Paul Nicholls Defends Cheltenham After Rooney's Boycott

Paul Nicholls Defends Cheltenham After Rooney's Boycott The Course

Paul Nicholls spent most of the Christmas period in the winners enclosure, but concluded the New Year celebrations with a sour taste in his mouth, after he was forced to defend Cheltenham Racecourse, with hefty criticism emerging from leading owners Paul and Clare Rooney.

The Rooney's made it public over Christmas that they have written to many of their trainers - including Nicholls, instructing them not to make entries for races at Prestbury Park due to feeling that the course presents an increased risk of injury to their horses.

This came after the Festival venue produced a report explaining what led to seven fatalities at the Cheltenham Festival of 2018.

The duo lost arguably one of their most famous and popular chasers - Starchitect, in last season's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham, and are now taking all the necessary action to not see a repeat.

Multiple champion trainer Nicholls said that they are within their rights to do whatever they want with their horses.

(Credit: Sky Sports Racing) He said: "If they want to run somewhere else, that's fine, they can go somewhere else.

"However, in all my years training, I've not had one owner who said they didn't want to have runners at Cheltenham. It would be like a Premier League player saying he wasn't going to play at Wembley because he didn't like the pitch."

"Simon Claisse [Clerk of the Course] works incredibly hard, and I I know he feels this is a kick in the teeth but there are an awful lot of people who support him.

"All I have for Cheltenham is 100 per cent praise - they are so professional here and no stone is left unturned to make sure everything is right for horses and jockeys."

The Rooney's have had many a famous day at Prestbury Park in the past, including when Willoughby Court landed the Ballymore Novices Hurdle (known then as the Neptune Investment) back in 2017.

In Horse Racing, accidents do happen everywhere, everyday at different places.

The sport has always ensured that the horses welfare is at the top of the priority list, and that it does everything it can to make sure it can prevent further cases happening.

Hopefully soon the Rooney's will realise this, and send their best horses back to Cheltenham in the future, to participate in the biggest contests around.