Cheltenham Racecourse hosts many of the biggest days of the National Hunt season. The Cheltenham Festival in March is up there with the most popular sporting events of the year but it’s far from the only time that top class horses descend on Cheltenham.
The three-day November Meeting, previously known as the Open Meeting, has plenty of high class races featuring some huge stars.
There are a total of nineteen races with thirteen of those televised on ITV across the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. These include the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Friday, Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday and the Shloer Chase on Sunday.
Countryside Day: Friday
|1:15||Markel Insurance Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle||Class 3||2m5f|
|1:50||Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase||Class 2||2m|
|2:25||SSS Super Alloys Supports Racing Welfare Novices' Chase||Class 2||2m4f|
|3:00||Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase||Class 2||3m6f|
|3:35||Ballymore Novices' Hurdle||Grade 2||2m5f|
|4:05||Valda Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle||Class 2||2m½f|
Countryside Day kicks the November Meeting (formerly the Open Meeting) off at Cheltenham. The day’s name is a nod to one of the feature races of the first batch of action, the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap. That will see Easyland and Tiger Roll renew hostilities after their meeting at the Cheltenham Festival in March went the way of the French horse. Other highlights include the Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle but all six races are shaping up to be exciting watches. If only we could get back into the stands to watch them live!
1:15 Rossdales EBF Stallions Maiden Stakes
Cheltenham, Class 3, 2m5f
One of the real skills for punters at this time of the season is assessing horses who are going to make serious improvements from their first run of the campaign. Some horses find it more difficult than others to get up to race fitness simply from working at home and spotting those who can run well after just one poor run is a well trodden path towards profit. Hawthorn Cottage is one of a number of horses running in the November Meeting who fits this bill very nicely in our eyes.
Amy Murphy knew that it was a big ask for her seven-year-old to seriously compete at Lingfield last time out. She won’t be overly concerned with the way that she tailed off and can actually take some heart from the way Hawthorn College ran for the majority of the race given she was not wearing her usual headgear. Expectations are higher for Hawthorn College as she returns to the track. This may be a higher grade but the performance of this likeable sort will surely be better and she has every chance of earning a place at really nice odds of 20/1.
Hawthorn Cottage each way at 20/1
1:50 Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase
Cheltenham, Class 2, 2m
The top three in the betting for the Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase have all had a warm up run ahead of this exciting looking handicap. For Magic Saint, that first run came in a very strong handicap over 2m4f in which he travelled very well before dropping away. That was no surprise given it was his first run since New Year’s Day and he hasn’t been proven over the trip. Magic Saint should come on for that run and has duly been backed into favouritism for his trip to Cheltenham but he is not the only horse who is expected to take a step forward on Friday.
Beat The Judge started the season with an impressive win at Fontwell and confirmed the form by beating Bollywood once again as he finished third last time out in a competitive handicap at Cheltenham. That was only his fourth start over fences and he is sure to offer more in this sphere over time but it’s the horse who was fifth in that race, On The Slopes who represents the best bet at 7/2.
The six-year-old is the star of Chris Gordon’s stable and everybody connected to him was happy with his showing on his first run of the season for all that he was in serious need of that run. He won his last two starts of last season and with that big run under his belt, On The Slopes can return to winning ways here.
On The Slopes to win at 7/2
2:25 British Stallion Studs EBF Premier Fillies' Handicap
Cheltenham, Class 2, 2m4f
The November Meeting is an important fixture in its own right but thoughts inevitably drift towards March and the Cheltenham Festival at times during the three days. Getting a good run in at Prestbury Park often means a horse is given the green light to have a crack at one of the big races at the Festival and connections of Protektorat are certainly hopeful that their impressive five-year-old can lay down a marker for a potential run in the Arkle in four months’ time.
Protektorat was a very good winner at Carlisle on his chasing debut last month. Last year’s edition of that race was won by Brewin’upastorm, who went on to contest the Arkle and the calibre of Protektorat’s run suggests he can do likewise. The result never looked in doubt at Carlisle as Harry Skelton allowed him to run keenly at the front just as he did over hurdles. A tendency to jump left was the only slight concern but that should be less problematic at Cheltenham compared to the right-handed Carlisle. He is also expected to be seen to best effect over 3m so the step up to 2m4f shouldn’t be an issue, all of which makes Protektorat the right favourite at 5/4 to get the better of his three rivals on Friday.
