We may well be in the middle of the flat season but already National Hunt aficionados are working out their horse racing tips for the forthcoming 2019/20 season.
As you are well aware National Hunt racing never really stops as there is a pretty robust summer jumps schedule, however the “official” season starts in October and finishes in April.
Let’s take a look at five jump races you can’t afford to miss next season:
Betfair Chase (23/11)
Although many people regard the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby as the first big race of the season, but The Betfair Chase (registered as the Lancashire Chase) is the race that really kicks things off as it is also the first leg of the very lucrative Triple Crown.
The inaugural Betfair Chase, run over 3 miles, took place in 2005, when Kingscliff beat a quality field including Gold Cup winner Kicking King and the multi Grade One winning Beef or Salmon.
Kauto Star’s name is synonymous with The Betfair Chase after he captured it on four occasions between 2006 and 2011.
The Paul Nicholls-trained superstar was so highly revered by Haydock Park Racecourse and fans alike, that a statue was erected in his honour just inside the main entrance.
This Grade One race always attracts the very best chasers around. In more recent years, Bristol De Mai made it a second consecutive win in 2018 beating the Gold Cup winner Native River and favourite, Might Bite.
King George VI Chase (26/12)
It’s the must see race of the Christmas period, a race that literally gave us several white Christmases back in the 1980’s when Desert Orchid was in his pomp.
This winter contest makes up the second leg of the The Jockey Club Chase Triple Crown. For the last few seasons Jockey Club Racecourses have offered a £1million bonus to any horse that wins the Betfair Chase, the King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The race is quite unique in that it has been won by young up and coming chasers, two milers that are stepping up in distance , future Gold Cup winners and of course defending champions.
The King George VI Chase itself is a Grade One contest for four-year-old horses and above, run over a distance of 3 miles at Kempton Park Racecourse on Boxing Day. Nineteen fences are jumped in total. The race was first run in February 1937 and was named in honour of the new monarch, King George VI.
Trainer Paul Nicholls won a record breaking 10th King George VI Chase at Kempton with his Clan Des Obeaux and is understandably the most successful trainer in King George history.
Champion Hurdle (10/03)
Naturally the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival is always eagerly awaited and the feature race of the day is the hotly contested Champion Hurdle, which attracts the best hurdlers from Ireland and the UK.
The Champion Hurdle is open to horses aged four years and above and is run on the Old Course over a distance of 2 miles and 110 yards.
The first ever Champion Hurdle took place in 1927 and was won by Blaris but it was the horse that won in 1928 that captured the public’s imagination.
After his Champion Hurdle victory, Brown Jack went on to win the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot on six occasions, a Goodwood Cup, Doncaster Cup, Chester Cup and The Ebor Handicap.
Three-time winner Istabraq (1998-2000) helped launch the career of the now Classic trainer, Aidan O'Brien. He was odds on to become the first four-time winner of the race in 2001 but was denied a chance to do it when The Festival was lost to a foot and mouth outbreak.
In 2019, Gavin Cromwell sent out Espoir D'Allen to land the UK’s greatest hurdle race, and became the first five-year-old to land the prize since Katchit in 2008.
Espoir D'Allen, who carried the colours of J P McManus, and was ridden by Mark Walsh, scored by 15 lengths and will be aimed once again at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.
Cheltenham Gold Cup (13/03)
The Gold Cup is regarded as the Blue Riband of National Hunt steeple chasing and has been won by some absolute greats over the years.
It’s the race every jockey, trainer and owner wants to win and is viewed by some in the business as even being ahead of the Grand National on their wish list.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup as it is known today began in 1924 on the Old Course and was won by a five-year-old called Red Splash.
The most successful horse in Gold Cup history is Golden Miller who won the race five times during the 1930's. In the modern era, Arkle won the race three times in a row in the 1960’s and the Henrietta Knight trained Best Mate won the race three consecutive times from 2002.
Today the race takes place over 22 fences and 3 miles 2 and a half furlongs, with the famous uphill finish having an impact on almost every single renewal.
In 2019, Irish jumps training maestro Willie Mullins finally got the Gold Cup monkey off his back when his Al Boum Photo took the spoils.
The seven-year-old gelding travelled well throughout the race and took the lead at the second-last fence, scoring at odds of 12/1. It’s certainly odds-on that the stables at Closutton in County Carlow will be sending challengers to contest the 2020 Gold Cup.
Grand National (4/04)
Ever since 1839, when a horse called Lottery won the inaugural race and Captain Becher fell at the brook, the Grand National has grown into one of the world’s greatest races- a race that totally captures people’s imaginations.
The Grand National is run over the famous National Course at Aintree and consists of two laps of 16 fences, the first 14 of which are jumped twice. The horses run over a total distance of 4 miles 514 yards.
The Grand National has made the likes Ginger McCain and Red Rum, Bob Champion and Aldaniti and Jenny Pitman and Corbiere household names, but in recent times the race has been dominated and gained new publicity due to a new duo, that being Tiger Roll and Davy Russell.
Tiger Roll rode in with back-to-back victories in 2018 and 2019 and even though his owner, Michael O’Leary, says the horse probably won’t be back for the hat trick attempt.
Nevertheless, bookmakers are taking no chances and make him a general 7/1 chance in the latest horse racing odds to win the 2020 race.
It’s yet another National Hunt race you cannot afford to miss!
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*