The biggest jump races in Britain
From Aintree to Cheltenham, and Ascot to Kempton, over the course of the year, there are many huge meetings in the UK horse racing calendar. The jumps season, which runs from November to April, is where you’ll find the biggest races and with two of the year’s biggest highlights: the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National coming up, what better reason than to take a look at some of the most important jump races that Britain has to offer.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the Blue Riband event, not only at the four-day meeting, but in the world of jump-racing. Run on the New Course at Prestbury Park, over a distance of three miles, two furlongs and 70 yards, it’s the one race that all jockeys and trainers alike long to win. It’s where legends such as Golden Miller, Arkle, Best Mate and Kauto Star were made. In Cheltenham Gold Cup 2020 odds, last year’s winner Al Boum Photo is the joint-favourite, alongside Santini. But with this year’s Gold Cup falling on Friday 13th, will there be a shock in store?
The Champion Hurdle is not only raced on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, dubbed ‘Champions Day’, but it’s also the third and final leg of the Triple Crown of Hurdling. Raced over a distance of two miles and 87 yards, there are eight hurdles to be jumped and many of the previous winners have had races named in their honour. Buveur d’Air won back-to-back Champion Hurdles in 2017-18 and the first win saw the Nicky Henderson gelding complete the Triple Crown – a rare feat.
The most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fun of £1 million and with an estimated 600 million viewers turning in worldwide, the Grand National has been described as the ultimate test of horse and rider. With 30 fences to be jumped over two laps, across a distance of four miles and 514 yards, the course is a test of skill as well as stamina. Some of the fences have become iconic in their own right, for example Becher’s Brook, Canal Turn and Valentine’s. Tiger Roll will look to make history this year as he bids to win a hat-trick of successive races.
The Betfair Chase at Haydock was only inaugurated in 2005, but it’s the first Grade One event of the season, so is certainly considered a highlight. Run over a distance of three miles, one furlong and 125 yards, it is often a good indicator to the horses’ form for later on in the season. While the purse may not be as large as some of the bigger races, legendary names have won the Betfair Chase – Kauto Star being the most successful with four wins between 2006 and 2011, also seeing Ruby Walsh the leading jockey and Paul Nicholls, most successful trainer.
King George VI Chase
The highlight of Kempton’s Christmas Festival is the King George VI Chase, which has been raced each year on Boxing Day since 1947. It is considered the second most prestigious chase in Britain, only surpassed by the Cheltenham Gold Cup and is run over three miles, with 18 fences to jump. In the race’s history, multiple horses have won it more than once, with Kauto Star leading the way with five wins, and Desert Orchid with four victories. Most recently, Clan des Obeaux won back-to-back races for leading trainer Paul Nicholls.