Protektorat to win at 5/4
3:00 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase
Cheltenham, Class 2, 3m6f
Tiger Roll is one of those horses who has cut through with the wider public thanks to his two Grand National wins. His success has by no means been confined to Aintree though as he is a multiple Cheltenham Festival winner and is a spirited horse that fans can easily take to.
Tiger Roll was a firm favourite to win a third straight renewal of the Glenfarclas Chase at last year’s Festival but his colours were lowered courtesy of a superb performance from Easyland and it’s the French raider who gets top billing with the bookies ahead of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase here.
Despite winning at the Cheltenham Festival, Easyland is 4lb better off at the weights than Tiger Roll but will that be enough on his first run of the season? Tiger Roll has a run over 1m6f on the flat last month and should come on for that. Moreover, the good ground expected at Cheltenham is much more to Tiger Roll’s liking whereas Easyland is at his best when it is soft so Gordon Elliott’s superstar looks the better bet at 11/4, especially as the ground could dry out even more looking at the weather forecast.
Those looking for an even better price for the race should consider the massive odds of 22/1 available about Vino Royale’s chances. From the same stable as Easyland, Vino Royale has bags of experience in the cross country sphere. His form over the summer months suggests that he is primed and ready to go so a place could well be on the cards at a rewarding price.
Tiger Roll to win at 11/4, Vino Royale each way at 22/1
3:35 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Cheltenham, Grade 2, 2m5f
Seven horses are set to contest this Grade 2 contest with some potentially smart horses in there. Gran Mogul is one who has been attracting a lot of attention of late. The six-year-old had already had a disrupted time of it due to fitness issues before needing to settle into a new yard having been moved from Gordon Elliott to Nicky Henderson at the back end of 2019. He belatedly looks to have found his feet at Henderson’s, at least, if his most recent performance at Chepstow is anything to go by.
Any suggestion that he was using that maiden hurdle just as a way to get a competitive race under his belt after 300 days away from the track were quickly dispelled by the positive ride that Nico de Boinville gave him. He got stronger as the race went on at Chepstow and de Boinville believes he will be even better on good ground. If that is true than Grand Mogul should be able to pick up another win at 5/2, for all that he faces some stern opposition in the shape of Does He Know and Wild Romance.
Grand Mogul to win at 5/2
4:05 Valda Energy Novices' Handicap Hurdle
Cheltenham, Class 3, 2m½f
The first day of the November Meeting at Cheltenham ends with what looks on paper to be a competitive handicap hurdle. All but two of the 17 runners lining up for the Valda Energy Novices' Handicap Hurdle have already had at least one run in the new National Hunt season. That is very much true of One True King who will be turning out for the fourth time since the start of September. In that time he has won his maiden over hurdles and made a good impression on his handicap debut but the top weight did just fade away off a mark of 125 last time and he’s gone up 2lb for that run so this looks a tough ask.
From a little further down the ratings, Art Approval may have a better chance than his odds of 10/1 suggest. Having run on the Flat in France a few times without winning, Fergal O’Brien’s four-year-old showed signs of ability on his hurdle debut at Market Rasen and followed that up with a good performance at Cheltenham last week.
It’s hard to assess exactly how good that run was as the winner dawdled a bit in the closing stages but Art Approval himself was quite badly hampered by a faller two from home. Further improvement should see him be competitive in this one off a mark of 118, so Art Approval looks the value selection to close out the opening day with another winner.
Art Approval each way at 10/1
Paddy Power Day: Saturday
|12:30||JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle||Grade 2||2m½f|
|1:05||South West Syndicate Handicap Chase||Class 3||3m1f|
|1:40||From The Horse's Mouth Podcast Novices' Chase||Grade 2||2m|
|2:15||Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase||Grade 3||2m4f|
|2:50||Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle||Class 2||3m6f|
|3:25||Paddy Power First Millionaire Qualifier Handicap Hurdle||Class 3||2m5f|
|3:55||Karndean Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race||Listed||2m½f|
Saturday at the November Meeting is Paddy Power Day. The National Hunt season has really ramped up over the last couple of weeks and this is another hugely exciting day which is headlined by the Paddy Power Gold Cup, an iconic race won by the likes of Imperial Commander, Gay Trip and Fortia.
Of course, there won’t be any fans in attendance but given the weather forecast that might not be such a bad thing. Friday was decent with sunny spells but there is a lot of heavy rain predicted on Friday morning and afternoon so it could pay to favour horses who can handle the likely soft going. Here are tips for each and every race.
