Why have riders praised Irish racetracks compared to British ones?

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Two of the most prominent jump jockeys around, have led the criticism and come out claiming that the fences at Ireland's major chasing tracks are typically much more fitting and safer, than those in Great Britain.

Robbie Power - who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard the soon-to-be returning Sizing John in 2017, believes work should be done on the take-off side of the fences, at a number of Britain's leading courses, to make racing much more secure for both horse and rider.

This backed up the view of Harry Skelton - currently second in the British Stobart Jump Jockeys Championship, who feels the upright nature of larger obstacles at some venues forces them to be 'trappy and unfair.'

Both men were speaking in the aftermath of Saturday's Betfair Chase at Haydock, where Nicky Henderson blamed Might Bite's poor run, due to the fact he was scared of the scopey and mountainous size of the fences, ignoring the obvious - that they are much more dangerous.

In fact, in the days prior to the meeting, a BHA Observer had deemed some fences too high and too stiff, but nothing was done. This led to seven fallers from 25 horses involved in chasing races, comparing that to only four fallers in larger fields, on the same card twelve months ago.

(Credit: Racing Post) Speaking at Navan on Sunday, Robbie Power said: "The fences at Leopardstown, Punchestown, Navan and Fairyhouse are by far the best I have ever ridden over. They are much superior to those on British racecourses by a long way,"

"In general terms, tracks in Britain could improve their fences by increasing the size of the take-off boards at the plain fences and providing more of an apron.

"When I'm riding to a fence I'm not looking at the top of the fence. I'm always looking at the take-off board – and I think a horse shows more respect to a fence with a bigger board."

"At some British tracks the boards are too low, so much so that at a lot of them, Cheltenham included, the ditches ride better than the plain fences because the ditches have an imposing take-off board and a big apron," he finished.

Skelton on-the-other-hand, feels some fences in England are designed inadequately, and would perhaps like to see them become much wider.

(Credit: Racing Post) He said: "In my opinion, the biggest problem with fences isn't their size or stiffness," said Skelton.

"The problem is some tracks have very upright fences. That's what I don't consider to be fair. You can't have a big, stiff fence without any belly on it.

"Fences do differ from track to track. I would sometimes say to Dan (Skelton - brother and trainer) that I wouldn't go to a particular racecourse with a first-time-out novice because the fences aren't fair.

"The fences at Punchestown, Fairyhouse and Leopardstown are big but they are fair. Their take-off boards are so far out that if a horse gets in tight to the bottom he should have enough time to get his front end out, up and over, which will then allow him to jump the fence cleanly.

"A horse should have time to correct himself at a fence but that doesn't happen everywhere. An upright stiff fence draws a horse in to the bottom of the fence, catches him out and becomes a trap, because he doesn't have enough time to get his front end up," Skelton said.


In response to these comments, the head of media at the BHA - Robin Mounsey said (Credit: Racing Post): "The view is that the fences at courses like Leopardstown and Punchestown are certainly conducive for top-quality horses jumping fences at speed, but there is an argument that they are less suitable for horses of a different calibre to jump on a routine basis.

"The fences at many British courses are designed for that broader spectrum of horses and the slightly more upright construction is designed to ensure more respect for the fences and therefore reduce speed and increase safety."

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