November Cheltenham Trials – What You Need to Know

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The core jumps season in Britain and Ireland runs from October to April. The season culminates in the Cheltenham Festival in March and the Aintree Grand National Meeting in April.

November is a busy month for trials for the Cheltenham Festival. There are major prep races for the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle. The November meeting at Cheltenham features handicaps that could have a bearing on similar races at the meeting that matters most in March. At the end of November bettors should have more idea about the potential contenders in March.

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham racecourse is in the county of Gloucestershire and 100 miles from London. The course is run by the Jockey Club and there are meetings from October to April. The leading trainers in recent years are Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson. The leading jockeys still riding are Richard Johnson and Barry Geraghty.  The leading owners purchase horses with the intention if having a competitive runner at the Festival.

There are two distinct tracks at Cheltenham: The Old Course and New Course. Both layouts are left-handed and oval and cover about one and a half miles. The courses undulate and there is an uphill finish after the final fence.  Some horses are suited to the track and others struggle to show their best form. That is why the trials at Cheltenham are so important in the context of the big meeting in March. The track features trials day in January but there are also significant trials in November.

Gold Cup Trials

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the Blue Riband of steeple chasing.  It is run over three miles and two furlongs on the Old Course on the fourth and final day of the Festival.  The two most significant trials are the King George V1Cchase at Kempton over Christmas and the Betfair Chase at Haydock’s November meeting.  There is a one million pounds bonus for any horse that wins the three races in the same season. Haydock is a Flat track but the quality of the field makes the race a key trial for the Gold Cup the following spring.

The Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury at the end of November is the handicap chase formerly known as the Hennessey. The race has an excellent record for winners running well in the Gold Cup and Grand National. Former winners include Native River who won the Gold Cup and Many Clouds who won a Grand National.  Nine horses have won the Ladbrokes Trophy in its current and former guise and won the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The winner is usually better than a handicapper and often competes in future graded races including the Gold Cup.

Champion Hurdle Trials

The Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious hurdle race in the sport. It is run over two miles and eight obstacles on the Old Course on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.  The Christmas Hurdle at Kempton is the leading trial in Britain. However, there are some important prep races during November, including the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle. This is also a two miles hurdle at the highest level and results can be significant for Champion Hurdle betting. Buveur D’Air won the race in 2018 and 2019 and also won the Champion Hurdle in 2017 and 2018.

One of Ireland’s major trials for the Champion Hurdle is the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown which takes place in the middle of November. It is also a Grade 1 contest over two miles so attracts potential Champion Hurdle runners. The race distance was shortened to its present length in 1995 and has regularly featured top class hurdlers.  Hurricane Fly won the Morgiana Hurdle in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and is a dual Champion Hurdler.  Overall since 2005 six winners have also won the Champion Hurdle and others have been placed in the Cheltenham race.

Trials For Other Cheltenham Festival Races

November is a key month for Cheltenham Festival trials, not only for the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle. The Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury is a key form indicator for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival. There are only a few Grade 1 hurdlers who can handle three miles and more so similar races earlier in the season are significant trials for the stayers’ championship race for hurdlers at the Festival.  Thistlecrack won both races during the 2015-2016 season. Uknowhatimeanharry is a dual winner of the Newbury race and a beaten favourite in the stayers’ hurdle in 2017.

The Bet Victor Gold Cup is the main highlight for those looking to bet on the on the Cheltenham trials. Even though it is a handicap, the race can  be informative in the context of the Ryanair Chase at the Festival. The crowd at the November meeting does not reach Festival proportions but there is still a loud atmosphere which affects some horses. Handling the noise in November is a good prep for race days the following March.  Frodon was second in the Bet Victor Chase in 2018 and won the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival the following March.

 

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