Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Cheltenham Festival - Coral Cup

The Coral Cup brings together of four years and older to compete over a distance of two miles and five furlongs (4225 m) on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival. The competitors clear ten hurdles on the way to the finish line of this grade 3 race. Handicaps are applied to balance competition.

The 2018 event will be the quarter century event of the Coral Cup. Its popularity has remained intact for the better part of its time in existence.

It is remarkable that no single horse has won twice in this category. That is partly due to competitiveness and partly due to the fact that it is a low-pressure race where competitors seldom make a return.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Cheltenham Festival - Golden Miller Novices' Chase

The third day of the Cheltenham festival sees races move from the Old to the New Course. This race for Novice chasers is one of the first races run over the New Course. The National Hunt rankings
place this chase in the first grade.

Horses of five years and above compete to complete a distance of two miles and four furlongs (4,023 m) making this one of the long races at the event. For their pains, the winners take home a prize of
around £70,000 from the race sponsors.

The 2018 race will be the eighth edition of this competition. It will be another chance for horses to make an attempt at a second win, whereas jockey Ruby Walsh will be looking to cross the finish
atop the winning horse for the fourth time. Willie Mullins, trainer of Ruby’s past three winners, will on the other hand be looking for a fifth win.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Brief History of the Derby

Legend has is that the Derby was so-called as the result of a coin toss between its co-founders, Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby, and Sir Charles Bunbury, Chairman of the Jockey Club. The veracity of that claim is debatable but, either way, the Derby Stakes was run for the first time on May 4, 1780.

Derby had already founded the Oaks Stakes, open to three-year-old thoroughbred fillies, and run over a mile-and-a-half on Epsom Downs, the previous year. By contrast, the Derby Stakes was open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies but, for the first three years of its existence, was run not over a mile-and-a-half, but over a straight mile. It was not until 1784 that the distance was extended by four furlongs and the sweeping, downhill turn into Tattenham Corner was incorporated into the Derby course. Apart from the years 1915-1918 and 1940-1945, when Epsom Downs was commandeered by the Army and a substitute race, known as the ‘New Derby, was run on the July Course at Newmarket, the Derby has continued, uninterrupted, ever since.

That said, the Derby was ‘interrupted’ on June 4, 1913, when suffragette Emily Davison ran out onto the course at Tattenham Corner. Her purpose for doing so is debated to this day, but she was struck by Anmer, owned by King George V, suffered a fractured skull and died from her injuries four days later, without regaining consciousness.

On a lighter note, the Derby is, and probably always will be, synonymous with the legendary Lester Piggott who, with nine winners, is far and away the most successful jockey in the history of the Epsom Classic. Piggott became the youngest jockey ever to win the Derby when, at the age of eighteen, he rode 33/1 chance Never Say Die to victory in 1954 and subsequently added Crepello (1957), St. Paddy (1960), Sir Ivor (1968), Nijinksy (1970), Roberto (1972), Empery (1976), The Minstrel (1977) and Teenoso (1983) to his impressive winning tally.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Was the Cheltenham Gold Cup once run on the Flat?

The simple answer is yes, it was. More than a century before the Cheltenham Gold Cup was inaugurated in its more familiar guise, as a steeplechase run at Prestbury Park, in 1924, a race of the same name was run for the first time on Cleeve Hill, or Cleeve Cloud, which dominates the skyline to the north-east of the current racecourse, in 1819.

According to Baily’s Racing Register, in its original incarnation, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, or Piece of Plate, was contested over three miles, on the Flat, with a value of 100 guineas, added to a sweepstakes of 20 guineas each. The race was won by the four-year-old bay colt, Spectre, owned by a certain Mr. Bodenham, who carried 6st 7lb to victory, after finishing second in the Gloucestershire Stakes, over two miles, at the same venue two days earlier. Interestingly, the second horse home, Zenith, was owned by John Rous, a.k.a. Lord Rous, whose second son, Henry John Rous, was later appointed Jockey Club Steward.