February Highlights

Saturday 4 February

Sandown

The Grade One Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase over 4100m is the highlight of Sandown’s card at the beginning of the month. Trainer Nicky Henderson has won the race three times since 2010 but he hasn’t appeared on the roll of honour since Oscar Whisky tasted victory in 2014.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Bristol De Mai landed the spoils last year en route to finishing a very good second behind Black Hercules in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Wetherby also host interesting action on the same day in the shape of the Grade Two Towton Novices’ Chase, run over 5000m. The race has thrown up future stars in the shape of subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Mr Mulligan in the past, while the likes of Ollie Magern, Weird Al and Wayward Prince have also been successful in their novice seasons.

However, while the race had been through a lean period for a few years of late, the victory of Blaklion last year prior to winning the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival highlights its importance as a Festival trial on the northern circuit.

Over in Ireland, all eyes will be on Leopardstown which hosts the Grade One Irish Gold Cup, formerly known as the Hennessy. John Kiely’s Carlingford Lough has won the past two renewals, while multiple winners of the race in the past include Beef Or Salmon and Florida Pearl, who won the race three times. 

There is a tremendous supporting card too, with three further Grade One events, the Spring Juvenile Hurdle over 3200m, the Deloitte Novice Hurdle over 3600m and the Dr P J Moriarty Novice Chase over 4200m.

 

Saturday 11 February

Newbury

The Betfair Hurdle meeting is one of Newbury’s biggest fixtures of the Jumps racing calendar and the main event itself is the most valuable handicap hurdle run in Britain. Run in various guises since its inception in 1963, it has been sponsored by Betfair since 2012 and was won last year by Agrapart, ridden by Lizzie Kelly. The race has thrown up two Champion Hurdle winners in the past, with both Persian War (1968) and Make A Stand (1997) both going on to taste glory at Cheltenham after winning at Newbury.

The card is ably supported by the Betfair Denman Chase (4800m) and the Betfair Exchange Chase (Game Spirit Chase) (3200m) – both recognized Cheltenham trials as well as being renowned Grade Two races in their own right. The former is on the agenda for 2015 Grand National hero Many Clouds and could also be a possible target for this season’s much-improved Hennessy and Welsh National winner Native River.

Warwick also host an important Cheltenham trial on the second Saturday in February in the shape of the Grade Two Kingmaker Novices’ Chase, run over 3200m. Gary Moore’s Violet Dancer was the latest name on the race’s roll of honour and the likes of Flagship Uberalles, Voy Por Ustedes and Long Run have all come out on top here in recent years.

 

Friday 17 February

Ascot

Ascot’s February meeting is always well attended and quite often throws up the odd Cheltenham clue as the big meeting draws ever nearer. The highlight is the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase, run over 4300m, which was won last year by the evergreen Silviniaco Conti, who was recording the latest of his seven victories at the highest level. This race is usually won by a top-notch performer, with the likes of Kauto Star, Monet’s Garden and One man appearing on the list of past winners.

The Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase over 4800m is the highlight of an excellent supporting card.

There is also a very popular card at Haydock Park with a couple of Graded staying hurdles supporting the Betfred Grand National Trial, a valuable 5700m handicap chase won in the past by Gold Cup winners Master Oats and Cool Ground, as well as the incomparable Red Rum.

The Grade Two Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle is the highlight of Wincanton’s card, a race won by Champion Hurdlers Katchit and Binocular in the past.

 

Saturday 18 February

Navan

There is rarely a Sunday in Ireland without top-class jumping fare during the winter and Navan hosts Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle day on the second Sunday of the month. The feature race, the Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle, is often a pointer to the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham a month later and the likes of War Of Attrition, Dunguib and Voler La Vedette have all landed the race in the past. Last year’s renewal was won by Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon.

There are two other Grade Two events on a strong card, namely the Flyingbolt Novice Chase (3400m) and the Ten Up Novice Chase (4800m).

 

 

Saturday 25 February

Kempton

Kempton’s popular meeting brings the curtain down on February’s action, with three Grade Two races preceding the BetBright Chase (4800m), one of the major handicap chases on the season. Won last year by Colin Tizzard-trained Theatre Guide, the race has a rich history, with the likes of Grand National hero Rough Quest landing the race in the past, as well as duel winner Docklands Express and none other than the legendary Desert Orchid.

The Grade Two BetBright Adonis Juvenile Hurdle is often a big pointer towards the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, with the likes of subsequent Champion Hurdlers Punjabi and Binocular landing the spoils in their four-year-old season. The Grade Two Pendil Novices’ Chase (4000m) and Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle (3200m) are also excellent supporting races.

 Newcastle’s popular Eider Chase meeting is one of the biggest staying handicaps of the Jumps calendar and the highlight, the Eider Chase itself (6500m), is often seen as a major Grand National trial, with Comply Or Die successful in the race before going on to taste Aintree glory in 2008.

 

 

Sunday 26 February

Fontwell

Fontwell holds its biggest meeting of the year at the end of February when it hosts the Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle, run over 3800m. Neil King’s stable star Lil Rockerfeller landed the race 12 months ago and previous winners include the popular Lough Derg, who was successful in both 2008 and 2009, and My Way De Solzen, who took this race en-route to winning the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival the following month. The contest this year is being viewed as a potential stepping-stone to the same race by connections of American raider Rawnaq.

 

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