In 2005 the "Cross Country Race" was run for the first time at the Cheltenham Festival . Over a distance of about 3 miles and 6 furlongs, the race is probably the most easily recognisable at the 4-day Festival as horses tackle a variety of different obstacles including grass banks, hurdles, wooden fences and “cheese-wedges” (two grass banks with hedge rows on top).
Run on the in-field of the famous Cotswolds course, the race has become synonymous with Ireland. 13 of the 15 races at the Cheltenham Festival have been won by Irish-trained horses. In fact, only the Philip Hobbs’ trained Balthazar King has raised the English flag.
Not only have Irish trained horses dominated the race at the Festival, but so too have horses from this island dominated the trial races at Cheltenham. 8 of the last 9 Irish winners had been placed previously over the cross-country course at Cheltenham before winning the race at the Festival.
So, to the most recent running of a trial race, on Sunday the 17th of November.
10 runners went to post last weekend, and remarkably, not a single horse was trained in Ireland. This most-Irish of races was, for the first time, devoid of Irish interest.
The data below presents the distribution of Irish to non-Irish runners in the November/December Cross Country Trial Race since 2008. In 11 of the 22 races between 2008 and 2019, Irish trained horses comprised at least 50% of the field. In December 2017, and both November and December 2018, Irish trained horses constituted between 63% and 71% of the field. One year on, November 2019, this falls to 0%.
No sport on this island will be effected to a greater extent if and when Brexit happens. Maybe we are starting to see the industry adjust to a new normal.