Omitting Hurdles from a race

Is the decision to move hurdles out before a race the right decision?

Cheltenham headlined the weekend's action in the UK, with their traditional November meeting providing several key trials ahead of the Festival in March.

However, on Sunday, plenty of hurdles were omitted due to the low sun, which has sparked a debate; does this give horses that are coming from the flat an unfair advantage? Or, does the horses welfare take first priority, meaning there is nothing they can do to prevent unfortunate advantages to certain runners?

Regardless what happens, a horse's wellbeing is in the interest of everyone around. Changing weather conditions is an extraneous variable, which cannot be controlled - so basically, it is something that just needs to be contained with.

As mentioned, many juveniles and novices may have flat pedigree, or have emerged from the flat scene, and limiting the amount of hurdles would suit them. However, this would not totally unfavour horses more used the National Hunt scene.

In between every flight of hurdles, horses obviously run on the flat, so it is not as though it is a completely new quantity or surface. But also, many horses in National Hunt, begin their careers racing in Point-to-Point's or bumpers - a National Hunt Flat Race, so they will be no strangers to an extended flat feature - hurdles or not. Many horses school at home on the gallops, and do not always run over obstacles.

Another thing to note is that when horses more known to the National Hunt setting come up against horses originating from the flat, they are already at an advantage due to the obstacles they have to jump. So, if hurdles are taken away, they can increase their chances of winning by taking the obstacles still in place quicker, and more fluently than the less-experience flat horses.

Taking out a few hurdles up the home straight, or on any part of a racecourse, does not give a certain cluster of horses a better chance of winning.

As the old saying goes, the fastest, the bravest, and inevitably - the best horse, wins the race.

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