Saturday 18th of January 2020
Opinion

Racing: Vanessa Binnie Ryle

As a lover of all thing horse racing Vanessa Binnie Ryle considers herself pretty lucky to work in an industry she is passionate about. A producer and presenter at the SKY channel At The Races and regular on the hit podcast, The Final Furlong, Vanessa spends her days either talking about racing, watching racing or listening to other people talk about racing and loves every minute of it. 

Away from the career Vanessa is still surrounded by four legged beasts – her Mother owns the well known event horse Mulry’s Error and they spend a lot of their summers following him to the best events in the country and drinking a lot of gin and champagne along the way.

vanessa

Faugheen ridden by Ruby Walsh on their way to victory in the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy © Cheltenham Racecourse

Faugheen ridden by Ruby Walsh on their way to victory in the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy © Cheltenham Racecourse

As TGP’s new Racing Columnist, Vanessa will discuss all things Horse Racing and much more!

“I write this on the eve of Valentine’s Day so it only seems right to talk about love.

Now when I say the word ‘love’ I don’t mean the sort of love you feel for a gin and tonic or a bar of chocolate, I don’t mean the sort of love you feel for your current preferred TV programme, in all honesty I don’t even mean the sort of love you feel for your family and friends.

No, I mean REAL love. The sort of love that is all consuming. It’s all you can think about. It’s all you want to talk about. It’s all that really matters in your world. The sort of love that your days, weeks and months are geared around. I am talking about the deepest of all loves: The love that horse racing fans have for the Cheltenham Festival.

It is exactly four weeks to go until the first day of what has now come to be the centre of the jumps racing universe. Four weeks until hundreds of thousands gather at Prestbury Park in the Cotswolds for the exciting, raucous and totally enthralling meeting of the year.

To most people within the jumps racing game Cheltenham is where it is at. We gamble, cheer, cry, moan, scream and gamble a bit more our way through the winter season enjoying the big days but always with one beady eye on the Festival. 

Racegoers watch The William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race during day one of the 2012 Cheltenham Fesitval at Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire. © Cheltenham Racecourse

Racegoers watch The William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race during day one of the 2012 Cheltenham Fesitval at Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire. © Cheltenham Racecourse

Every horse that wins any big race on a Saturday is immediately congratulated and then in the same breath has it’s Cheltenham credentials discussed. But recently the question has been raised of should the ‘here and now’ be enjoyed a bit more? The victories be celebrated as stand alone achievements rather than always in relation to another day?

As with all matters of the heart though sometimes the thrill of the chase overrides what makes perfect sense. We know there are great days racing to enjoy as the season unfolds but we are blinded by love and Cheltenham is jump racings one true love.

So all season we build up to spending quality time with our love. We have dalliances with other meetings, other races and other tracks throughout the year but nothing matches the feeling Cheltenham gives us.

Those who are in with a shout of getting on the invite list to Cheltenham in March go into battle with other possible suitors, but only the best get there, only the most talented earn their right to make memories with the Cheltenham Festival. And trust me, if you’re really good enough you will make the cut, you will earn the Golden Ticket and be on the most coverted guest list in Jump Racing.

vanessa

VBR on Get In with Luke Harvey, Kevin Blake and Jason Weaver

 

It’s a talking point for many in racing these days because as the Cheltenham Festival becomes more elitist in terms of the equine talent and the connections behind them there is less of a chance for the smaller teams to get a look in. It is becoming increasingly hard for anyone who isn’t a big dog to have any sort of seat at the top jump racing table.

But from my point of view, purely as an avid racing fan, I enjoy the fact that Cheltenham is elitist and the be all and end all for most, that the season builds to one almighty climax and that as a result you can tune in to the four days of The Festival safe in the knowledge that you are seeing the best of the best available at that time and what you’re viewing is someone’s dream unfolding, crashing out or coming true right in front of you.

The Cheltenham Festival should be for the equine elite, it should be a Championship week because it then gives us a narrative for the whole season, something to string each piece of the jigsaw together with, a way to tell and (more importantly) sell the story of the jump racing season to a wider audience.

The Festival is the first of three big jump racing meeting in the spring – it is closely followed by the Aintree National Meeting and then a few weeks later we have the marathon that is the Punchestown Festival too. There are Grade One races to be won there as well as big handicaps and top prize money. By the big guns targeting Cheltenham so heavily I actually believe it gives smaller trainers a chance to get their hands on great prizes elsewhere.

vanessa

VBR filming at Coolmore

A prime example last season was Harry Whittington who decided to miss the Cheltenham Festival with his young chaser Arzal and instead saved him for Aintree where they ran him in a Grade One – and won. Admittedly part of the decision to miss Cheltenham was due to deciding what track suited better and he would not have looked out of place running in the JLT Novice Chase at the Festival but the trainer took the somewhat brave decision to swerve the bright lights of Cheltenham and go Grade One hunting somewhere else, very successfully.

 

I am not for a minute suggesting that smaller trainers don’t deserve their shot at Cheltenham glory – they absolutely do, with the horses good enough to go, and no one loves a smaller yard success story more than me. But I can’t see Cheltenham becoming any less elitist in the near future, in fact quite the opposite, so perhaps a silver lining to this happening in our sport is that a bright, forward thinking, smaller trainer could in fact utilise the change to their advantage.”

Keep up to date with Vanessa’s musings on Twitter

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