Races you should see before you die

26-August-2020
26-August-2020 12:25
in General
by Peter McNeile

Autumn is a time of keen anticipation among National Hunt racing fans, none more so than Point-to-Point fans who will have to wait only until the end of October to follow the young equine and human talent being nurtured in the amateur ranks. This season's Point-to-Point calendar will start on October 24, its earliest ever, to compensate for the abrupt termination of the spring campaign due to Covid 19. 

Every Pointing enthusiast hankers for a horse that will improve enough to make the highest grade under Rules. And as the autumn is precursor to a string of Ten to Follow lists and Stable tours like a shop displaying new merchandise, it's no surprise bookmakers love the autumn and offer prices against anything and everything, extending even to the Kentucky Derby 2020 picks, celebrating America's most famous race, due off on September 5.

If you're a racing enthusiast, you'll have a favourite course, or a favourite day's racing, or an individual race; one where you filled your satchel, or have a personal interest in a horse, owner, rider or trainer. 

Here's a few of my favourites:

Chepstow Season Opener

Racegoers have argued long and hard about which fixture represented the true start of the autumn season, when Jumping steps up to the big stage. Kempton's former Chrysalis Records Chase in October oscillated with Chepstow which had the benefit some time back of BBC coverage (I'm talking 25+ years ago but racegoers have long memories). The mantel is now firmly with Chepstow, where the innovative Phil Bell has invested in prize money to pu on a cracking early season card that features handicaps like the Silver Trophy Hurdle and the Grade II Persian War Novices, whose winner will become a leading candidate for the Ballymore. 

Chepstow's beautiful backdrop

Chepstow's easy ground and galloping track encourage participation from all the leading yards, exercising the muscles for the first time with big money purchases over the summer that now require payback. It's a meeting to savour, all against the backdrop of a Monmouthshire scene bathed in the golden hues of autumn. This year's fixture is on Saturday October 10.

 

Charlie Hall Chase

Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase is the first chance for Gold Cup contenders, or those for leading long distance handicaps to flex their muscles. The race, first created in 1969, commemorates the Yorkshire trainer, W.A. ‘Charlie’ Hall, born in 1903, the second of three brothers who were all to become succesful racehorse trainers: Tom and Sam were the other brothers.

He recorded a remarkable 169 winners at his local course, Wetherby, with his most prolific winner at the course being Clear Cut, who scored ten times. His carrer total of 584 winners under National Hunt rules includes 169 at Wetherby.

MagneticFin gave Hall his first important victory when winning the 1948 Scottish Grand National at Bogside. He established a succesful partnership with owner and breeder, Clifford Nicholson, and steadily climbed to the top of his profession, finishing at the head of the trainers’ table in 1955/56 with 40 winners, earning £15,573 (£285,000 in today’s money).  His most notable success came in the 1956 Champion Hurdle with Doorknocker.

Charlie Hall retired in 1975, handing over his license to his step-son assistant, Maurice Camacho, who in turn handed over to his daughter Julie Camacho. 

The roll of honour reads like a Who's Who of blue bloods - Silvianaco Conti (2012), Cue Card (2015), Bristol de Mai (2017)and Ballyoptic (2019), with apologies to those I've left out. A huge crowd in excess of 10,000 enjoys the sport, as you'd expect from a Yorkshire crowd. 

Save the date - Saturday October 31st.

Glenfarclas Cross Country - Cheltenham Countryside Day

Cross Country racing is firmly established at Cheltenham nowadays, but it wasn't always so. The early days were punctuated by subtle and sometimes not so subtle criticism of Cheltenham's executive for spending money on a new course for eventers! In fact, the early races were populated by a fair share of Pointers and former event riders. 

The race was created to add a USP to Cheltenham's Sunday fixture at a time when Sunday racing was still novel. Whilst the first running was won by MacGregor The Third off a rating of 124, this year's Festival race required a rating 28lbs higher! But the race really came of age with Spotthe Difference, trained by Enda Bolger, the banks specialist, who reeled in the race each year between 2004-7, and whose cross country record at Cheltenham reads W 7, P 2 in 10 starts. 

Multiple cross country winner Spot Thedifference

The race is also unique in its ability to attract international runners, which have come from as far afield as the Czech Republic, France and the furthermost reaches of Ireland.

It's a raceday where the crowd watching from the infield reminds you of Badminton Horse Trials, and is larger than many Saturday crowds all in everywhere else. 

This year's date is Friday November 13.