12:30 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle
Cheltenham, Grade 2, 2m
Saturday’s action at Cheltenham kicks off with a juvenile hurdle which has helped launch the careers of Allmankind, Quel Destin, Apple’s Shakira and Defi Du Seuil in the last four renewals. Punters on the lookout for a potential star of the future need look no further than the favourite for this important Grade 2, Hell Red.
An eye-catching display on debut was enough for a syndicate made up of Sir Martin Broughton and others to buy Hell Red and bring him over to England under the watchful eye of Paul Nicholls. He was promptly sent off as the 1/2 favourite on his British debut and made all to get the job done with the minimum of fuss. He is set to go on to bigger and better things and can win again against a much higher level of opponent at Cheltenham. If all goes as we expect it should, Red Hell is definitely one to watch for the Triumph Hurdle itself in March and he is already among the ante post favourites.
Hell Red to win at Evens
1:05 South West Syndicate Handicap Chase
Cheltenham, Class 3, 3m1f
There is a three way battle for favouritism in the next, a demanding looking handicap chase. Lamanver Pippin has run well at Cheltenham before and is still lightly raced for a seven-year-old. Bermeo arrives in good form and is sure to be competitive again but preference goes for the class option in the race, Kilfilum Cross.
The handicapper was not fooled by his rather disappointing fourth last time out. It was clear for anybody who watched that race at Fakenham that Kilfilum Cross was in need of the run on his return after seven months away from the track. He will surely be much better for that competitive piece of work and has the right combination of stamina and solid jumping to cope with the burden of top weight and get the job done at odds we feel are more than fair of 11/2.
Kilfilum Cross to win at 11/2
1:40 From The Horse's Mouth Podcast Novices' Chase
Cheltenham, Grade 2, 2m
The Grade 2 From The Horse's Mouth Podcast Novices' Chase could play a very important role in the novice chasing season. That is because there are a few horses in the field of seven who may be big players in what looks a very strong division. This was formerly known as the Arkle Trial and there are a few who will hope to have a say in that contest at the Festival in around four months’ time.
Fusil Raffles, who had a lot of success as a hurdler, is expected to be even better over fences and he has already won his first two starts over the larger obstacles. However, he wasn’t exactly convincing at Uttoxeter and wasn’t stretched by his rivals at Cheltenham last time out in the way that he surely will be on Saturday. That suggests that he is some way from value at 5/4 (and he is 16/1 for the Arkle in the ante post market).
Punters should instead consider a couple of the favourite’s rivals. The first is Eldorado Allen (25/1 for the Arkle and 4/1 for this) who made a triumphant return after 212 days away from the track on his chasing debut last time out. His performance at Newton Abbott wasn’t perfect (he made a mistake at the last) but Colin Tizzard’s six-year-old had already done enough to leave his rivals firmly behind him.
The other horse to consider is Gumball at 10/1. He finished some 27 lengths behind Fusil Raffles at Uttoxeter in September but he was allowed to coast home that day having made a mistake at the third last. Philip Hobbs’ charge jumped much better next time out when winning a beginners’ chase at Uttoxeter and has a better chance than his odds suggest at Cheltenham.
Eldorado Allen each way at 25/1, Gumball each way at 10/1
2:15 Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Cheltenham, Grade 3, 2m4f
We move from a race for horses who are still learning the ropes over fences to one for experienced chasers. The Paddy Power Gold Cup is the feature race of the day and carries with it a handsome prize, a prize that Paul Nicholls has won twice. There are a lot of punters supporting him to win it again with Saint Sonnet and he certainly has a very decent chance. It didn’t require an expert in race reading to see that the five-year-old ran better in the Marsh Novices’ Chase last season than the bare result suggested. He travelled and jumped very well throughout and was just lacking for pace when it mattered.
If it all goes well for Saint Sonnet then he has a real chance of victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup but it might just be too much of an ask so preference just about goes to the rock solid Simply The Betts. The seven-year-old will always have a special place in the heart of his trainer, Harry Whittington, as he provided him with a first Cheltenham Festival win when scoring at 100/30 in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate back in March. This is his first appearance since then and he has been raised another 8lb for that win but he can rate even higher than this and is the one the others all have to finish ahead of at a general price of 9/2.
