With the Cheltenham fixtures for 2019 now finalised, here is your guide to what’s in store at the home of jumps racing for the rest of the year.
The 2019/20 season kicks off in the autumn with The Showcase, a two-day meeting staged on the last Friday and Saturday of October (24th and 25th).
There are no Graded races which take place at this very early stage in the jumps season, but there are a number of class 2 and class 3 races contest that have thrown up some useful types who have gone on to do well at the Cheltenham Festival in March
Friday’s action sees the first official trial for the Grace 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the spectacular and there is also a valuable 2m novice chase.
An intermediate distance handicap hurdle also takes place and is followed by a 3m novices’ chase, an extended 2m maiden hurdle and 3m 1f handicap chase.
The curtain is brought down on day one of The Showcase with what is also a competitive conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle over 2m.
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Clues Aplenty on Day Two
Saturday gets underway with another staying handicap chase and is followed by a juvenile hurdle contest four-year-olds only over 2m.
This second race on day two of The Showcase usually attracts some top class entries, with smart types from the flat making their debuts over the obstacles. Winners, and placed horses, often do well in the rest of the season so it’s a race to take note off as regards future punting opportunities.
A valuable 2m handicap chase and one of the first qualifiers for the Pertemps Network Final at the Cheltenham Festival also take place, along with a 3m novice hurdle, 2m 4f novice chase and a bumper.
Three Fabulous Days at The November Meeting
The November meeting, known in the past as The Open, is three days of action which takes place between Friday 15th and Sunday 17th.
Another official Ballymore trial, the Grade 2 Hyde Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 5f is the highlight on day one.
Some very useful sorts have won this en route to bigger and better things, including 2012 winner Coneygree who went on to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years later
The supporting races are always very competitive. A 2m novices’ handicap hurdle kick things off and there is an amateur riders’ handicap chase over 3m 1f. There is also a valuable open handicap over 2m, a 2m 4f novices’ chase, and the first Cross Country handicap of the season on this card.
BetVictor Gold Cup the highlight
There are graded and top class races to get involved in on the Saturday of the November Meeting, with the Grade 2 Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle for three-year-olds over 2m the opener followed a 3m novice chase.
A Grade 3 staying handicap chase over 3m 3f then tees it up nicely for the big betting feature contest, the BetVictor Gold Cup.
This is a valuable and ultra-competitive Grade 3 handicap chase over 2m 4f which has an illustrious roll of honour. Past winners include subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander who landed the spoils in 2008.
Two Listed races, in the shape of a staying handicap hurdle and a mares bumper, complete the card either side of aa handicap hurdle over 2m 5f.
Greatwood the Feature on a Super Sunday
More graded action takes place on the Sunday, the third and final day of the November Meeting.
A 2m 5f conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle gets the action underway, and is followed by The Arkle Trial – an official trial for the Grade 1 Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.
That is a Grade 2 affair, as is the the Shloer Chase and the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle which also take place on the card. That latter was won by the mighty Altior in 2015, who went on to land the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle the following year – the first of his four Cheltenham Festival successes
The big hurdle race is the Greatwood Hurdle, a Grade 3 handicap over 2m which was won in 2002 by popular grey Rooster Booster who went on to land the Champion Hurdle `12 months later. Another Listed bumper brings proceedings to a close.
The International Takes Centre Stage in December
The calendar year closes at Cheltenham with The International, a two-day meeting which takes place on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th.
Friday’s feature is a Grade 3 staying handicap chase over 3m 2f. Supporting races are a Cross Country handicap, an extended 2m 4f mares’ handicap chase, handicap hurdles over 3m and 2m, a 2m novice hurdle and a 3m 1f novice chase.
On the Saturday of The International a 2m 4f novice chase and 2m handicap chase take place before the valuable Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.
This Grade 3 handicap chase over 2m 4f was won for a second time in 2018 by the Paul Nicholls trained Frodon who brought the house down at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival when winning a thrilling renewal of the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase under Bryony Frost.
Key Cheltenham Festival Trials
The Grade 2 Prestige Novices’ Hurdle, an official Albert Bartlett trial, then takes place followed by the Grade 2 International Hurdle itself.
This 2m 1f contest used to be a key trial for the Champion Hurdle, but these days key
contenders for the 2m contest tende to target either the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth at Newcastle or Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton which take place either side of The International.
A mares’ handicap hurdle over 2m 4f brings the The International meeting and the 2019 action at Prestbury Park to a close.