Edward Courage Cup - Warwick

Warwick has a long history of nurturing good novices. Many a race programme in the past 30 years has been framed to encourage prep races for the Festival's novice chases and hurdles, but this is now a crowded market, as everyone gets in on the act. 

Nevertheless, chasing at Warwick is wonderful to watch, with five fences down the back straight before the turn into the home straight, making for a great spectacle. And one of racing's keenest supporters, former owners of the Edgcote Estate not far down the M40, and home to Ben Case now, was Edward Courage, owner and trainer (among other horses) of Spanish Steps, who ran with great distinction in races like the Gold Cup, Grand National (4th to Red Rum in 1973 giving 22lbs, 4th again in '74, and 3rd in '75).

The race always produces a good winner, even if it's endured some rating inflation recently, and occurs on the same card as the Classic Chase.

Next year's date is Saturday January 9th (tbc).

Grand Steeplechase de Pau

If you fancy a weekend away from the UK's grey winter, then Pau should be right up your street, and when better to go than for their showpiece event, the Grand Steepelchase de Pau, sponsored by local foie gras company Biraben. Pau in January enjoys a very acceptable temperature, and trainers camp there for the wintyer season from December-February before returning to Paris.

By French regional racinbg standards, the race is valuable at around £60,000, and accompanied by a splendid cross country, where riders need a rouyte map for all the twists and turns. 

Training centre - PauRacing at Pau

With the adjacent training centre housing over 800 horses in training and names like Claude Rouget and Emmanuel Clayeux, it is a fascinating short flight away.

Next year's fixture (tbc) is Sunday January 10th. 

Punchestown Festival

Any day will do at Punchestown, where the Festival's five days run to a staggering 39 races. Some of the races - especially thiose over the banks course - are little more than Point-to-Points, but that matters not a jot. The atmosphere is less intense than Cheltenham 6 weeks earlier but no less fun for it, and the partying is as hard! Naas and the surrounds make the best of the card they're dealt with entertainment in every premises you care to enter. 

Along the way, the 12 Grade I races promise an Irish champion to be heralded in his own country, rather than on foreign soil, but British visitors make up 30% of the audience; you can feel right at home.

Next year's dates tbc

Stratford Hunters Evening

In a calendar that is wall-to-wall racing, it can be difficult to find differentiation, which is why you'll finds many a raceday where racing is secondary to other often musical entertainment. Stratford has built a niche around the last of the three major Foxhunter chases, following Cheltenham and Aintree. 

The Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunter, at £30,000, is nearly as valuable as its more illiustrious bedfellows, but is supported by a card worth a further £50,000, comprising races for Hunter Chasers and a Point-to-Point Bumper. It's a terrific card that rallies together all the constituents of the Point-to-Point game to say farewll to the season. Thereafter, there's little more than Umberleigh to follow before turning out the horses for the summer.

Next year's date is Friday evening May 28th.

Galway Plate

The Galway Festival is another Irish marathon that takes some getting, and I'm not referring to the racing. The town positively throbs with racing fervour, and the party quite literally takes all night every night. I speak from experience as a guest once of Guinness, where the challenge of singing for my supper forced me into melody to the chagrin of my wife!

Galway's signature is the last two fences, which are very close together; get these wrong and you lose the races.

This year's meeting was behind closed doors, but next year's festival lasts 7 days from Monday July 26 - Sunday August 1st. 

Les Trois Glorieuses - Craon

Three wonderful September days at Craon, in western France, pull together a series of mixed cards that include flat, cross country and steeplechases, ands a few trotting races too. Unlike many of the fixtures at the grandiose Auteuil, Craon is packed for a post harvest jamboree, with well over 10,000 attending on each of the weekend dates, bizarrely the third being a Monday. 

home turn Hippodrome la Touche, Craon

Top trainers, top riders and a smattering of British contenders for the cross country make this an eclectic weekend, not far from the magnificent chateaux of the Loire valley - Angers is little more than 30mns away. Find time to visit the training centre at Senonnes; one of the younger Carberrys is making a name here.

Balthazar King, runner-up in Pineau de Re's 2014 Grand National, took in a second consecutive Grand Steeplechase de Craon later that same year. Largely unnoticed by the French crowd in 2013, he was sent of a generous 15/1 through which his owners were able to embarrass the Pari-Mutuel by running them out of money!  

Next year's dates are September 4-6 inclusive.

The observant among you will have noticed that the Festival and Grand National meetings have been omitted from this list, only because any self-respecting racing fan will have at least one day of each in their diary already!

 

Next Event

When?

Sunday February 13th Vine & Craven - CANCELLED

Sunday April 10th Tedworth First Race 1.15pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where?

