New contributor Jon Vine previews next week’s Cheltenham Festival
There is no sound in sport that evokes more tension and excitement than the hooves of twenty equine athletes thundering around the final bend at Prestbury Park. Simply remembering all the great names who have bolted up the Cheltenham straight to claim Festival glory makes all the bristles on the back of your neck stand on end and your fingers tingle with anticipation.
The Cheltenham Festival, the home of National Hunt racing, the greatest show on turf, is now just a week away. Whilst there have still been plenty of top quality prizes put up for grabs by courses all over the country during the final weeks of winter, every trainer will have had one eye fixed on the coming festivities in Gloucestershire, which begins on Tuesday afternoon on the 14th March.
Tragedies and absentees have dominated the headlines during the regular National Hunt season, but when the starter sends the Supreme Novice Hurdlers on their way – in the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival – all thoughts of negativity will be swept away in whirlwind of drama and sporting excellence.
Even the biggest horse racing philistine amongst us will be drawn to the edge of their seats watching Altior power his way towards the Arkle trophy and fall under Douvan’s captivating spell, as he seeks a third Cheltenham triumph in the Champion Chase.
Ladies’ Day at the festival is always a fantastic occasion, full of glitz, glamour and style. Un De Sceaux will head a talented field in the Ryanair Chase, before Unowhatimeanharry looks for a knockout blow in the Stayers’ Hurdle, the feature race and tickets are still available.
Friday’s feast of racing begins with the Triumph Hurdle, which is shaping up to be one of the stand-out contests of the week, before everybody’s attention turns to the main event of the entire meeting. The Gold Cup is the most sought after trophy in the sport of horse racing. No other championship holds as much grandeur and prestige as the Gold Cup, which presents worthy challengers with the chance to win a share of the second biggest prize pot on the circuit – after the Grand National.
Thistlecrack may be the most notable name missing from the Gold Cup proceedings, but Native River and Cue Card will lead the British assault on the trophy. They will have to fight hard against a travelling mob of talented Irish raiders, headed by Djakadam and Outlander, who will be looking to wrestle the Gold Cup out of Colin Tizzard’s clutches and drape the Irish flag around the winner circle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Cheltenham Festival runs from 14th to 17th March 2017 at Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 4SH.
Picture credit: Flickr @Carine06.