Monday 23 October 2017

Cheltenham Festival - The Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Gold Cup is Cheltenham’s main race. All races that take place over the four days are meant to set the stage for this premier race.

It is a Grade 1 National Hunt competition that takes place over a stretch of 5,331 metres (3 mi 2 furlongs) by horses of a minimum of five years of age. The challenging run is dotted by a massive 22 fences that require the horses and jockeys to be at their best levels of skill and concentration.

An explosive crowd always gathers on the viewing stands to witness this race. Immediately it is time for the Gold Cup, a palatable change in the atmosphere occurs.

This steeplechase has been in existence since as early as 1819. That will be two centuries in 2019! Then, it was a flat race and the inaugural edition was won by famous horse Spectre. A winning prize of 100 Guineas was awarded to Spectre’s owner.

Being the biggest race, the Gold Cup definitely attracts a big prize. The winner pockets up to £327,000 of an available £575,000. A lot of fanfare forms part of the race’s build-up, including the honour roll for massive winners who have graced the event such as Bet Mate, Arkle and Mill House.

The race was initially run on the Old Course but was moved to the New Course in 1959.

Most of the Gold Cup’s standing records were set before 1970. Golden Miller's record of five consecutive wins between 1932 and 1936 is yet to be broken. Jockey part Taafe’s record four
wins- three atop Arkle- was set in 1968, the same year trainer Tom Dreaper set a record of five wins.

The race has for most years been won by experienced horses who have had dominant runs in jump races. In 2015, however, eight-year-old Coneygree broke a record that stood for over 40 years
by winning the race as a novice. Coneygree had only started three fence races previously before Nico de Boinville rode him to a storming victory in the 2015 event.

Thursday 12 October 2017

Cheltenham Festival - Golden Miller Novices' Chase

The Golden Miller is one of the races that
make up the third day of the Cheltenham festival. As the festival progresses towards the Friday climax, more and more challenging races come up to build up the tempo. This race is run by horses of five years and above over a course of
4,023 meters (2 mi 4 furlongs) in a chase style that included seventeen fence obstacles. This is one of the few races that take place on the turf,
left-handed New Course of the famed Great Britain venue.

It is a very young race at the festival, having only been introduced in 2011. There is an attractive purse of around £130,000 with the winner taking close to £70,000.

It often takes up a different prefix to denotethe current sponsor. As of 2017, it was known as the JLT Novices’ Chase. Insurance brokers JLT has been the most stable sponsor of this race.

Seven-year-old horses do love the Golden Miller. Horses of this age have won a whopping five of its seven editions since Tony McCoy ridden Noble Prince won the inaugural event in 2011.

This has also been a fertile hunting ground for the jockey-trainer partnership of Ruby Walsh and Willi Mullins. Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs won the second edition ridden by Davy Russell. The trainer was however not able to grab first honours for the next two years. He partnered with Ruby Walsh in 2015 and it has been victory after victory since then. Ruby rode Vautour to victory in 2016, Black Hercules in 2016 and Yorkhill in 2017 to give the duo a head start in the race’s records well in its
early years.

No single horse has been able to win the race twice. This may be as a result of the advanced age of horses that have always won the competition.