Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Kentucky Derby Festival

A Grade 1 contest, run over 2,000 metres, or approximately a mile and a quarter, on dirt at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky and open to three-year-old colts, fillies and geldings, the Kentucky Derby represents the first leg of the North American Triple Crown. Known colloquially as the 'Run for the Roses' and billed as 'the most exciting two minutes in sport', the Kentucky Derby is run on the first Saturday in May, where it forms the highlight of a 14-race card.

However, the Kentucky Derby Festival stretches far beyond the confines of Churchill Downs into the wider Kentucky community, where it celebrates not only the Kentucky Derby, but also the coming of spring to the 'Bluegrass State'. Indeed, the Festival is the largest single annual event in the Kentucky calendar and, in the two weeks preceding the Kentucky Derby, attracts 1.5 million people to a series of playful, tongue-in-cheek events suitable for the whole family. All told, over 70 special events, many of which are free of charge, are laid on for entertainment purposes and to bolster the local economy.

Highlights include the opening fireworks display, known as 'Thunder Over Louisville', which is one of the largest events of its kind anywhere in the United States, the 'Great Steamboat Race' on the Ohio River, and the founding event, the 'Pegasus Parade'. Sports, including basketball, golf and volleyball, are very much in evidence and so, too, is music, with concerts running almost non-stop throughout the fortnight.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Cheltenham Festival - Queen Mother Champion Chase

This is one of the elite Grade I races run on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival. It is a tough race that enlists horses of age five years and above to compete over a distance of two miles (3219 m). Twelve fences are jumped along this path.
The inaugural event of Queen Mother was held in 1959. Then, it was known as National Hunt Chase. It was renamed to the current form in 1980 on the eightieth birthday of Elizabeth (Queen Mother). It often takes a prefix to go along with the existing sponsor (currently Betway).

You might guess from the name that this is a pretty royal race. With a purse of around £350,000, it ranks among the highest paying races at the event. Consequently, it attracts the best horses and the biggest crowds.

Nicky Henderson will be making an entrance in this event during the 2018 festival with Arkle winner and increasingly popular horse Altior, who is 4-1 favourite to finish in first position

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Ascot, Aintree, Cheltenham: 5 of the Best Big Festival Racing Moments from 2021


There’s plenty of racing left to go in 2021, of course. But as we are approaching December, we thought we would look back at some of the highlights from a cracking year for both flat and national hunt racing. Below we pick out five of the best moments from the last 11 months. They are subjective, of course, but it’s hard to deny that these moments didn’t bring joy to the racing community:

1. Blackmore lands the Grand National on Minella Times

This one doesn’t really need much introduction. After becoming the first woman to land the top jockey award (and several other records) at Cheltenham, Rachael Blackmore put the cherry on top of her season with a win in the Grand National. While some credit should go to Minella Times, it needs to be stressed that it went off among the favourites simply due to the fact that Blackmore was in the saddle. It was a historic win, and it has wider implications for racing and women in sport generally.

2. Murphy Clinches Ascot jockey crown in The Golden Gate Stakes

If we look back at all the results of Royal Ascot, there’s plenty of bigger races than the low-key Golden Gate Stakes. While the penultimate race of the festival is overshadowed by the slew of Group 1s at Royal Ascot, all eyes were on this one as Oisin Murphy hoped to clinch the top jockey award ahead of Ryan Moore. Murphy duly obliged with a brilliant, but chaotic, ride. It meant Murphy was the toast of Ascot, and it was refreshing to see someone other than Moore

3. He Knows No Fear delivers at 300/1

Not technically a big festival, but the victory for He Knows No Fear at Leopardstown in August deserves a mention as it has been entered into the history books. Going off at 300/1, few gave the horse much of a hope in this maiden hurdle, but the Luke Comer trained mount stormed to victory to leave the Leopardstown faithful stunned. It’s the biggest SP for a race winner in GB and Ireland since records began, and it broke a record (there was a 250/1 winner at Kelso in 1990) that has stood for over 30 years. Miracles do happen, then.

4. Tiger Roll wins again at Cheltenham

Let’s face it: Many of us doubted that Tiger Roll could take the Cross Country Chase in 2021. The two-time Grand National winner showed no form in the lead-up to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, and plenty of cash went on the even-money favourite, Easysland. But Tiger Roll showed supreme stamina to stampede to victory, making him a five-time Cheltenham Festival winner – only Quevega (6) has won more. It’s a pity owner Michael O’Leary didn’t have to spoil it all by pulling Tiger Roll from the Grand National after falling out with the handicapper.


5. Adayar does a Derby and King George Double

Trainer Charlie Appleby has had a superb 2021 so far, capped off by an incredible Breeders’ Cup treble. But the highlight arguably came earlier in the summer when Adayar took the Epsom Derby, then landed the King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot a month later. The latter was a thrilling race, with William Buick guiding Adayar home ahead of Mishriff and Love. Unfortunately, Adayar cooled off in the autumn, missing out on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but it’s been a brilliant year for Appleby.

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Cheltenham Festival - Cross Country Chase

The Cross Country Chase- oft referred to with sponsor Glenfarclas name as a prefix- is another longer distance race run during the latter stages of the Cheltenham Festival. It opens its gates for
horses of age five years and more who fight to complete three miles and seven furlongs (6236 m) on the cross country course.

Along this distance, an astounding 32 obstacles are to be cleared, all in the bid to collect the most of a £50,000 purse. The already tough race is made even more demanding by the presence of condition weights used to cull weight advantages.

It is a unique race in that it is the only cross country competition held at the Cheltenham event and all over racing circles at this time of the year. This has caused its popularity to go up among stamina race lovers since it was first introduced in 2005.

Irish trained horses do love this chase as indicated by their 11 wins in the 13 editions running up to 2017. It gets even better for horses of between eight and 10 years who have won ten of the
thirteen races. The other three were 12-year-olds. Garde Champetre and Balthazar King share a record of two wins. The leading trainer is Miss Nina Carberry with three wins, during which she rode leading trainer Enda Bolger (5wins) trained horses.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Cheltenham Fesival - Festival Trophy

The Festival Trophy – otherwise known as the Ryanair Chase- is another Grade 1 race to be witnessed on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival. It has some pretty generous offerings as horses aged five years and over compete to clear seventeen obstacles and cover a distance of two miles and five full furlongs (4225m). It was introduced as a lower grade race as more events were required to increase the action when the festival was expanded to four day in 2005.

By 2010, it had become a highly competitive and popular race and it was then handed a first-grade ranking.

To this end, Albertas Run remains the leading horse in this event after sweeping first honours in 2010 and 2011. Five trainers hold a joint record of two wins each, among them Jonjo O’ Neill who rode Albertas run in both wins. Ruby Walsh has crossed the finish line atop the winning horse a record four times- twice before 2010 and twice after.

Ahead of the 2018, joint record trainer Nicky Henderson announced that he was withdrawing his horse Top Notch from the Festival Trophy. It was a disappointment to race fans who had tipped the
trainer to win the race, but he explained that recent performances and signs from the horse to his rider indicated he was not ready for the event.