Welsh Grand National

All Grand National events have a special feel about them, and the Welsh Grand National is certainly no exception to the rule. The race was established in 1895, when the race was held at Ely racecourse in Cardiff. Now taking place at Chepstow racecourse on 27th December, this Grade 3 event understandably has the tagline ‘The Biggest Race in Wales’. The date of the race ties it in nicely with the Christmas season making it a magic event both on course and to watch at home.

There are seven races on the card, and a distinctly Welsh feel throughout (including a performance of the Welsh National Anthem) but the emphasis from both a betting and spectator point of view is on the main event which has a very healthy £150,000 prize. The prize pot ensures that the event, which is for horses aged four and above,  attracts plenty of racing talent.

The Welsh Grand National handicap race is run over a distance of 3 miles and 5½ furlongs and features twenty two fences. The first winner at Chepstow in 1949 was Fighting Line ridden by the legendary Dick Francis. David Nicholson holds the distinction of making it three in a row by riding back to back winners in the 1959, 1960 and 1961. Trainers of the winners of the Welsh National over the years reads like a who’s who of racing greats, Martin Pipe, Jenny Pitman, Paul Nicholls, the list goes on.

Fast forward to the present day, and the 2017 event was a real stand out, with James Bowen winning the race at just 17 years of age on Raz De Maree, a 17-1 shot . Bowen’s brother Sean is a very talented jockey too and James, who was signed by Nicky Henderson, is often described as learned beyond his years and a wise head on young shoulders.

Success in the Welsh National is often an indicator of further accolades to come. Bindaree and Silver Birch won both the Welsh and Aintree Grand National races, and success for Native River in 2016 led to the Irish trained thoroughbred winning the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Japan Cup

The Japan Cup, first held in 1981, has established itself to be one of the most reputable and distinguished horse races in Japan with a purse of 476 million yen. Tokyo being the venue for the race is one of the fascinating features as the capital city is an intiguing mix of tradition, excitement and technology. The Japan Cup attracts a wide pool of local talent and international runners making for a unique occasion.

During the initial commencement of the race in 1981, horses trained in Japan, Australia, USA, New Zealand, Canada, and India were invited to participate in the race. This trend changed the following year when elite horses from anywhere around the world were invited to take part making the Japan Cup a complete Invitational event.

Horse racing generates unrivaled excitement for Japanese people attending this exciting occasion as is evidenced in the trumpets and loud roars of applause from the enthusiastic fans heard at the start of the Japan Cup race. The on-track attendance at the event was 109, 956 in 2014 and 88, 865 in 2016. The drop in attendance wasn’t related to a lul in interest, but instead due to extreme weather conditions.

The first Japan Cup was won by an American Mare Mairzy Doates trained by John Fulton and Cash Asmussen, triumphing over Frost King trained in Canada. The 2018 race was won by Kitasan Black making it the second horse to gain victory twice in the event. Gentildonna was the first horse to triumph twice in 2013 and 2014, a back to back victory for the first time in the history of the race.

The Japan Racing Association Racing Museum was opened in 1991 inside the Tokyo racecourse which is free of cost for paying race attendants. The gift shops make it possible to keep the legends in the racehorse alive with the purchase of souvenirs in the form of animal replicas. With the emergence of new champions routinely in the race, every proponent is being immortalised in this style due to the profile of this event.

Belmont Stakes

The Belmont Stakes is a Grade I race held in Beltmont Park, Elmont, New York, US. The location of the race is in the heart of New York City. The race is of interest to racing fans both in the United States and around the world due to its stellar reputation for racing excellence. The race track is 12 furlongs long and 3 year old horses are eligable to take part. It’s a real test of champions.

The history of Belmont Stakes started in 1867 in the Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx. The track was in fact specially built by stock market analyst Leonard Jerome, and the financer was August Belmont Sr, and thus the race got the name of Belmont Stakes. A century and a half back, in 1867 a filly called Ruthless won the first historic race.

Since that time the race was gone from strength to strength, in 2002 over 100,000 attended, a record for US sports. The 2015 race was a real stand out because American Pharaoh, attained the privileged Triple Crown (winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year!), the first horse to do so in 37 years when Affirmed claimed the accolade. On June 9th , 2018, Belmont Stakes completed 150 years of racing.

The 107th year of the race was held in 2018. The crowd was a healthy 90,327. Justify came first and the runner-up was Gronkowski. The race was tight with two high spirited horses but Justify won the day. Unbelievably, Justify also claimed the Triple Crown title that year, solidifying something of a golden age for American horse racing.

Breeders’ Cup Classic

The 2017 Breeder’s Cup Classic, is a grade one race, run over 1  1/4 miles and suitable for horses three years and older. It’s run on a dirt surface and is held on a different course each year as part of the Breeder’s Cup Championship. The changes in venue have not hindered the race, or Championship itself one bit, speaking to its popularity both casual punters and professional gamblers alike.

Last year the Breeders’ Cup Classic was won by Gun Runner at the Del Mar racetrack which was the first time the venue had held the race in the history of the event. TheTriple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes) and Breeders’ Cup Classic combined, are known to many as the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing, due to the gravitas of the races involved.  The Classic is deemed by some to be the top thoroughbred race of the year, though the aforementioned Triple Crown races also have a claim to that. In monetary terms though it’s close to the top of the pile.

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships as a whole, established in 1982, attracts race fans worldwide to  tune in on their tv screens, or attend on course, for this racing extravaganza. The course for this race stretches and shifts from one side to the other adding to a unique and often spellbinding occasion. Initially starting as a single day event from 1984, the event has been extended to two days from 2007. One of the two days is dedicated to fillies.

The Breeders’ Cup was the brainchild of John R. Gaines in a moment that took place at the awards lunchon for the Kentucky Derby Festival in 1982. Being a leading thoroughbred owner and breeder, he wanted to change the perception of the sport. Although the event faced mistrust initially from the racing community, it did manage to garner the support of acclaimed trainer John Nerud and others, and looked to have an audience on a domestic and global level.

A total increase of about 25 million dollars in the overall purse was also injected making it the richest turf festival in the world. $6 million of that is for the Breeder’s Cup Classic alone. Thoroughbred Tiznow is the only horse to have won the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice, back to back in 2000 and 2001.