Simply The Betts to win at 9/2
2:50 Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle
Cheltenham, Listed, 3m
One of the real joys of National Hunt racing is that so many popular horses return year on year so racing fans have the chance to have real favourites and develop an affinity with horses they see again and again. It’s been a long time since Dell’ Arca first burst onto the scene and his fans were delighted to see him return to winning ways earlier this season. Now 11, David Pipe’s gelding is some way from his best but he has won twice off a mark of 125 and can be competitive again off 131 given that his jockey, Fergus Gillard, gets to claim 7lb.
Dell’ Arca looks fairly priced at 8/1 but he’s not the only interesting horse in the Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle. Dandy Dan is one to consider at 11/2 as he makes his first start over hurdles for 18 months. His trainer, Kim Bailey, is in excellent form right now and Dandy Dan returns to the hurdling off a mark that’s 16lb less than his mark over fences, so the seven-year-old is primed to take advantage.
Dell’ Arca each way at 8/1
3:25 Paddy Power First Millionaire Qualifier Intermediate Handicap Hurdle
Cheltenham, Class 3, 2m5f
Whereas some of the horses entered into the Paddy Power First Millionaire Qualifier Intermediate Handicap Hurdle are making their first start of the season, the bookies’ favourite, Captain Tom Cat, has been kept busy lately. A trio of performances in five weeks from July to early August brought two wins and a second place finish and he was every bit as good when scoring on his handicap debut after a short break.
Neither the handicapper nor the bookies have slept on his win last time out at Cheltenham so he has been raised 6lb and goes into the race as the favourite. Still, his current mark of 127 is by no means his ceiling over hurdles, even if Richard Newland believes that he will be at his best as a chaser. Captain Tom Cat has some smart opponents on his return to Cheltenham but he is good enough to maintain his form and win once again at 3/1.
Captain Tom Cat to win at 3/1
3:55 Karndean Designflooring Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race
Cheltenham, Listed, 2m½f
Racing fans and savvy punters alike will often have a close look at good level National Hunt Flat races to try and spot a star of the future. Some decent horses have come through this race at the November Meeting and this year’s field includes a couple who could go on to have very good careers.
Top of that list is Ucanaver who looks the best bet at 7/2 and may be one to watch for the Champion Bumper in March. After surprising on debut by finishing second when sent off at whopping odds of 80/1, the well bred filly was snapped up by new owners and sent to Anthony Honeyball. She made an instant impact for her new connections with a 20-length win and although this represents a considerable step up in class, she looks up to the task.
The other horse to consider backing is All Clenched Up who is available at 11/1. She is one who should be seen to better effect over hurdles but she has shown a likeable attitude and a some glimpses of enough ability to claim a place here.
Ucanever to win at 7/2
Day Three: Sunday
|1:15||mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase||Class 2||3m½f|
|1:50||Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase||Grade 3||3m3½f|
|2:25||Shloer Chase||Grade 2||2m|
|3:00||Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle||Grade 3||2m½f|
|3:35||Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle||Grade 2||2m½f|
|4:05||High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire National Hunt Flat Race||Listed||2m½f|
The Greatwood Hurdle, a trial for the Champion Hurdle, is the feature race of the final day of the November Meeting at Cheltenham. The field assembled for this year’s renewal suggests that racing fans could be treated to something special which is also true of many of the other races on the card, specifically the Shloer Chase and the Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase.
After some heavy rain on Saturday and a strong chance of more showers today, the going may well be on the softer side. We’ve run through all of the contests on the card and here are our tips to hopefully end this cracking three-day meeting in the black.
1:15 mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase
Cheltenham, Class 2, 3m½f
When is a winning streak ended and when is it merely paused? That’s the question that connections of Soldier Of Love will be asking themselves ahead of his run in the mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase.
It’s already been a busy and successful campaign for the Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old who looks a completely different horse from the one who struggled to show his best over hurdles. He picked up a first chasing win at Bangor in July which kicked off a run of four wins in a row. Then he ran into Galvin at Cheltenham.
Galvin could prove to be one of the stars of the novice chasing division so it is no shame that Soldier Of Love was unable to hang with his pace in the closing stages of their meeting and hopes are high that he will be able to get back to winning ways in Sunday’s opener at Cheltenham. We think this streak is merely paused and fully expect Nicholls’ charge to make it five wins out of six.