Barbury, 3m N of Marlborough, off A346, Jn 15 M4

 

Latest News

Races you should see before you die

26-August-2020
26-August-2020 12:25
in General
by Peter McNeile

Autumn is a time of keen anticipation among National Hunt racing fans, none more so than Point-to-Point fans who will have to wait only until the end of October to follow the young equine and human talent being nurtured in the amateur ranks. This season's Point-to-Point calendar will start on October 24, its earliest ever, to compensate for the abrupt termination of the spring campaign due to Covid 19. 

Every Pointing enthusiast hankers for a horse that will improve enough to make the highest grade under Rules. And as the autumn is precursor to a string of Ten to Follow lists and Stable tours like a shop displaying new merchandise, it's no surprise bookmakers love the autumn and offer prices against anything and everything, extending even to the Kentucky Derby 2020 picks, celebrating America's most famous race, due off on September 5.

If you're a racing enthusiast, you'll have a favourite course, or a favourite day's racing, or an individual race; one where you filled your satchel, or have a personal interest in a horse, owner, rider or trainer. 

Here's a few of my favourites:

Chepstow Season Opener

Racegoers have argued long and hard about which fixture represented the true start of the autumn season, when Jumping steps up to the big stage. Kempton's former Chrysalis Records Chase in October oscillated with Chepstow which had the benefit some time back of BBC coverage (I'm talking 25+ years ago but racegoers have long memories). The mantel is now firmly with Chepstow, where the innovative Phil Bell has invested in prize money to pu on a cracking early season card that features handicaps like the Silver Trophy Hurdle and the Grade II Persian War Novices, whose winner will become a leading candidate for the Ballymore. 

Chepstow's beautiful backdrop

Chepstow's easy ground and galloping track encourage participation from all the leading yards, exercising the muscles for the first time with big money purchases over the summer that now require payback. It's a meeting to savour, all against the backdrop of a Monmouthshire scene bathed in the golden hues of autumn. This year's fixture is on Saturday October 10.

 

Charlie Hall Chase

Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase is the first chance for Gold Cup contenders, or those for leading long distance handicaps to flex their muscles. The race, first created in 1969, commemorates the Yorkshire trainer, W.A. ‘Charlie’ Hall, born in 1903, the second of three brothers who were all to become succesful racehorse trainers: Tom and Sam were the other brothers.

He recorded a remarkable 169 winners at his local course, Wetherby, with his most prolific winner at the course being Clear Cut, who scored ten times. His carrer total of 584 winners under National Hunt rules includes 169 at Wetherby.

MagneticFin gave Hall his first important victory when winning the 1948 Scottish Grand National at Bogside. He established a succesful partnership with owner and breeder, Clifford Nicholson, and steadily climbed to the top of his profession, finishing at the head of the trainers’ table in 1955/56 with 40 winners, earning £15,573 (£285,000 in today’s money).  His most notable success came in the 1956 Champion Hurdle with Doorknocker.

Charlie Hall retired in 1975, handing over his license to his step-son assistant, Maurice Camacho, who in turn handed over to his daughter Julie Camacho. 

The roll of honour reads like a Who's Who of blue bloods - Silvianaco Conti (2012), Cue Card (2015), Bristol de Mai (2017)and Ballyoptic (2019), with apologies to those I've left out. A huge crowd in excess of 10,000 enjoys the sport, as you'd expect from a Yorkshire crowd. 

Save the date - Saturday October 31st.

Glenfarclas Cross Country - Cheltenham Countryside Day

Cross Country racing is firmly established at Cheltenham nowadays, but it wasn't always so. The early days were punctuated by subtle and sometimes not so subtle criticism of Cheltenham's executive for spending money on a new course for eventers! In fact, the early races were populated by a fair share of Pointers and former event riders. 

The race was created to add a USP to Cheltenham's Sunday fixture at a time when Sunday racing was still novel. Whilst the first running was won by MacGregor The Third off a rating of 124, this year's Festival race required a rating 28lbs higher! But the race really came of age with Spotthe Difference, trained by Enda Bolger, the banks specialist, who reeled in the race each year between 2004-7, and whose cross country record at Cheltenham reads W 7, P 2 in 10 starts. 

Multiple cross country winner Spot Thedifference

The race is also unique in its ability to attract international runners, which have come from as far afield as the Czech Republic, France and the furthermost reaches of Ireland.

It's a raceday where the crowd watching from the infield reminds you of Badminton Horse Trials, and is larger than many Saturday crowds all in everywhere else. 

This year's date is Friday November 13.

