March Highlights

Saturday 4 March

Newbury

The first Saturday in March sees Newbury host their annual charity day which supports Greatwood, the racehorse rehoming charity. The highlight is the Grade Three Greatwood Gold Cup, run over 4000m, a race which has almost become the sole property of trainer Paul Nicholls, who has won the race eight times since its inception in 2004. Previous winners include Madison Du Berlais, who went on to win the Hennessy Gold Cup at the same course, and Big Fella Thanks, who finished fourth behind Don’t Push It in the Grand National.

 

Saturday 11 March

Sandown

The Saturday before the Cheltenham Festival sees the excitement reach fever pitch as racegoers gear up for one of the biggest weeks of the racing calendar. Sandown’s Imperial Cup meeting sees racegoers from both Britain and Ireland flock to the Esher track ahead of the annual pilgrimage to Prestbury Park and the feature race itself, the Grade Three Matchbook Imperial Cup over 3300m, often throws up decent horses who go on to land a famous double by winning one of the handicap hurdles at The Festival.

 Legendary trainer Martin Pipe produced two horses to win the Imperial Cup who subsequently went on to taste glory at the Cheltenham Festival, with Olympian (1993 – Coral Cup) and Blowing Wind (1998 – County Hurdle) both going on to win shortly afterwards, while Pipe’s son, David, emulated his father by training Gaspara to win the 2007 running before she went on to land the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival.

 

Tuesday 14 March

Cheltenham Festival – 14th – 17th March

The first day of the Cheltenham Festival sees racing fans bubble over with excitement as they prepare for four days of top-class Jumps action. Each day offers its own highlights and, between the Tuesday and Friday of this week, heroes will be made and champions crowned at one of the world’s great sporting amphitheatres. Over £4million in prize money is up for grabs and more than 250,000 racegoers will be there in person to watch the action unfold.

The highlight of the first day is the Grade One Stan James Champion Hurdle, run over 3200m, where the best hurdles in the world do battle to see which one comes out on top. The race has recently been dominated by trainer Willie Mullins, who has won it four times in the last six years but with the last two winners, Annie Power and Faugheen, on the sidelines due to injury, there will be a new name on the trophy this year.

 The second day sees the cream of the 3200m chasers go head to head in the Grade One Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, where there is no room for error and jumping is at a premium. Last year’s race produced one of the most memorable occasions ever seen at The Festival when Sprinter Sacre won his second Champion Chase after returning to training after serious heart problems. The Nicky Henderson-trained gelding won the race in 2013 and many had doubted his ability to return to his best following his well-documented illness. However, Henderson nursed him back to health and the reception Sprinter Sacre received when returning to the winners’ enclosure once more will live long in the memory.

The third day of The Festival belongs to the staying hurdles, with the highlight the Grade One Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle, run over 4800m. Last year’s winner, Thistlecrack, was a top-class winner of the race who has gone on to reach the very top over fences this year, while both Inglis Drever and Big Buck’s were multiple winners of this race in recent years.

 The fourth and final day of The Festival revolves around one race – the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, run over 5300m. The Grade One event, which is the race that every owner, trainer and jockey wants to win at The Festival, is another race that will throw up a new winner this year, as last year’s victor Don Cossack has since been retired. Welsh National winner Native River and multiple Grade One winner Cue Card head the field for trainer Colin Tizzard, who recently had King George VI Chase winner Thistlecrack ruled out of the race with injury.

 

Saturday 18 March

Uttoxeter

March’s action doesn’t stop with the end of The Festival and the racing comes thick and fast on the heels of Cheltenham when Uttoxeter hosts its valuable Midlands Grand National meeting. Soft ground at the Staffordshire venue quite often makes the 6700m marathon one of the most gruelling races of the Jumps calendar and the winner has to stay every yard of the trip in order to succeed. 2010 winner Synchronised went on to win the Gold Cup at Cheltenham two years later, while David Pipe is quite often the man to follow, having trained four winners of the race in the last six runnings.

 

Saturday 25 March

Newbury

The final weekend in March does not have the same prestige as the rest of the month but there is still plenty of exciting racing for racegoers to savour, with meetings over the Jumps at Newbury, Kelso and Bangor-On-Dee.

The highlight of Newbury’s card is the final of the EBF and TBA Mares’ Novices Handicap Hurdle, in which the top mares go head to head over 4100m. It is valuable prize which is held in high regard by breeders and last year’s race was full of controversy, after winner Lady Of Lamanver was disqualified following a stewards’ enquiry. The race was eventually awarded to runner-up Briary Queen, trained by Noel Williams.

 

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