On the eve of the Cheltenham Festival 2014 Crockford considers the new innovation for the meeting – The Prestbury Cup
For years the British and Irish have done battle at the Cheltenham Festival without the rivalry being marked by anything but pride. Last year for the first time the raiders finished the week with more victories than their counterparts.
Next week the British and Irish will fight for a clump of the hallowed Cheltenham turf in the Prestbury Cup. Is this just another new marketing ploy or is it something of real meaning?
Followers of the turf need look no further than the Ryder Cup in golf or the Ashes in cricket to see what such a challenge can bring to a sport. Just like the Ashes, the Prestbury Cup marks the historical moment when the foreign sports rival first overcame the British. Ireland came close in 2011 when just failing by one to finish in front but now at least match the hosts.
The Shergar Cup and the associated international teams introduced the idea of a jockeys competition, but this takes it the next step further by celebrating an existing rivalry. In time the Prestbury Cup’s reputation will grow especially if the gap between Britain and Ireland remains so close.
Given the first day fancies of Vautour, Champagne Fever, Hurricane Fly and Quevega, the surprise is that the Irish raiders are 5/1 with Paddy Power to win the first Prestbury Cup.
Hats off to Cheltenham and the Jockey Club for instituting an initiative that is certain to be a success and adds even more relish to the highlight of the national hunt calendar.
(Featured Photograph – “Welcome To Cheltenham” by Stuart Rice)