Security review promised after Sizing's party is gatecrashed
Cheltenham has vowed to review its security procedures after an intruder was photographed helping lead Gold Cup hero Sizing John into the winner's enclosure.
The man is no stranger to gatecrashing the sport's defining moments, having wangled his way into Collier Bay's Champion Hurdle celebrations in 1996 and appearing next to Frankel after the legend's last race in the 2012 Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Collier Bay's trainer Jim Old said on Saturday: "He was in our picture of Collier Bay coming back in all those years ago and I don't know why somebody hasn't spotted it.
"He was doing it everywhere for years but I haven't noticed him as much recently and I know nothing more than that."
The prospect of an intruder gaining such close access to racing's biggest equine stars, worth staggering amounts of money, without permission is disconcerting for the sport and Cheltenham has launched an investigation into the incident.
"It came to our attention having seen the front page of today's Racing Post," said the track's boss Ian Renton on Saturday. "We understand he does have 'previous' and we're looking into it and seeing what action needs to be taken.
"Everything we do at the festival we continue to review. The security around the winner's enclosure and the parade ring as a whole has worked exceptionally well, but there are obviously blips, which we have seen on this occasion."
Racing is not the first sport to suffer from an unwanted interloper – and the man in Saturday's Racing Post front page picture is certainly not the only current gatecrasher – with one of the most famous of this bizarre breed being Karl Power, who gatecrashed Manchester United's pre-match photo before a Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in 2001.
The prankster also gained notoriety by walking out to bat for England against Australia at Headingley, got on the winner's podium at Silverstone, and went out onto centre court at Wimbledon.
Security is just one of the subjects up for review at Cheltenham over the coming months, but Renton is not expecting any imminent changes to the festival race programme.
"We're settled with the 28 races and while we've talked about adding a mares' chase in the future, that's not going to happen in the immediate future," he said.
"If it was to be introduced we've got to find a race to drop, but it's nice to be in the situation of no race immediately coming to mind as not having worked this year."
Renton declared his delight at record crowds – since the meeting went to four days in 2005 – for the second and third day.
"We've moved up to around an additional 25,000 people compared to three years ago and it's great to see that spread over the four days rather than all being concentrated on Gold Cup day," he said.
As well as the recent £45 million development of the course, the attendance on Gold Cup day has been capped in a bid to improve the customer experience.
"The new facilities are bedding in well and people are really enjoying the improvements," Renton added.
"The final four or five thousand on Gold Cup day compared to earlier in the week does make a difference and we will always keep it under review to see if we have the number right or not."
Renton was happy to report there were no on-course arrests this year, compared to nine 12 months ago, and felt the restrictions on alcohol – introduced following high-profile incidents of anti-social behaviour last year – had worked well.
Crimes by jockeys were also down after whip bans totalled 37 days spread between six different riders, compared to 42 days between nine from last year.
Cheltenham stewards referred three separate instances to the BHA concerning substances being taken into the stables without following the vets' permission procedures, while the authority will also investigate Anseanachai Cliste's withdrawal from the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase because stewards could not be satisfied the horse had been administered only normal feed and water on raceday.
There were four deaths at the meeting, with Nicky Henderson-trained pair Consul De Thaix and Hadrian's Approach, and Toe The Line, confirmed on course, while Current Event was put down after severing a tendon in the Foxhunter on Friday.