victory

Currently there are 20 races from Tuesday to Thursday. It would be quite easy to dream up four new contests to create four afternoons of six races.

But those who think the Festival should be extended to cover the weekend are, I think, wrong.

The midweek dates may seem a trifle eccentric in the work-mad early 21st century, but it works magnificently well.

The sell out crowds prove people enjoy having a day off (or two, or three!) in the middle of the week to enjoy the racing.

It allows time for other activities, like shopping and more conventional sports watching, on the Saturday.


There is nothing ordinary about Cheltenham, and let's keep it that way
BBC Sport's Cornelius Lysaght

A crescendo on the Friday, with the Gold Cup as the jewel in the crown, has the look of a triumph.

What must be avoided is moving the Gold Cup to a Saturday.

It would be lost if it were forced to compete for the nation's affections against the Premiership and - quite possibly - the Six Nations championship.

Imagine if Istabraq's brave challenge for a fourth Champion Hurdle was knocked off the headlines. The current timing of the festival ensured it achieved the publicity it deserved.

The Cheltenham Festival cannot be confused with the Derby which was shifted from its traditional position on a Wednesday to a Saturday.

Trouble

The midweek staging of the Classic was in desperate trouble, fewer and fewer people wanted to know about it, and it was dying a slow and agonising death.

And despite the change, I have lost count of the number of times I've stood at Epsom to cover the Derby, only to find myself sidelined by other, more headline-grabbing, sports.

The National Hunt Festival's only real battle is to cope with everything and everybody, and there is no requirement at all for any weekend surgery.

This event is different enough, and has such strength, that it doesn't need to alter its oddities to become an ordinary member of the sporting calendar.

There is nothing ordinary about it, and let's keep it that way - but over four weekdays.

Cheltenham stages its big jump race meeting from 12-14 March

Results and odds

Special features

Clickable guides

Official site
Links to more Cheltenham Festival stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Cheltenham Festival stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

Sport Front Page | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League |
Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Other Sports |
Special Events | Sports Talk | BBC Pundits | TV & Radio | Question of Sport |
Photo Galleries | Funny Old Game | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales