The November Meeting – formerly The Open, but renamed in 2017 to avoid confusion with The Open Championship, also often known, colloquially, as ‘The Open’ – is the first major meeting of the season at Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire
Nowadays, of course, National Hunt racing takes place all year ‘round, more or less, but the ‘core’ period remains between the November Handicap, which marks the end of one Flat racing season, and the Lincoln Handicap, which marks the start of the next. Consequently, the November Meeting is considered by many as the start of the National Hunt season ‘proper’, not just because of the high-quality racing on offer, but also because it begins a period of uninterrupted jumping action.
The November Meeting is staged over three days, billed as Countryside Day, the November Meeting Saturday and the November Meeting Sunday, with a feature race on each day. The highlight of the first day is the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Steeple Chase, run over 3 miles 6 furlongs and open to horses aged five years and upwards. During the race, horses must negotiate thirty-two idiosyncratic obstacles – including banks, ditches, hedges and rails – that comprise the Cross Country Course at Prestbury Park.
The feature race of day two, is the more orthodox, but no less exciting, BetVictor Gold Cup Steeplechase, a Grade 3 handicap event run over 2 miles 4 furlongs on the Old Course and open to horses aged four years and upwards. Inaugurated in 1960, as the Mackeson Gold Cup, the BetVictor Gold Cup Steeplechase invariably attracts a large, high-quality field; its recent roll of honour includes Imperial Commander, who went on to win the Ryanair Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
November Meeting Sunday is the only Sunday when racing takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse. The feature race is the Greatwood Hurdle, another Grade 3 handicap event, run over 2 miles and 110 yards on the Old Course and open to horses aged for years and upwards. Currently sponsored by Unibet, a brand name of gambling operator Kindred Group, the Greatwood Hurdle was elevated to Grade 3 status in 2004. Although a handicap, the Greatwood is run over the same course and distance as the Champion Hurdle and, consequently, is considered a key trial for that race. That said, the last horse to win both races was Rooster Booster in 2002/03.