What Are The Highlights Of The 2019 Cheltenham Festival?

We are just weeks away from the start of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, the biggest meeting in National Hunt racing by some distance. There are 28 races scheduled across four days this year, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup the feature contest. Here are some of the horses and races to look out for at Prestbury Park next month.

Altior Puts Unbeaten Record On The Line In Champion Chase

After three successful outings so far season, Altior is now unbeaten in 12 races over fences as his domination of the 2m chase division continues. Nicky Henderson’s stablestar will look to retain his crown in the Queen Mother Champion Chase where he is the odds-on favourite at 2/5.

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The challengers to Altior include recent Grade One Dublin Chase winner Min, Footpad and Un de Sceaux but it would be a huge upset if the nine-year-old did not win his fourth straight race at the Festival this year.

Buveur D’Air Bids For Hat-Trick In Champion Hurdle

Another horse who has been so successful in his respective division at the Festival is Buveur D’Air who is on the verge of a hat-trick of Champion Hurdle victories. The 2017 and 2018 winner of the 2m contest, which is the feature race on day one of the meeting, has tasted defeat this season, though, as he was second behind Verdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

Henderson’s hurdler started his campaign in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle which he won for a third time in a field which included Samcro and Summerville Boy. Those two novices both went into the race with big reputations, however, the defending champion was a comfortable winner as proved his class with a seven-length success.

Buveur D’Air bounced back from his Kempton defeat to claim the Contenders Hurdle on his latest start. He is as big as 2/1 in the Champion Hurdle betting and victory once again in the race would help cement his name alongside some of the greats of the sport which have won this contest three times.

Presenting Percy Takes On Older Horses In Gold Cup

Presenting Percy goes into the Cheltenham Gold Cup at a top price of 7/2 with the bookmakers listed by Oddschecker for the 3m2f contest on the final day of the meeting, despite only having the one run so far this season.

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Patrick Kelly’s chaser ended the 2017/18 campaign as the leading novice chaser in the UK and Ireland. The Irish horse was an impressive winner of the RSA Chase which immediately put him in the frame for the 2019 Gold Cup.

With just the five runs under his belt over fences, Presenting Percy will be one of the least experienced horses in the field this year. He will be taking on last year’s winner Native River, former King George VI Chase winner Might Bite and Road To Respect. Although those runners have been there before, none of them have really stood out this season, therefore, the opportunity may be there for Presenting Percy to seize on the biggest stage of them all.

Stayers’ Hurdle The Target For Impressive Paisley Park

The star performer in the 3m hurdle division this season has been Paisley Park, who has just got better with every run. The seven-year-old has appeared four times in the campaign and he has done enough in those appearances to earn the spot as the 2/1 favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Emma Lavelle’s horse stood out after claiming the Grade One JLT Hurdle at Ascot just before Christmas where he finished ahead of West Approach and Top Notch respectively. He then featured at Cheltenham in what was arguably an even better performance in the Cleeve Hurdle as his margin of victory was 12 lengths on that occasion.

The Stayers’ Hurdle is an interesting race this year as it features a former Champion Hurdle winner in Faugheen, Unowhatimeanharry, who has had so much success in the division over the last couple of seasons, and last year’s winner Penhill, who is going straight into the race again without a preparation run.

If Paisley Park repeats what he has shown this season, he will be difficult to beat, however, we have seen a number of surprises in this race before so it is sure to make for fascinating viewing.

Look out for the final declarations for all 28 races 48 hours prior to each day’s action, especially if the horse you are looking to back has multiple entries across the week.

Pegasus World Cup

 With a purse of 12 million dollars the Pegasus World Cup has the destinction of being called the richest horse race in the world, surpassing the Dubai World Cup. It is a thoroughbred race for horses four years and older whose inaugural run was held on January 28, 2017, at the Gulfstream Park which is situated in Hallandale Beach, Florida. A grade one horse race, it runs over a dirt course at a distance of 9 furlongs with participants allowed to carry 124 pounds along with an allowance of three pounds for fillies and mares.

In 2017 the prize money set aside for the Pegasus World Cup was $12 million, in 2018 this rose to $16 million. In 2019 though the prize money will reduce to $9 million, with the remainder set aside for new Pegasus World Cupturf race.