Soldier Of Love to win at 10/3
1:50 Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase
Cheltenham, Grade 3, 3m3½f
We have a very competitive staying handicap up next with several horses who have a real chance. West Approach is sure to get a lot of support towards the top of the betting but can you really trust the 10-year-old at 7/2? For all that he has tends to place when he runs at Cheltenham, he can be a tricky customer and finds winning too difficult. He was in a great position to get the better of Frodon last time out at this venue but couldn’t lay down a big enough challenge and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him fall just short again.
The versatile Ramses De Teillee is an interesting option at the much juicer price of 8/1 after he did some good work on his seasonal reappearance in a Grade 1 in France last month. Preference, however, goes to Cloth Cap who actually finished behind West Approach last time but should come on from what was his first run since March. His performance was unquestionably disappointing given how much weight he got from Frodon and West Approach but connections have taken it on the chin and remain hopeful of a good season ahead, so 7/1 looks a good price about Cloth Cap’s chances.
Ramses De Teillee each way at 8/1, Cloth Cap each way at 7/1
2:25 Shloer Chase
Cheltenham, Grade 2, 2m
The Shloer Chase is one of the biggest races of the season so far and has attracted a field packed full of quality. Many in the field have had the odds upset in recent times including the second favourite, Defi De Seuil. Last year’s Champion Chase was a golden opportunity for the seven-year-old to maintain a lengthy winning streak given the absence of Altior and Chacun Pour Soi but he ran no sort of race at the Cheltenham Festival and ended up well beaten.
Philip Hobbs could offer no explanation for what went wrong that day. Hopes are high that it was merely a blip and that Defi Du Seuil will be back to his best this season. Could his return to the winner’s enclosure come as quickly as the Shloer Chase?
Well, he will have to get the better of Put The Kettle On who became the first mare to win the Arkle Trophy since 1980 in March, runs well fresh and gets that much discussed mares’ allowance of 7lb. Rouge Vif is another contender having already run and won this season, whilst connections of Sceau Royal are looking to strike while the iron is hot following his impressive win last weekend. Then there is last season’s Ascot Chase winner Riders Onthe Storm and the talented but unpredictable Duc Des Genievres to throw into the mix.
This is shaping to be a very good and highly competitive renewal of the Shloer Chase and that would make it all the sweeter for Philip Hobbs, J. P. McManus and all connected to Defi Du Seuil if he does return to his best and win at 5/2. Some may deem that shade short but for us he is the pick here.
Defi Du Seuil to win at 5/2
3:00 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle
Cheltenham, Listed, 2m½f
Looking through the previous winners of the Greatwood Hurdle produces some very interesting insight into a potential winner for this year’s renewal. 2018 winner Nietzche won off a mark of 126 before going on to run consistently to ratings of 135 or above. In 2017 Elgin won off 145 before reaching a mark of 161 at the Cheltenham Festival just a few months later, whilst both 2015 winner Old Guard and 2013 winner Dell’ Arca would go on to run at considerably higher ratings in their career.
In short, punters should be on the lookout for horses who are currently well treated and are set to use the Greatwood Hurdle as a stepping stone to better things. That could certainly be true of the favourite and it is no surprise to see Edwardstone come in for such support at 5/1.
Tegerek is perhaps a more interesting option though from further down the weights. Jonjo O’Neill’s six-year-old won a race marred by a couple of late fallers at Cheltenham last month but the commanding nature of that win suggest to us that he would have got the job done anyway. He has it to prove against this calibre of opponent but Tegerek is improving and is therefore the value play at the very solid price of 9/1.
Tegerek each way at 9/1
3:35 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle
Cheltenham, Grade 2, 2m½f
A big performance at the November Meeting will often see a horse’s price for one of the big Cheltenham Festival races tumble in the ante post markets. Third Time Lucki has already been cut into 20/1 in places for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and he’ll be even shorter if he makes it three wins from three starts over hurdles in this trial for the opening race of the Festival.
Dan Skelton’s five-year-old already has good Cheltenham form having finished fourth in the Champion Bumper and has so far had an easy time of it over hurdles with his two wins coming at very short odds of 1/6 and 2/7 respectively. That he is available at a best price of 6/4 for this shows that he is stepping up in class but that could actually be a positive for him. He was far too keen in a fairly weak race at Wetherby last time and should be much better with more pace to aim at on Sunday. We fancy he is well primed for a hurdling hat-trick as he raises excitement for March.
Third Time Lucki to win at 6/4
4:05 High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race
Cheltenham, Listed, 2m½f
The final day of the November Meeting ends just like Saturday did at Cheltenham, with a Listed National Hunt Flat race. Open only to horses aged between four and six, this is a contest for potential stars of the future so connections of all involved will be very excited to see what their charges can bring to Prestbury Park.
