Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Cheltenham Festival - Festival Trophy

Festival Trophy
The Festival Trophy is among the curtain-raising races taking place on the first day of every event of the annual Cheltenham festival. It combines both skill and amateur practice to set the pace for more intense events that follow in the race fixtures as competitions build up with the aim of a climax in the Gold Cup.

The race falls in the third grade of chase races on the Great Britain National Hunt calendar and admits horses of age five and above. The participating horses run on a handicap seeking to come out best over a 5,029 meter (3 mi 1 furlong) distance. The path on the left-handed turf course is dotted with 21 fence obstacles, making it one of the toughest races at the festival.

It takes more than just speed to win the Festival Trophy. With a long distance to cover, not-so-young
horses to ride and a more than generous number of obstacles, riders have to exploit every advantage at every point in the race. There are points where speed counts, while in others the braking is what matters most.

The reward for the gruelling task is a largely satisfied and cheerful crowd which often puts all
else aside to watch the race from start to finish. A generous purse of £105,000 from event sponsor Ultima was on offer in the most recent event, of which the winner took a share of close to £ 60,000.

The tough race conditions  prepare horses to take part in the equally challenging Grand National later on. Rough Quest, Royal Tan, and Team Spirit are some of the notable Festival Trophy winners that have gone on to win the National Hunt.

No single horse has won the race more than twice since its inception in 1947. Sentina (1957 & 1958), Scot Lane (1982 &1983) and Un Temps Pour Tout (2016 & 2017) hold a joint record of two
wins each. The possibility of Un Temps setting a new record in 2018 makes the event even more exciting.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Cheltenham Festival - Arkle Challenge Trophy

Arkle Challenge TrophyThe Arkle Challenge Trophy, Cheltenham Festival’s second race, is another exciting spectacle that draws spectators to the annual sporting event. It is run immediately after the festival’s curtain-raiser- the Champion Novices’ Hurdle on the same Old Course that hosts the first race.

With the crowd already charged by the first race, the Arkle race serves to turn the tempo a notch higher. Fan stands are usually buzzing with excitement during this race, with many punters placing stakes on their favourite horses.

The race distance is about 3199 metres (2 miles) with thirteen fence obstacles placed strategically along the course. The fence spacing stretches both the horses’ and jockeys’ skills of jumping, landing, deceleration, and acceleration.

Eligibility for the race is that horses should be five years or older. This makes it pretty popular as most horse owners use the minimum-distance factor to test their horses. Winners at the Arkle have often gone on to win the bigger Queen Mother Champion Chase and the premier Gold Cup. More and more owners keep registering their horses in this with an aim of seeing them progress to the elite

The race has been run by its current name since 1969 when it replaced the Cotswold Chase. It was named in honour of Arkle, a racehorse who dominated the Gold Cup with three commanding wins in the 60s.

The 2017 race was an especially spectacular event as competitors kept switching places and threatening to trash bets at every point. Race favourite Altior was given a real run for the money by Charbel, who surged to the front within seconds of the start. Nico de Boinville, slightly ahead of Altior, kept blocking attempts to catch up with Charbel.

With the race seemingly decided, Charbel fluffed at a landing sending his jockey sprawling. Altior took immediate advantage to charge again and win by six full-lengths, finishing to a thunderous crowd applause and setting the stage for an explosive 2018.