Named as one of Horse Racing's Best Bloggers I am an accredited Journalist whose clients include The Irish Field, Setanta Sports and The Irish Racing Yearbook
This site contains a selection of articles which have appeared in the media.
Follow Me on Twitter! @StephenDwyer
Thursday, November 22, 2012
The Open Meeting
It is the Home
of Jump Racing. As Cheltenham Racecourse opens its doors for The Open meeting,
it heralds the start in earnest of another season of top class National Hunt
racing. The Open is one of eight major meetings at Cheltenham which culminates
in March with The Festival . The Open has steadily become one of the most
promoted meetings in recent years and for many it has become the spiritual
start of the winter campaign.
Spread out over
three days, Friday November 16th to Sunday November 18th,
The Open meeting begins with a slew of Amateur and Conditional jockeys races. Coupled
with the marathon 3m 7f Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, the first day of the
meeting also features a Class 2 Novices’ Chase over 2m 4f. This race in particular
is traditionally one of the most anticipated Chases in the early season as it
provides useful pointers for the Arkle and the RSA. Won in recent years by
Denman and Imperial Commander, the race was taken in great style last year by Grand
Crus and this year’s renewal should be just as competitive.
begins with a JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, Day two of The Open is centred around
the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase. This Grade 3 handicap chase, run over 2m 4f, is
one of the best handicap races of the national hunt season. Often times it is the starting point for one
or two of the potential Gold Cup horses at the Festival later in the calendar. It
is worthy to note that more than almost any other National Hunt track, course
form at Cheltenham is crucial. Great Endeavour, winner of last year’s Paddy
Power Gold Cup typifies this. He was a previous winner of a Grade 3 Handicap
Chase at the Festival and finished sixth in the 2010 renewal of the Paddy Power
Gold Cup. The undulating surface of Cheltenham does not suit every horse and
those with proven form around Prestbury Park cannot easily be discounted.
current 6/1 favourite for Paddy Power Gold Cup, has proven course form and although
beaten for the first time over fences at short odds in the RSA last March, he
looks a fascinating contender. A three-time winner around Cheltenham, including
a ten length victory in the Cleeve Hurdle, Grand Crus also finished a commendable second to Big Buck’s in the
World Hurdle. Winner of three of his four starts over fences, David Pipe’s
imposing 7yo deserves his place at the head of the market.
interesting runner in the £150,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup is trained by Somerset
handler Keiran Burke. Last season’s fairy-tale horse, Hunt Ball aims to continue
his winning ways at a track he handles well. Hunt Ball began last season
running off a mark of 69 and finished, seven wins later, with a lofty mark of 157.
Under top weight, he won the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase at
The Festival and worthy of significant note, this is a race that is run over
the same course and distance as the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Hunt Ball was
head and shoulders the most improved horse in training last season and his
trainer reported recently “I am very
happy with Hunt Ball. He has come back from the summer bigger and stronger and
he looks better than ever.” Making light of his a shortening price of 8/1, Keiran
Burke also revealed; “I think he can win
the Paddy Power Gold Cup off his mark, but he is not the easiest horse to get
fit as he is big horse. He will take a fair bit of work and we will give him a few
racecourse gallops beforehand and try and get him as fit as we can.”
From a trend
perspective the favourite has won The Paddy Power Gold Cup three times in the
last nine years with the winning weight spread from 10-2 - 11-7. Given that
there are fifteen fences to be jumped over the Old Course, it is a good test of
stamina. Cyfor Malta won in 2002 carrying 11-7 but since 2007, all five winners
have carried under 11 stone.
Out of eighteen
races at last season’s Open meeting there were six winning favourites. Betting
interest is expected to increase this year as the stars of the national hunt
scene begin their campaigns in style.