A 2017 Preview: What Are the Major Race Dates This Year?

January 20, 2017

- Grant Whittington

After a stellar 2016, thoughts have already turned towards the next flat and jump racing seasons in the UK. With the calendar laid bare for all too see in 2017, fans are already organising their schedules so that they can attend the best and most prestigious meetings.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at three of the most exciting meetings of 2017 and consider what they may hold for fans, horses and jockeys alike.

The Cheltenham Festival: March 14 – 17

The third week of March will see the annual Cheltenham Festival, which is arguably the highlight of the popular jump and National Hunt season. Held at the iconic Cheltenham Racecourse in the idyllic Cotswolds, the event hosts several Grade I races including the magnificent Gold Cup.

Traversing a length of 3.2 miles, this race is one of most widely watched across the globe and has previously been won by legendary horses such as Arkle, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star. Last years’ Gold Cup was won by the 9/4 favourite and Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack, with perennial contender Djakadam forced to settle for second in a thrilling finale.

Both of these horses are likely to compete for the prize this time around too (barring injury, of course), although Colin Tizzard’s 10-year old Cue Card may return for another tilt at glory.

The Grand National: April 8

The 8th April this year will see the latest (and 170th) instalment of the iconic Grand National at Aintree, which remains the single most popular event among non-racing enthusiasts. It is also a highlight of the jump season, while it differs from the Gold Cup as it is a Grade III race that is run over a distance in excess of four miles.

The Grand National is also longer, while the fences are also far taller than any other jump event on the calendar.

The race itself has an illustrious history, combining shocks, controversies and thrilling races with carefree abandon. From Foinavon’s shock, 100/1 win after a melee at the 23rd fence in 1967 (the horse only avoided the collision as it was so far behind at the time) to Red Rum’s third and final victory in 1977, the Grand National retains a special place at the very heart of jump racing in the UK.

In terms of 2017, look out for last years’ winner Rule The World, as this Irish-trained thoroughbred can only improve after succeeding as a 33/1 novice last time out.

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes: July 15

Finally, we come to an event that remains a highlight of the summer racing calendar. Scheduled for Ascot on 15th July, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is a relatively new addition to the flat racing schedule, but one that has featured a number of stellar races since its inception back in 1951. Dahlia and Swain are the only two horses to have won the event more than once since this time, with having achieved consecutive victories in 1973 and 1974 and 1997 and 1998 respectively.

This will be the 67th instalment of the race, which traverses one mile and four furlongs and now delivers a winners’ prize in excess of £650,000.

Last years’ race was won by Highland Reel, while the four year old colt will also be among the front-runners during the 2017 race. This talented horse has been trained by the renowned Coolmore Stud stable, which has trained four King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes during the last 15 years (Galileo in 2001, Dylan Thomas in 2007 and the Duke of Marmalade in 2008 were the previous victors).

As ever, this years’ race will be keenly contested and one of the most enjoyed across the whole of the calendar.

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