Gordon Elliott backs decision to end jumps season but rues lost opportunities
‘Trainers’ championships don’t matter when you look at what’s happening in the world’
Gordon Elliott: ‘It’s unfortunate and we probably trained the horses a bit different this year keeping Punchestown in mind.’ Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Top trainer Gordon Elliott has backed Horse Racing Ireland’s decision to end the 2019-2020 National Hunt season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With racing already cancelled until April 19th, and the €500,000 Irish Grand National on Easter Monday also cancelled, the HRI board decided on Wednesday to scrap the five-day Punchestown festival later this month and bring the jumps season to a premature close.
Instead racing here aims to resume the sport when appropriate by readying a month-long programme of Flat racing, mostly likely behind closed doors.
The decision to end the jumps campaign now affects Elliott more than most as he has lost out on the chance of an elusive first trainers’ championship.
After running Willie Mullins close for the title in recent seasons, Elliott was just over €100,000 in prizemoney behind his rival with the two most lucrative festival dates of the year still to come.
“It’s unfortunate and we probably trained the horses a bit different this year keeping Punchestown in mind. But you’ve got to look at the bigger picture. Trainers’ championships don’t matter when you look at what’s happening in the world,” he said on Wednesday.
Elliott’s prizemoney total to date in Ireland this season was €3,820,310 compared to Mullins’s €3,930,118. However, €3.2 million of prizemoney was up for grabs over Punchestown’s five days alone.
The lucrative Fairyhouse Easter festival also won’t be rescheduled although it’s feature, the Boylesports Irish Grand National, will be run at some point in the final three months of the year.
“We’ve just got to put a line through the end of the season and look forward to next year. Obviously I’d love to see racing back next week but then you see what’s happening in the world,” added Elliott.
“The powers that be have to make the right decision and I’m sure they’ve made the right decision in what they’re doing with Flat racing coming back first.
“You’ve got to look after the medical people who’ve got their jobs to do and respect what they have to do.”
A HRI statement said on Wednesday the decision to end the jumps season was done to provide certainty to owners and trainers.
“While the conclusion of the National Hunt season is a major blow for that sector and jump racing enthusiasts, in making an early decision we want to give as much certainty as possible to owners and trainers.
“This plan will allow winter National Hunt horses to take advantage of summer grass, reducing the costs for National Hunt owners, with the knowledge of an enhanced programme to come for them from the autumn onwards, circumstances permitting,” it said.