The idea behind the race was first proposed by Frank Stronach through the Thoroughbred Owners Conference conducted at Gulfstream during January 2016. The proposition consisted of an annual 10-furlong race to be run by the riders which were planned to be held in either Gulfstream or the Santa Anita Park. The time period from mid to late January for the race was proposed so that it did not conflict with the Breeders’ Cup and the Dubai World Cup. Also, it was deemed important to give a fair opportunity to the horses to run the last race during the North American breeding season before retirement.

After a series of back and forth discussions the official announcement was made for the race to be run at a distance of 9 furlongs in mid 2016. The initial running of the race acquired Grade one status and there was extensive promotion done by using the titles of California Chrome who had won the American Horse of the year twice and Arrogate who had been ranked by IFHA as the World’s Best Racehorse in the year 2016. The 2017 race was indeed later won was by none other than by Arrogate who won by almost five lengths, showing his class in the process. Shaman Ghost finished in second place.

In the 2018 Pegasus World Cup was won by Gun Runner ridden by Florent Geroux and trained by Steve Asmussen. They took home $7,000,000 in winnings. West Coast trained by Bob Baffert finished second. Baffert of course also trained the winner of the previous year’s Pegasus World Cup, Arrogate.

Nakayama Grand Jump

 With a race purse of 150 million yen, the Nakayama Grand Jump is a steeplechase race that is held annually during the mid-April at the Nakayama Racecourse in Tokyo. It is a race for four years over at a distance of close to 2 2/3 miles. The time of the event and the famous Cherry Blossom season in Japan perfectly coincide with each other giving those attending the event a unique experience alongside the competitive racing action.

The race was first held in 1999 after its title was changed from Nakayama Daishogai Spring in 1998 (at the time the race had a slightly shorter running distance). It is one of the most prominent grade one steeplechase races run on the Japanese turf along with Nakayama Daishogai which takes place at the same but with a few changes to the format. During the early years, there were not many participants from abroad but this gradually changed over the period of time, as the race’s reputation grew.

The Nakayama Grand Jump is run on the steeplechase course in Nakayama which cradles around the inside of the racecourse over a progression of jumps over various inclines and declines. Along with the passage through the dirt course, the turf course is also crossed by the riders as they enter into the final lap with a final three jumps of the race to be contested.

During the early years of the race there were not many winners and riders from foreign countries but this trend changed over time. The achievement was first realised by St Steven from New Zealand in 2002, then Karasi from Australia in 2005, 2006, 2007 and Blackstairmountain from Ireland in 2013. This has led to a real increase in enthusiasm for the event amongst foreign owners who  relish in the astounding natural beauty that surrounds the Nakayama racecourse and also dream of winning there.

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is a prestigious group one flat race held in France which is often regarded as a national event by organisers and fans alike, not just a horse race.  It is open to thoroughbred horse races of three years and older and is run at a distance of 1 1/2 miles in October of every year. Gaining the title of world’s second richest turf race after The Everest, it has hosted some of the world’s top international riders along with the best thoroughbreds globally.

In French racing there was an initial plan to restrict to horses born and trained in France – as was outlined by the French governing body of the sport.  However, after the launching of the Grand Prix de Paris in 1863 and the Prix du Conseil Municipal thirty years later there was more emphasis on attracting foreign talent to French racing to bring aboutan internation flavour. In 1920 a third race designed to showcase French thoroughbred bredding was set up.

The name of the race was inspired by the popular monument Arc de Triomphe a symbol of the allies and for victory during the First World War in 1919. The race was first run in the year 1920, a year that was triumphed by Comrade who was a three-year-old colt, and was awarded 150,000 francs. The venue of the race had to be shifted from France to Chantill due to the renovation work at the Hippodrome de Longchamp in 2016 and 2017 respectively, but it still lives on, and is steeped in history.

Over a number of years, the race experienced a healthy injection of lottery funds, but this tapered off over the years until eventually there was a complete shift to sponsorship based fundraising in 1982. The current sponsor of the race is the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club (QREC) .

Several horses have won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe twice over the years (most recently Alleged in 1977, 1978, Treve in 2013, 2014 and Enable in2017 ans 2018. Frankie Dettori is leading jockey in the race with 6 wins since his first on Lammtarra in 1995.