Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 Preview



Preview

By Stephen Dwyer


This is a great time of the year for reflection and anticipation. Looking back on the many highlights of the 2013 horse racing year serves well to whet the appetite for the forthcoming twelve months of flat and jump racing action.

And speaking of highlights, there were some monumental ones. Bittersweet times reigned during the flat season. On Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot, the sight of Her Majesty the Queen enthusiastically cheering her horse Estimate in the Gold Cup showed the millions watching how much the monarch loves the sport. This was a poignant time too with the passing of legendary trainer Sir. Henry Cecil at the age of 70. The ten-time Champion trainer, so famous for training Frankel, one of the all-time greats, will be sadly missed. Training however will continue at the Cecil yard and Lady Cecil has declared her ambition is to “Win a Group One race next year".

The jumps season turned full circle with memorable Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals and there is so much to look forward to in 2014. As we look at the racing calendar, there are many questions to answer. The question on many people’s lips is can the mighty Hurricane Fly become the first ten year old winner of the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle since Sea Pigeon in 1980 ? Trainer Willie Mullins certainly believes so and is on record as saying the horse is "stronger than ever" this season. Hurricane Fly recently set a world record of seventeen Grade 1 races (beating the previous record set by Kauto Star) but competition is stiff this term. Our Conor, a runaway winner of last year’s biggest race for four year olds, is set to clash with Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham. Originally acquired for the modest sum of €4,500 at the Tattersalls Sales in 2010, Our Conor was sold for a sum in the region of €1,000,000 last year to owner Barry Connell. He remains a horse of almost unlimited potential and is one to follow for the season.

The Blue Riband of jump racing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is always a race to savour. Gold Cup Day at Cheltenham sells out each year so the trend for many racing fans in recent years is enjoy the carnival atmosphere at local pubs where the racing is shown. The 2014 renewal of the Gold Cup is a very open affair. Current favourite (and last year’s winner) Bobs Worth, is unbeaten in five races at Cheltenham. He is still a progressive horse but another entry, Cue Card may have even more potential. Cue Card is now 6/1 (from 20/1) for the Gold Cup and has proven course form which is crucial. He won the Champion Bumper as a young horse and also the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham which are both major races. He will be an eight year old in March and with plenty of experience and class, remains one to take very seriously indeed.

In April, the Aintree Grand National is one of the great days. Breaking all betting records last year with over £150 million wagered on the race, the Grand National will be watched live by over 600 million television viewers in 140 countries worldwide. Forty runners will jump a total of thirty fences around the marathon four and a half mile course and over 70,000 people attend the races at Aintree that day. It is traditionally one of the most competitive and unpredictable  sporting events in the world and has had some amazing results. No female jockey has won the Grand National to date in 18 attempts but Katie Walsh finished third in 2012. Could this be the year that history is made with a first female jockey to win the race ? With the likes of Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh from Ireland and Lucy Alexander and Samantha Drake in Britain, it could be a very interesting Grand National for the ladies.

Not many people might be aware that Horse Racing is the second biggest spectator sport in the UK. Last year over six million people attended a race meeting and in Ireland too, spectator numbers remain high. Attheraces (Sky Channel 415) carry exclusive coverage of both flat and jumps racing from all 26 racecourses in Ireland. Last season Willie Mullins totally dominated the Irish Jumps season with almost €4 million in prize money, three times that of second-placed Gordon Elliot. With a stable of over 300 horses, the Mullins yard is set to continue it's fine form. On the flat in Ireland, Aidan O' Brien had almost 500 runners and with a record 135 wins and was crowned champion trainer for the sixth year in a row.

Aidan O’Brien also trains the favourite for the Epsom Derby. Australia, an impeccably-bred colt by Champion Sire Galileo. O’Brien is seeking a hat-trick of Epsom Derbys in June and can be strongly fancied to do so. First run in 1780, the Derby attracts the best three-year-olds in training.
The flat season reaches a landmark day in October with Champions Day at Ascot. This is the richest day in British racing. On offer is £3.5 million in prize money, and five end-of-season championship races will decide the winners of the respective Sprint, Mile, Middle Distance, Long Distance and Fillies & Mares categories. Awards for the champion trainer and champion jockey are handed out and it is a fitting conclusion to the season.

2014 also marks the ten year anniversary since the launch of RacingUK (Sky Channel 432). Broadcasting from 33 of the UK’s top racecourses, RacingUK pays 100% of their profits directly back into the racing industry. Interestingly, the RacingUK tracks were responsible for more than 60% of total prize-money contributions made by racecourses in the UK.

Between the jumps and flat racing, there is so much to look forward to. It is time to enjoy and savour the action and best of all, to make new memories.


 copyright - Preview Magazine (Sky Sports plc)







Major Horse Racing Fixtures 2014:
Date
Meeting
Event
Tuesday 11th March
Cheltenham
Cheltenham Festival
Wednesday 12th March
Cheltenham
Cheltenham Festival
Thursday 13th March
Cheltenham
Cheltenham Festival
Friday 14th March
Cheltenham
Cheltenham Festival
Thursday 3rd  April
Aintree 
Grand National Meeting
Friday 4th  April
Aintree
Grand National Meeting
Saturday 5th  April
Aintree
Grand National Meeting
Saturday 3rd  May
Newmarket        
2,000 Guineas
Sunday 4th May
Newmarket        
1,000 Guineas
Saturday 8th June
Epsom
Derby Festival
Tuesday 17th June
Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot
Wednesday 18th June
Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot
Thursday 19th  June
Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot
Friday 20th June
Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot
Saturday 21st  June
Royal Ascot
Royal Ascot
Tuesday 29th July
Goodwood
Glorious Goodwood
Wednesday 30th July
Goodwood
Glorious Goodwood
Thursday 31st July
Goodwood
Glorious Goodwood
Friday 1st August
Goodwood
Glorious Goodwood
Saturday 2nd August
Goodwood
Glorious Goodwood
Wednesday 10th September
Doncaster
St Leger Meeting
Thursday 11th September
Doncaster
St Leger Meeting
Friday 12th September
Doncaster
St Leger Meeting
Saturday 13th September
Doncaster
St Leger Meeting
Saturday 18th October
Ascot
British Champions Day
Friday 14th November
Cheltenham
The Open
Saturday 15th November
Cheltenham
The Open
Sunday 16th November
Cheltenham
The Open
Saturday 29th November
Newbury
Hennessy Gold Cup
Friday 26th December
Kempton
King George VI Chase