There was no sense of alarm among BHA handicappers despite the fact no British-trained novice hurdler featured in the Anglo-Irish classifications revealed on Wednesday.
The rankings have a cut-off point of 150, so the Paul Nicholls-trained Hermes Allen, who is rated 149, was not included – underlining the increasing Irish dominance of jump racing and its leading figure Willie Mullins, whose talent-spotting operation was likened first to Manchester City and then Brighton's impressive efforts in the Premier League by Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board handicapper Andrew 'Sandy' Shaw.
Six Irish-trained novice hurdlers made the list, headed by the Mullins-trained Impaire Et Passe on 160 - a mark dwarfed by the monstrous 170 achieved by Lambourn’s Constitution Hill 12 months ago - but Andrew Mealor, the BHA's hurdle handicap team leader, did not seem unduly concerned.
He said: "This is only the third season we've been at 150-plus, so there are only two sets of classifications to judge against, but it is the first year there are no British novice hurdlers in it. There were two last year and four the previous year. The overall number of novices is down from 11 and ten in previous years to only six this year.
"It was probably a below-par year overall for the novices in terms of depth and it was particularly poor for the British. I think it's a case the Irish trainers have the ammunition. I don't think anyone doubts that if the top trainers in Britain – Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Dan Skelton – had the ammunition, they would do the business. But, increasingly, these horses are being trained in Ireland."
Jonbon was the only British-trained horse among the top 17 novice chasers, but Dominic Gardiner-Hill, the BHA's head of handicapping, was not about to press any panic buttons.
"I think we have to have optimism," he said. "The BHA is doing a lot of work at the top end of jump racing. No-one involved here is involved in that committee or decision-making, so it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on the work, but nobody is sitting on their hands. These things tend to be cyclical, so we have to hope at some point the wheel can turn back in our favour and the BHA is doing everything it can to facilitate that."
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