With the 2021 flat season culminating at Ascot’s British Champions Day last month, where the finest horses are crowned the bestin their respective categories, attention is now quickly turning to the upcoming National Hunt racing season, which gets underway later this month with the Open Meeting at Cheltenham acting as the traditional curtain raiser.
With racegoers allowed back to jump meetings for the first time since the 2020 renewal of the Cheltenham Festival, there is plenty to get excited about ahead of the 2021-22 National Hunt campaign. So, let’s take a look five unmissable jump races that will take place over the course of the next six months or so. Read on to find out more.
The Betfair Chase – Haydock Park, November 20th
Despite only being inaugurated in 2005, the Betfair Chase is now one of the biggest races on the National Hunt calendar. In fact, the £160,000 outing holds the honour of being the first Grade 1 race of the British season. Contested over three miles and one and a half furlongs, jumping 19 fences at Haydock Park, it’s fair to say that the Betfair Chase is a grueling race. The Sir Alex Ferguson-owned Clan des Obeaux, who was a narrow second behind Bristol De Maiin the horse racing results from Paddy Power,is the ante-post favouriteto win the race this year.
Trophy Chase – Newbury, November 27th
Up there with the Betfair Chase, the Trophy Chase at Newbury is another big race to look forward to later this month. It may not be a Group 1 contest like its counterpart, but it boasts a slightly bigger prize purse of £200,000 — making it the richest handicap in the United Kingdom outside of the English and Scottish Grand Nationals. Raced over three miles and two furlongs, several Trophy Chase winners have gone on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Grand National later in their careers, including Many Clouds, Native River, Denman.
King George VI Chase – Kempton, December 26th
Jumping forward to the festive period now and the King George VI Chase at Kempton, which traditionally takes place on Boxing Day, really is one of the best National Hunt races of the season — arguably only behind the Gold Cup and the Grand National. Dating back to 1937, the highlight race of Kempton Park’s Christmas Festival is contested over a distance of three miles and joins the Betfair Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in forming the Jockey Club Triple Crown. The great Kauto Star won the race four times in a row between 2006 and 2009, returning to Kempton to win it for a record-breaking fifth time in 2011.
Cheltenham Gold Cup – Cheltenham, March 18th
There are so many top races at the Cheltenham Festival that could have featured on this list, but you simply can’t look beyond the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup. Raced on the fourth and final day of the iconic Prestbury Park meeting, the three-mile, two-and-a-half-furlong race is the highlight of the Festival. With a huge £468,750 up for grabs, it is also one of the richest races in the United Kingdom. It goes without saying that some of the best horses ever are on the Gold Cup roll of honour, including Arkle, Best Mate and Golden Miller.
The Grand National – Aintree, April 9th
The biggest and arguably most well-known race around the world, the Grand National is one you will certainly not want to miss. Dating all the way back to 1839, the mammoth four-mile, two-and-a-half-furlong race is deemed to be the ultimate test of horse and rider. And with 30 fences, many of which are the most difficult jumps in the entire sport, it is clear to see how it earned its name. Last year, Rachael Blackmore became the first female rider to win the National aboard 11/1 shot Minella Times. A trip to Aintree has got to be at the top of everyone’s bucket list!