Many of the 13 horses with entries to this are making their debuts under rules but trends tell us that previous experience has been a prerequisite for recent winners. That could hand an advantage to Onemorefortheroad who is not only well tried out in bumpers but recently made his hurdling debut. He has taken steps forward with almost every race of his career to date and more improvement should be enough to secure the win here and help us end this brilliant three-day festival with another profit in the bank.
Onemorefortheroad to win
About the Meeting
There are many jumps racing festivals held over the course of the year, with all roads ultimately leading to the big four-day Cheltenham Festival at Prestbury Park in March. It is fitting therefore that, for many, it is at Cheltenham racecourse where the latest National Hunt journey really begins each year. The jumps season will already be underway by the time we reach this three-day meeting in November – known to many as The Open Meeting but now called The November Meeting – but it is here where the season proper really begins to kick into gear.
Featuring early trials for the major Cheltenham Festival contests, a generous helping of high-quality handicapping action – including one of the biggest such events of the entire season – and plenty more besides, this meeting annually serves to warm the cockles of jumps fans as the winter months roll around.
Prestbury Juvenile Novices Hurdle
Anyone seeking a future star, and potential Cheltenham Festival winner, will do well to take in the major juvenile contest on the Saturday card. Held over a trip of 2m½f, this Grade 2 event is the first real recognised Triumph Hurdle trial of the season and as such attracts a number of the most highly touted three year old hurdlers in the game. Defi Du Seuil went on to land the Triumph for Philip Hobbs having taken this in 2016, whilst 2006 champ, Katchit, did even better, claiming Champion Hurdle glory in 2008.
BetVictor Gold Cup
The big contest on the Saturday card at the meeting is this Grade 3 Handicap held over a trip of 2m4½f. Open to runners aged four and older, there are 16 formidable fences standing between the runners and the considerable prize pool on offer – £160,000 in 2018. Still referred to as “the Mackeson” by racegoers of a certain vintage, Paddy Power also sponsored the race between 2003 and 2015, with BetVictor then taking up the reins. Whilst this may “only” be a handicap, that hasn’t stopped a number of high class performers landing the prize over the years, including dual Champion Chaser, Fortria, who took this twice in the 1960s, and future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander, who came home in front in 2008.
The most eye-catching – and highest class – of the chases on Day 3 is this 2m Grade 2 affair open to runners aged four and older. Officially titled simply, “The Cheltenham Chase”, this event was added to the roster in 2009 and has quickly compiled a classy roll of honour. Classiest of them all – and our favourite chaser of all time – was 2015 hero Sprinter Sacre, who took this on route to that stunning second Queen Mother Champion Chase success when back at Cheltenham in March. The race remains one of the key early season trials for the Champion Chase and is an excellent prize in its own right, offering £75,000 in prize money in 2018.
Greatwood Handicap Hurdle
The closing Sunday of this meeting also sees one of the biggest and best early season Handicap Hurdles take place. Again, open to runners aged four and older, this Grade 3, 2m½f event offers excellent prize money – £100,000 at the time of writing. One of the classiest races of its type of the season, talented dual-purpose performer Detroit City and future Champion Hurdle winner Rooster Booster feature prominently on the list of previous winners. Best of the lot though was the Irish raider, Sizing Europe. Bursting onto the scene when taking this in 2007, the prolific Henry de Bromhead runner went on to score eight times at the very highest level.
Many of the races that feature heavily in this three-day meeting have been with us for a while now – the BetVictor Gold Cup for example has been run in various guises since 1960 – however this meeting as a whole only came into being at Cheltenham Racecourse in 1999.
Known as The Open Meeting from the time of its inception until 2017, it will forever be referred to as such by many racing fans. The official title of the event according to the racecourse itself though is, The November Meeting. The reason given for this change being in order to avoid confusion with The British Open. That’s the same British Open played in July using a metal stick and a little white ball. Nevertheless, it seems somebody, somewhere must have been confused.
Regardless of the naming alterations though, this has always been a celebration of the sport which has drawn together the great and the good of the jumping game and remains one of the first dates pencilled into the diaries of National Hunt fans.
A Complete History of the November Meeting
Formerly known as the Cheltenham Open, the now-branded November Meeting has long been what many consider the true start of the jump racing season. There are certainly earlier jump races that take place but the three-day meeting is the first big fixture on the National Hunt calendar.
