Friday 22nd of March 2019
Racing

The Cheltenham Open Meet

The Open at Cheltenham Racecourse, from November 11th-13th, truly signals the beginning of the National Hunt season. Long gone are the hazy summer days at Ascot and Goodwood – instead racegoers will don their Barbours and tweeds for an exciting winter ahead, writes Kitty Trice.

Astracad ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase © David Davies/PA Wire/Cheltenham Racecourse

Astracad ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase © David Davies/PA Wire/Cheltenham Racecourse

Following a vintage season with the return of Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card, alongside the emergence of younger stars Douvan and Thistlecrack, this season undoubtedly has plenty to live up to!

With 19 races on the card over three days, it will be an opportunity for jump racing fans to see their heroes and younger stars emerge from a long summer’s break.  

The meeting, which offers a total of £296,000 in prize money, is well received with all the leading trainers entering runners, including Jonjo O’Neill, Nicky Henderson, Colin Tizzard and Paul Nicholls.

Friday: Countryside Day

Fans will be treated with the appearance of the wonderful Balthazaar King on Countryside Day (Friday 11th November). The veteran chaser, who retired last season following his comeback run in the cross country chase at the Festival, will parade on the first day.

Despite the loss of the cross country chase here, due to the firmness of the ground, the Cheltenham team have added the Glenfarclas Veterans’ Handicap Chase to the card as the first race.

Qualifying races for the Arkle Chase, Supreme Novices’, Neptune Investment and Triumph Hurdle races at the March Festival will allow fans to get a glimpse of up and coming juvenile stars.

The grade two Neptune Investment Management Hyde Novices’ Hurdle is the feature race on the opening day and has attracted names such as Nicky Henderson’s Baden and Brio Conti.

Visit The Gaitpost’s Event Guide to plan your trip to Cheltenham

Jockey Ian Popham celebrates his victory onboard Annacotty in the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase  © David Davies/PA Wire/Cheltenham Racecourse

Jockey Ian Popham celebrates his victory onboard Annacotty in the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase © David Davies/PA Wire/Cheltenham Racecourse

Saturday: BetVictor Gold Cup Day

The highlight of the second day is the BetVictor Gold Cup (Grade 3) at 2.25pm. Annacotty was a highly popular winner last year for Alan King and is entered alongside the likes of Paul Nicholls’ Frodon, former World Hurdle hero More Of That, and Taquin Du Seuil.

Nicholls, who had a winning strike rate of 38% in the last two weeks of October, will be hoping to continue his excellent form this season in defence of his trainers’ title.

His main hopes for the three day meet includes the aforementioned Frodon, one of four entries in the race for the Ditcheat master, who currently heads the market for the second day’s feature race at 4-1 with BetVictor, and Cliffs Of Dover, who impressively won four races in two weeks, in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.

Thistlecrack fans will have another chance to see their hero again on the second day. The Colin Tizzard-trained superstar is set to line up for the three-mile Novices’ Chase at 1.15pm and, after a flawless winning debut over fences, will hope to cement his position as the Gold Cup favourite with another wonderful display here.

Sir Mangan (right) ridden by Harry Skelton jumps the fence during the Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle © David Davies/PA Wire/Cheltenham Racecourse

Sir Mangan (right) ridden by Harry Skelton jumps the fence during the Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle © David Davies/PA Wire/Cheltenham Racecourse

Sunday: The Open

The two mile Schloer Chase, in which Sprinter Sacre’s renaissance last year will long remain etched in the memories of those who attended, is one of the highlights of the three days and offers plenty more drama and emotion.

Whilst Sprinter Sacre will be heading to the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December, trainer Nicky Henderson confirmed he will be running the 2013 Arkle winner Simonsig. The charismatic grey, whose career has been plagued by injuries, finished third in the Punchestown Champion Chase in April behind Gods Own and Vautour, and if he can repeat the form he will be a likely player in this race.

Are They Your Own ridden by Nick Slatter leads the field in the Opus Energy Novices' Handicap Hurdle  © David Davies/PA Wire/Cheltenham Racecourse

Are They Your Own ridden by Nick Slatter leads the field in the Opus Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle © David Davies/PA Wire/Cheltenham Racecourse

Fox Norton, now trained by Colin Tizzard, will race in the two mile spectacle in the colours of the Potts after being purchased last week from Neil Mulholland. An impressive handicap winner over course and distance last month, the six year old gelding is now rated 161 and looks set for further improvement.

Other potential rivals for the Grade two event include the front running Special Tiara and Kerry Lee’s Top Gamble – who won two grade two contests last season.

 

 

Amidst the top quality racing, other forms of entertainment will be available over the three days, including the Shetland Pony Display team and the Injured Jockeys Fund tug of war. Ticket prices start from £10 per person in the Best Mate area and gates open 10-10.30am each day.

Ones to watch:

Friday:
2.05pm Steel Plate and Sections Novices’ Chase – Barters Hill.  Ben Pauling’s talented hurdler will make his debut over fences and is one of the most exciting recruits over the larger obstacles. Connections have been bullish about his chances and he looks a natural athlete.

Saturday:
12.40pm JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial – Cliffs of Dover: The three-year-old won four races in the space of two weeks last month, including winning at Cheltenham’s last meeting – one on the rapid improve for Paul Nicholls.

Sunday:
1.55pm Schloer Chase – Fox Norton. The six year old gelding, who finished third behind Douvan in the Arkle at the Festival, seems to be rapidly on the improve and will have more to offer with experience.  

For more information click here

 

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