Edward Courage Cup - Warwick

Warwick has a long history of nurturing good novices. Many a race programme in the past 30 years has been framed to encourage prep races for the Festival's novice chases and hurdles, but this is now a crowded market, as everyone gets in on the act. 

Nevertheless, chasing at Warwick is wonderful to watch, with five fences down the back straight before the turn into the home straight, making for a great spectacle. And one of racing's keenest supporters, former owners of the Edgcote Estate not far down the M40, and home to Ben Case now, was Edward Courage, owner and trainer (among other horses) of Spanish Steps, who ran with great distinction in races like the Gold Cup, Grand National (4th to Red Rum in 1973 giving 22lbs, 4th again in '74, and 3rd in '75).

The race always produces a good winner, even if it's endured some rating inflation recently, and occurs on the same card as the Classic Chase.

Next year's date is Saturday January 9th (tbc).

Grand Steeplechase de Pau

If you fancy a weekend away from the UK's grey winter, then Pau should be right up your street, and when better to go than for their showpiece event, the Grand Steepelchase de Pau, sponsored by local foie gras company Biraben. Pau in January enjoys a very acceptable temperature, and trainers camp there for the wintyer season from December-February before returning to Paris.

By French regional racinbg standards, the race is valuable at around £60,000, and accompanied by a splendid cross country, where riders need a rouyte map for all the twists and turns. 

Training centre - PauRacing at Pau

With the adjacent training centre housing over 800 horses in training and names like Claude Rouget and Emmanuel Clayeux, it is a fascinating short flight away.

Next year's fixture (tbc) is Sunday January 10th. 

Punchestown Festival

Any day will do at Punchestown, where the Festival's five days run to a staggering 39 races. Some of the races - especially thiose over the banks course - are little more than Point-to-Points, but that matters not a jot. The atmosphere is less intense than Cheltenham 6 weeks earlier but no less fun for it, and the partying is as hard! Naas and the surrounds make the best of the card they're dealt with entertainment in every premises you care to enter. 

Along the way, the 12 Grade I races promise an Irish champion to be heralded in his own country, rather than on foreign soil, but British visitors make up 30% of the audience; you can feel right at home.

Next year's dates tbc

Stratford Hunters Evening

In a calendar that is wall-to-wall racing, it can be difficult to find differentiation, which is why you'll finds many a raceday where racing is secondary to other often musical entertainment. Stratford has built a niche around the last of the three major Foxhunter chases, following Cheltenham and Aintree. 

The Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunter, at £30,000, is nearly as valuable as its more illiustrious bedfellows, but is supported by a card worth a further £50,000, comprising races for Hunter Chasers and a Point-to-Point Bumper. It's a terrific card that rallies together all the constituents of the Point-to-Point game to say farewll to the season. Thereafter, there's little more than Umberleigh to follow before turning out the horses for the summer.

Next year's date is Friday evening May 28th.

Galway Plate

The Galway Festival is another Irish marathon that takes some getting, and I'm not referring to the racing. The town positively throbs with racing fervour, and the party quite literally takes all night every night. I speak from experience as a guest once of Guinness, where the challenge of singing for my supper forced me into melody to the chagrin of my wife!

Galway's signature is the last two fences, which are very close together; get these wrong and you lose the races.

This year's meeting was behind closed doors, but next year's festival lasts 7 days from Monday July 26 - Sunday August 1st. 

Les Trois Glorieuses - Craon

Three wonderful September days at Craon, in western France, pull together a series of mixed cards that include flat, cross country and steeplechases, ands a few trotting races too. Unlike many of the fixtures at the grandiose Auteuil, Craon is packed for a post harvest jamboree, with well over 10,000 attending on each of the weekend dates, bizarrely the third being a Monday. 

home turn Hippodrome la Touche, Craon

Top trainers, top riders and a smattering of British contenders for the cross country make this an eclectic weekend, not far from the magnificent chateaux of the Loire valley - Angers is little more than 30mns away. Find time to visit the training centre at Senonnes; one of the younger Carberrys is making a name here.

Balthazar King, runner-up in Pineau de Re's 2014 Grand National, took in a second consecutive Grand Steeplechase de Craon later that same year. Largely unnoticed by the French crowd in 2013, he was sent of a generous 15/1 through which his owners were able to embarrass the Pari-Mutuel by running them out of money!  

Next year's dates are September 4-6 inclusive.

The observant among you will have noticed that the Festival and Grand National meetings have been omitted from this list, only because any self-respecting racing fan will have at least one day of each in their diary already!

 

Our Sponsors