PLANS to extend the Cheltenham Festival are back under consideration, although the Jockey Club has ruled out any immediate change to the current format.
The fixture currently spans four days in March and is a centrepiece of the National Hunt calendar.
The suggestion that a fifth day of action was due to be scheduled was first raised in January 2020, when racecourse chairman Martin St Quinton said that he “wouldn’t rule anything out” with regards to extending the meeting.
The idea is now being discussed once again with a five-day Festival in prospect from 2023.
Each day would be trimmed to just six races with only two further contests required to fill the extra day.
It is said the Gold Cup, the culmination of the meeting, will remain in its traditional Friday slot.
The reaction of trainers has been mixed – some warn that a fifth day risks diluting the Festival while others expressed concern that there would be insufficient prize money.
Ironically the move comes after Royal Ascot held an extra race on each of its five days last week – and that this would be a permanent move.
A spokesperson for the Jockey Club said: “We will always explore every option to improve the Festival, but we have made no decision to extend the length of the Festival.”
Meanwhile King’s Stand Stakes fifth Keep Busy makes a quick reappearance at Ayr today.
The four-year-old was fourth to Roger Teal’s Oxted, with stablemate Liberty Beach fifth.
The John Quinn-trained pair will have all the major five-furlong races for the rest of the season on their agendas.
“Keep Busy came out of the King’s Stand fine, so we’re happy to let her take her chance,” said the Malton trainer.
“It looks a good opportunity, she’s well, so now I just hope she wins.”
As for plans for the rest of the season for the duo, Quinn said: “The two of them are in the Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh (July 17), they’ll be put in the King George at Goodwood and in the Nunthorpe.
“They are both proper five-furlong fillies and they beat all the other fillies well at Ascot.
“With a bit of luck they’ll win a Group One this season.”