What's On This Week? - Following The Cheltenham Stars

Features | 8th February 2023

There’s an action packed few days of racing to end this week as some of the top Cheltenham hopefuls have their final preps races

Europe’s Most Valuable Handicap

Newbury’s Saturday card holds several Festival trial races that are prestigious prizes in their own right. The Betfair Hurdle is one of the most fiercely competitive handicaps of the season and has been won by top-class hurdlers like Persian War, Make A Stand and My Tent Or Yours. 

Europe’s most-valuable handicap hurdle has attracted some impressive entries this time. Improving Irish raider Filey Bay is expected to take on a strong field that could include recent winners Hacker Des Places, Monviel, No Ordinary Joe and Deere Mark. 

The Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders put their credentials to the test in the Grade 2 Betfair Denman Chase, while Greaneteen is expected to run in the Grade 2 Betfair Game Spirit Chase en route to the Champion Chase.

Midlands Trials

Warwick also plays host to a couple of important trials. Both races have excellent records of throwing up Cheltenham Festival winners. The Grade 2 Virgin Bet Kingmaker Novices’ was won last year by subsequent Arkle Trophy hero Edwardstone. 

In previous years, Voy Por Ustedes, Long Run and Finian’s Rainbow have all landed the two-mile chase. This year it has attracted top novice Jonbon, with Tommy’s Oscar and Haddex Des Obeaux also among the entries. 

The Virgin Bet Mares’ Hurdle also has a pedigree of prepping Cheltenham winners. Marie’s Rock won this race before going on to Festival glory last season and Glen’s Melody followed the same path eight years ago.

Huntingdon’s Big One

There will also be some Cheltenham clues at Huntingdon on Thursday. The Cambridgeshire track holds one of its big days, featuring the M1 Agency Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle. 

Shishkin won the near two-and-a-half mile contest three years ago before following up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival. This year, Rare Edition heads a small but select five-strong field as Charlie Longsdon’s runner attempts to push his Cheltenham claims. The race is named in honour of trainer Sidney Banks, who was based nearby and was chairman of the racecourse. His son Michael, a permit-trainer who saddled Clerk’s Choice to finish sixth behind Hurricane Fly in the 2011 Champion Hurdle, followed his father in becoming chairman at Huntingdon. He was also a much-respected steward. 

The Sidney Banks race – won in the past by Nick The Brief, French Holly and Time For Rupert – has an impressive roll of honour but it cannot match the illustrious former winner’s of Huntingdon’s biggest race of the year. The Peterborough Chase, run in early December, numbers Wayward Lad, One Man, Best Mate and Monet’s Garden among its former winners. Pic D’Orhy landed the Grade 2 prize this season.

Not all Cheltenham!

Although the week is dominated by Festival trials, it’s not all about Cheltenham hopefuls. Doncaster’s meeting on Thursday contains seven qualifiers for the ‘Go North’ and ‘Challenger’ series. If that’s not enough, Exeter’s Sunday card contains a Listed Mares’ Chase, won last year by popular grey Snow Leopardess, and Leg One of the Veteran’s Chase Series. Old or young, male or female, there is something for everyone on British racecourses this week