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Bryony Frost and Andrew Gemmell counter Cheltenham Festival despair | Greg Wood

Equine fatal injuries inflicted deep sadness and it took Thursday’s drama and joy, and then some statistics, to raise positivity about jump racing’s future

For a few minutes on Tuesday evening at Cheltenham this week, the chance that we would head home three days later riding even a gentle wave of positivity seemed to be receding by the second. The screens were up on the landing side of three of the fences after the National Hunt Chase as fallers were attended to by vets, while out in the Atlantic, Storm Gareth seemed poised to wipe out the second day altogether.

There were, of course, downs as well as ups over the course of the next three days. The death of Sir Erec in the Triumph Hurdle was the most difficult blow to absorb, not least because of the connection he made with racegoers and television viewers alike as he waited patiently to be re-plated before setting off on the race that would be his last. Invitation Only was then killed in a fall in the Gold Cup, the third and last fatal injury of the week from a total of 497 runners, the highest number of starters at a Festival since 2009 and 50 more than went to post in 2018, when there were twice as many fatalities.

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