This Weekend: A Preview Of The Cheltenham International Meeting
December 09, 2016
Surrounded by the outstanding natural beauty of the Cotswolds, the lively spa town of Cheltenham will once provide spectators with two days of festive magic at the International Meeting. Widely recognised as the Home of Jump racing, this event captures punters through its high-class entry field as many of the horses competing will hold towering aspirations at the world renowned Cheltenham Festival.
Therefore the International Meeting can often provide a glimpse into potential Cheltenham Festival winners, as well as fabricating a number of exciting races in its own right. Undoubtedly the standout race is the International Hurdle which features tomorrow and is run on the New Course over a distance of about two miles and 1 furlong – making it well-suited for horses who do not possess the speed for 2 miles, but also lack stamina over the Cheltenham Gold Cup distance of 3 miles, 2 and a half furlongs.
The New Course runs alongside the Old Course and are separate to the main racecourse located just below the ridge of the Cotswolds Hills which can accommodate up to 67,500 racing enthusiasts. Riders have to negotiate their way over a risky downhill fence and the set-up of the New Course is slightly unusual as most of the hurdles are jumped early on in the race with only two hurdles being jumped in the last seven furlongs.
Unicoin Group Handicap Chase (13:30)
Friday’s most valuable contest is the £45,000 G3 Unicoin Group Handicap Chase carried out on the New Course over a distance of approximately three miles and two furlongs.
The favourite for today’s 13:30 race is Southfield Theatre – a top-drawer novice trained by Paul Nicholls. The 9-year-old gelding was on course to lift the Badgers Ale Trophy only to fall at the final fence.
The best of the outsiders could be Waldorf Salad whose trainer Venetia Williams has won this race twice – first in 2008 with Mon Mome and last year with Aachen.
Southfield Theatre 5/1
Out Sam 13/2
Sausalito Sunrise 13/2
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (14:05)
This National Hunt chase is open to horses aged five years or older and takes place on the Cross-Country course. There are 35 obstacles for riders to clear during the running and this three mile, six furlong contest has reverted back to a handicap this year having been run as a conditions race last season.
The majority of this year’s 16 entrants are trained outside the UK and include the Irish pairing of Josie’s Orders and Bless The Wings who finished first and second respectively in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the Festival back in March.
Enda Bolger-trained Cantlow will be hoping to build on his triumph at the banks course at Punchestown last month and will be another strong contender.
Josie’s Orders – 3/1
Alelchi Inois – 14/1
Cantlow – 16/1
Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (13:50)
First run in 1963 and renamed in 2014, this Grade 3 National Hunt chase is equipped with 17 fences and is run on the New Course. The race is often contested by horses which ran previously in the Bet Victor Gold Cup – a battle fought on the Old Course in mid-November.
On this occasion, the winner of last month’s handicap chase Taquin De Seuil has declined the opportunity to become only the fourth horse to complete the double.
Just three of the previous 10 winners were aged eight or over with horses between six and eight winning nine of the last 10 renewals.
Favourite Bouvreuil arrives here after finishing fifth in the Bet Victor Gold Cup and last year’s winner Village Vic won this race last year off a handicap mark of 144 and possesses an excellent track record on the New Course.
At odds of 10/1, 6-year-old Bay Gelding Aso could tempt a few punters following a superb run in Cheltenham last month where despite fatigue late on, he still managed to finish fourth.
Village Vic 7/1
Kylemore Lough 9/1
Stan James International Hurdle (15:00)
This Grade 2 race is the events showstopper with its £150,000 prize fund attracting a wealth of world-class entrants. Horses aged four or older are permitted to enter the race which covers a distance of two miles and one furlong, as well as having negotiate their way over eight hurdles along the way. It is tackled by horses with an eye on the Champion Hurdle, the most prestigious hurdles race at the Cheltenham Festival.
Jockey San Twiston-Davies has emerged victorious in the last three editions of this race with last year’s winner Old Guard featuring again for trainer Paul Nicholls. However, the 5-year-old bay gelding has struggled for consistency on the hurdles this season.
The New One is a two-time winner of the International Hurdle, but whether it warrants the tag of second-favourite behind My Tent Or Yours having fallen when last in action at Aintree eight months ago, remains open to debate.
Nicky Henderson – the trainer of My Tent Or Yours feels his horse has a great chance to record his first success over timber since December 2013, especially if the forecast is kind and they are blessed with quicker ground.
My Tent Or Yours 13/8 (Sky Bet)
The New One 4/1 (Bet365)
Mister Miyagi 4/1 (Bet365)