October 23, 2012 Leave a comment
With the opening meeting of the season at Cheltenham already been and gone, we can now firmly say that the new National Hunt season is well underway and we look forward to the feast of ‘jumps’ racing that is coming our way over the next few months.
Of course, Cheltenham use their first meeting of the season in October as a dress rehearsal for the bigger meetings that they will be hosting during the season, the major one being the Cheltenham Festival in March but the Open meeting in November and International meeting in December have both become increasingly popular in recent years.
However, Cheltenham is not the only course hosting big early season events and this weekend, Aintree opens its gates with the first important chase of the season, the Grade Two Old Roan Chase taking centre stage on Saturday. The two-day meeting hosts a total of 14 but the Old Roan, which was first run only in 2004. Since then, Kauto Star won in 2006 and Monet’s Garden made the race his own, winning three times between 2007 and 2010. Last year’s winner, Alberta’s Run, has won the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival twice and this year’s race will be sure to provide some early season pointers.
The following weekend will see the first Grade One Chase take place at Down Royal in Northern Ireland, the JN Wine Chase; won twice by Kauto Star in recent years whilst other well-known winners include, Beef Or Salmon (twice), The Listener and Florida Pearl. Whilst a quality field will be assembled for that race, another quality field will line up at Wetherby to contest the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase over 3m1f.
Like the JN Wine Chase, the Charlie Hall is a genuine early season trial for the King George and the Cheltenham Gold Cup and has had a number of past winners who has won one or the other. Horses of the calibre of See More Business, won the Gold Cup, whilst One Man, Barton Bank, Wayward Lad, who all won the Charlie Hall twice also went on to win the King George at KemptonPark at Christmas.
The main supporting race on Saturday for the ‘Charlie Hall’ is the Grade Two John Smith Hurdle over 3m1f a race won in 2005 by the great Inglis Drever, three-time winner of the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
National Hunt meetings will also be held at Ascot the first weekend in November, with the Berkshire track hosting a Grade Three Chase and a Listed Hurdle event.
The following weekend on November 10th at Wincanton, the Grade Two Elite Hurdle over two miles shares top billing with the Rising Stars Novices Chase over 2m5f. The Elite Hurdle is a race that has yet to produce its first Champion Hurdler, but it has seen dual winner, Celestial Halo twice placed in the Champion Hurdle. It also saw Azertyuiop win in 2001 and who in 2004 went on to become the two-mile Champion Chaser at the Cheltenham Festival.
It is back to Cheltenham of course on 16th November for the hugely popular 3 day Paddy Power Open meeting, with the feature being the prestigious Paddy Power Gold Cup on the Saturday.
The first day feature is the Sharp Novices Hurdle over two miles which has seen the likes of Cue Card, Golan Way and Moon Over Miami in its winners enclosure in recent years. Top of the supporting cast on the opening day is the first Glenfarclas Cross Country Chases over 3m7f of the season.
The Paddy Power Gold Cup which is a Grade Three handicap over 2m4f, which carries a purse of £150,000. Although usually attracting the top handicappers, the race has been won by Imperial Commander who went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It was also won by Exotic Dancer, runner-up in both the Gold Cup and King George but a multiple Grade One winner in his own right. One of the early winners of the race was Gay Trip who won twice in 1969 and 1971, where in between those years he won the Grand National at Aintree. The first ever winner of the race in 1960 was Fortria, who won again in 1962. He also won the Queen Mother Two Mile Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in back to back years of 1960 and 1961 and became one of the most popular chasers in the country and as such, the form of the race will be one to keep an eye on as the 2012/2013 season unfolds.
The third day of the Open meeting at PrestburyPark opens with the Grade Two November Novices Chase and the card includes the season’s first Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle Trial over 2m5f. It also includes the Grade 3 Open Handicap Hurdle, making the meeting pretty much unmissable for NH fans.
As always at this time of year, I’m really excited by the return of Jumps Racing and I fully intend to keep the site bang up to date with just about anything there is to discuss in the world of National Hunt.