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Thursday, 17 October 2019

Cheltenham Festival - The Arkle Challenge Trophy

The Arkle Challenge Trophy, Cheltenham Festival’s second race, is another exciting spectacle that draws spectators to the annual sporting event. It is run immediately after the festival’s curtain-raiser- the Champion Novices’ Hurdle on the same Old Course that hosts the first race.

With the crowd already charged by the first race, the Arkle race serves to turn the tempo a notch higher. Fan stands are usually buzzing with excitement during this race, with many punters placing stakes on their favourite horses.

The race distance is about 3199 metres (2 miles) with thirteen fence obstacles placed strategically along the course. The fence spacing stretches both the horses’ and jockeys’ skills of jumping, landing, deceleration, and acceleration.

Eligibility for the race is that horses should be five years or older. This makes it pretty popular as most horse owners use the minimum-distance factor to test their horses. Winners at the Arkle have often gone on to win the bigger Queen Mother Champion Chase and the premier Gold Cup. More and more owners keep registering their horses in this with an aim of seeing them progress to the elite

The race has been run by its current name since 1969 when it replaced the Cotswold Chase. It was named in honour of Arkle, a racehorse who dominated the Gold Cup with three commanding wins in the 60s.
The 2017 race was an especially spectacular event as competitors kept switching places and threatening to trash bets at every point. Race favourite Altior was given a real run for the money by Charbel, who surged to the front within seconds of the start. Nico de Boinville, slightly ahead of Altior, kept blocking attempts to catch up with Charbel.

With the race seemingly decided, Charbel fluffed at a landing sending his jockey sprawling. Altior took immediate advantage to charge again and win by six full-lengths, finishing to a thunderous crowd applause and setting the stage for an explosive 2018.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Fake Jockey Apprehended!

I thought I'd heard it all when I read a headline concerning a fake jockey at Newbury, but of course we do currently live in a wild 'The Onion'-esque world that thrusts everything from fake pound coins to fake news in our faces.

This jokey/crazy/bored fellow decided that he'd make an appearance in the parade ring, late last month at Newbury. His joke was perhaps taken more seriously than he'd hoped though, on account that the queen was present and his larking around was seen as a potential security threat. The man was believed to be on a stag do. At least he'll now have a good story to tell his mates! Maybe next year he'll return dressed as a horse!

Newbury head of communications Andy Clifton said "There was nothing sinister about it, but when the Queen is here these things need to be taken seriously."

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

What is the Great Metropolitan Handicap?

It's a question I doubt many will have the answer to. Since 1985, the Great Metropolitan Handicap has become just another middle distance handicap, albeit run over the same course and distance as the Derby – that is, a mile and a half on Epsom Downs – but, in its modern incarnation, is a pale imitation of the race which, in its heyday, was contested by first rate horses. The Great Metropolitan Handicap was devised by London publican Samuel Powell Beeton, who banded together with other licensees and bookmakers to sponsor a race – one of the first of its kind in Britain – at the Epsom Spring Meeting.

Inaugurated in 1846, ‘The Publicans’ Derby’, as the race was known in its early years, was originally run over the extreme distance of two and a quarter miles. Participants started at the winning post, ran the ‘wrong’ way up the straight, nearly as far as Tattenham Corner, before meandering across the North Downs to rejoin the racecourse ‘proper’ at the mile marker.

While the North Downs was public land, not ideal for horse racing, in terms of maintenance, the Great Metropolitan Handicap continued in its original, unique form for over a century. Indeed, in 1947, it had the distinction of being the first horse race in Britain in which the newly-introduced photo-finish camera was used to determine the result.

However, 1985 marked the end of an era, when the distance of the Great Metropolitan Handicap was reduced to a mile and a half and the race was run, for the first time, the ‘right’ way round on the Derby Course. In 2018, total prize money for the Great Metropolitan Handicap was £25,000 which, in real terms, is substantially less – in fact, just over £11,000 less, accounting for inflation – than the £300 raised by Beeton and his associates to sponsor the inaugural running of the race.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

What is Equine Flu Anyway?

Equine influenza, or equine flu, is a severe, respiratory disease, regularly found in British horses. Indeed, small outbreaks of the disease occur throughout the country every year, but the last major outbreak came in the spring of 2003, when horse racing stables in Newmarket were particularly badly affected.

The disease is caused by strains of the influenza virus type A, which is akin, but not identical, to the human influenza virus. The good news is that equine influenza cannot be transmitted to humans, but the bad news is that it is highly contagious – in fact, one of the most contagious diseases affecting the British horse population – and can be physically carried by human skin, hair and clothing, as well as by equipment and vehicles.

The equine influenza virus infects the thin, membranous tissue of the upper respiratory tract, causing them to become inflamed and ulcerated. Aside from an abnormally high body temperature, the main clinical signs of equine influenza are a harsh, dry cough – which is the main means by which the disease spreads – and a profuse, watery nasal discharge. The damage areas in the lining of the airways may be penetrated by bacteria, causing secondary infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia.

The treatment of uncomplicated cases of equine influenza consists of strict rest, usually for a week or two, to allow the disease to run its course, but secondary bacterial infections require antibiotic treatment, delaying the recovery period. Clearly, equine influenza has major economic implications for owners, trainers and anyone else involved in horse racing in Britain, so despite complaints from some quarters – not least trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who described the measures to contain the disease put in place by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) as a ‘massive overreaction’, the regulator has every right to be nervous. With the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National just around the corner let me hope that the situation improves over the coming days.

Monday, 7 January 2019

3.10 Ayr, Tuesday, January 7

In the Handicap Hurdle (3.10) at Ayr on Tuesday, Cornborough returns from a 52-day break, but beat subsequent dual winner Golden Jeffrey with something in hand at Wetherby when last seen in November and the handicapper appears to have erred on the side of leniency by raising him just 4lb for that success. Indeed, the runner-up had beaten all bar the progressive Chica Buena on his previous start at Musselburgh, so the form looks particularly strong in the context of this race.

Cornborough has won a couple of times over hurdles on rain-softened ground, including a maiden hurdle over course and distance three seasons ago, and demonstrated his ability to act on the prevailing ‘soft’ going when winning on the Flat at Chester in September. Relatively lightly raced for an eight-year-old, the son of Derby winner Sir Percy has won off his current handicap mark, of 126, in the past and, having run at least as well as ever the last twice, must have every chance of doing so again.

In fact, Cornborough missed an engagement in a better race at Sandown on Saturday to wait for this easier opportunity, so the hint looks well worth taking. All of his rivals have questions to answer, for one reason or another, so provided he’s fit and ready to do himself justice after a short absence Cornborough looks to have an outstanding chance of following up his Wetherby victory.

Selection: Ayr 3.10 Cornborough to win