‘It’s absolutely daft’ – Kim Bailey slams Cheltenham’s early closing entries | Horse Racing News

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

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Kim Bailey: trained winners of the Gold Cup and Grand National

Kim Bailey: trained winners of the Gold Cup and Grand National

Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)

By James Stevens

Kim Bailey is calling for early closing entries for races at the Cheltenham Festival to be scrapped, describing them as an unnecessary “drip-feed” for owners to pay at a time of financial uncertainty.

All entries for Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival close in January, initially costing as much as £780 for a place in the Gold Cup and £218 for the three top-level novice chases which were revealed this week.

For the Gold Cup, a further £1,560 is charged at the scratching phase in February and £780 at the confirmation stage a week before the race, making a total of outlay of £3,120.

The subsequent fees are £439 and £218 for the three Grade 1 novice chases, adding up to £875.

Entries for ten of the festival races have already closed and are down 35 per cent from 2018. Local trainer Bailey believes a shorter, and less costly, ten-day phase could boost the number of Cheltenham runners and also prevent owners being unfairly charged if they enter but do not run.

“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.

John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)

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Early entries are down for the Cheltenham Festival this year

Early entries are down for the Cheltenham Festival this year

John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)

“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.”

Early closing entries were also part of the reason behind the disappointing turnout in Saturday’s Clarence House Chase at Ascot, with only three horses confirmed on Monday. Due to the entry system, the race could not be reopened.

Bailey highlighted the National Hunt Chase as one Cheltenham race which did not warrant an early closing entry. It has suffered a significant drop in potential runners in recent years, falling from 89 at the entry point in 2016 to 37 this season. Only those entered in January can run as there is no supplementary stage.

“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.”

A horse would need to finish at least seventh to fully reimburse entry fees in most races at Cheltenham. Total entry costs in the Gold Cup are £3,120, with prize-money for seventh £4,125. A horse would have to finish fourth to cover the cost of a supplementary entry.

Read this next:

Cheltenham Festival no longer everything says Henderson after entries plummet (£)

‘I’ll improve him a stone and a half!’ – Baker eyes festival for Mullins recruit

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