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Monday, 1 March 2021

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.




Thursday, 14 January 2021

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
competitions.

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.