For all the jump racing fans out there this is something that can never come soon enough. We certainly can’t help but feel a little excited as the meeting draws near but how exactly did it become such an important part of Cheltenham’s fixture list? Technically speaking the meeting didn’t begin until 2000 but some of the races that form it have histories that stretch further back.
1960 – Mackeson Gold Cup Established
Stout producers Mackeson sponsor the first ever running of this November handicap, run over a distance of two miles, four and a half furlongs. Their partnership with the race lasted for 35 consecutive years before being replaced by Murphy’s Brewery in 1996. Now known as the BetVictor Gold Cup, it has long been the feature race of the entire November Meeting.
1994 – Sharp Novices’ Hurdle Moved
Originally held in December, organisers opted to bring the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle, or rather the Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle, forward a month. It has featured during November at Cheltenham ever since and has seen its fair share of superb winners in this time including Cue Card, Dodging Bullets and Altior.
1994 – Hyde Novices’ Hurdle Founded
Fresh on the scene in 1994 was the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle, known more recently as the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. It began as a lower class affair but in 2008 attained Grade 2 status.
1994 – November Novices’ Chase Also Part of Reshuffle
Organisers at Cheltenham were kept busy in 1994 with this race featuring another of their changes. Previously known as the Coventry Novices’ Chase, the minimum distance event underwent a makeover including an upgrade to Grade 2 status. Best Mate won the contest six years after its reclassification, for what was his first major chase title.
2004 – Greatwood Hurdle Re-Classified
For a period the Greatwood Hurdle, another main highlight of the long weekend, carried Listed status but in 2004 it enjoyed an upgrade to Grade 3. The minimum distance event has kept this grade since, allowing it to attract a high calibre of hurdlers to Cheltenham.
Also enjoying a promotion was the Prestbury Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle, now reclassified as a Grade 2 contest.
2005 – Pipe Hits Smoking Hot Form
No trainer has dominated the BetVictor Gold Cup quite like Martin Pipe did between 1996 and 2005. In this fairly short space of time the 15-time Champion Trainer saddled the winner on seven occasions, putting his overall tally up to eight. This is enough to hand him a giant lead at the top of the leaderboard for this race and is a record unlikely to be broken for quite some time.
2007 – A Future Star is Born
The November Meeting is no stranger to well-recognised names but few winning horses have gone on to enjoy more success than Sizing Europe. His victory in the 2007 Greatwood Hurdle was the first major title he claimed, acting as the platform for what turned out to be a trophy-laden career.
2008 – Joe Lively Storms to Victory
For a long time the BetVictor Handicap Chase, known in the past under several different titles, has been one of the big betting events of the November Meeting. Hopeful punters witnessed quite the scene in 2008 as Joe Lively, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by his son Joe, claimed a devastating 14 length win. Never before had a horse won this traditionally competitive handicap by such an impressive margin.
2009 – New Race Added
When founded, the November Meeting didn’t require the creation of races in order to complete the fixture. It did however add something new to its schedule during this renewal as it rolled out the Cheltenham Chase, also known as the Shloer Chase. Initially a conditions race, it moved to a Listed affair before being handed Grade 2 status two years later in 2015. Quite fittingly the upgrade in class saw a classy runner, Sprinter Sacre, win during the same year.
2012 – Coneygree on the Map
After destroying the field in a Class 4 contest at Uttoxeter, Mark Bradstock sent Coneygree to compete in Hyde Novices’ Hurdle. Winners of the race have rarely enjoyed a huge amount of success later on but Coneygree is most certainly an exception to the rule. The 8/1 shot absolutely cruised to a November Meeting win before returning to Cheltenham a month later for another Grade 2 win.
2013 – Greatwood Returns
Between 2003 and 2011 the retired racehorse charity Greatwood had sponsored the minimum distance hurdle race that ran in the November Meeting. The name switched to the Racing Post Hurdle in 2012 but the change didn’t last long as when Stan James bookmakers began sponsoring in 2013, they put Greatwood back into the title.
2017 – Meeting Handed a Name Change
Following conversations with The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Cheltenham Racecourse decided to change the name of this meeting. According to both parties, having two events called The Open was in no way beneficial when it came to promoting either event. To avoid any future confusion between the historic golf tournament and the long weekend racing fixture, Cheltenham opted to choose the more distinctive ‘November Meeting’ for their event’s new title.