A preview of March’s UK Horse Racing

The four-day Cheltenham Festival dominates the March programme, however there’s conjointly a busy programme of racing throughout the month including the ever-widespread Imperial Cup day at Sandown and the thrills and spills of the Midlands Grand National day at Uttoxeter. Flat fans, meanwhile, will would like no reminding {that the} new turf season kicks off with the William Hill Lincoln at Redcar on March 25.

March begins with the newly-established Vodafone Gold Cup at Newbury on the fourth over two and a [*fr1] miles. It’s one thing of a surprise to find such a valuable race staged thus shut to the Cheltenham Pageant, and many trainers face the dilemma of deciding whether to run here or in either the Ryanair Chase or Racing Post Plate over similar distances at the Cheltenham Festival.

Twelve months ago a solid handicapper in the shape of Supreme Prince stayed to land the dear prize whereas in its inaugural year, the classy Isio was a well-backed winner. Absent since that season, Nicky Henderson’s gelding may well reappear in this race and would be an attention-grabbing contender.

On the same day Doncaster’s Grimthorpe Chase, a staying handicap over three and 1 / 4 miles, has been transferred to Lingfield and could otherwise be the chosen target of A Glass In Thyne, who won the Skybet Chase that had also been switched from Doncaster to Southwell in January. Perhaps the changing fixture pattern can repeat itself once more for Ben Pollock’s improving young chaser.

Champion trainer Martin Pipe has endured a stop-start season but masses of punters can still be scouring the list of runners for the Imperial Cup at Sandown on March eleven within the hope of unearthing another Pipe hotpot for one in every of the season’s most keenly-contested handicap hurdles.

Pipe has won the race 5 times overall and has landed the prize three times in recent seasons. His mass of entries should be studied with the utmost care and might well include progressive types like Buena Vista, Acambo and Desert Air.

The punishing combination of a fiercely-run race and a stamina-sapping finish up the demanding Sandown hill has often meant that lightly-weighted horses have held an advantage over their higher-weighted rivals, while waiting tactics have conjointly proved successful for many of the recent winners. Creating all during a race as competitive as this isn’t easy.

The Irish won this race with shock outsider Regency Rake, trained by Arthur Moore in 1999, and any runners from across the Irish Ocean should be accorded the greatest respect. Jessica Harrington’s Studmaster, an straightforward winner of his last two races might absorb this contest or anticipate the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

On the same day at Sandown make a note additionally of the EBF Novices’ Hurdle Final, a race that usually produces a star of the future. Masses of stylish young hurdlers can have this contest in their sights together with the Lambourn-trained pair Mr Pointment, and Wogan while the NickGifford team intends to field Dusky Lord.

In recent years the Irish have held the Champion Hurdle on March 14, the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, in a vice-like grip, winning five of the last seven renewals and wanting at the somewhat weakened field for this year’s renewal it’s arduous to not envisage the hurdling crown being whisked away once more across the Irish Sea.

Reigning title-holders boast a superb record within the Champion, but recent twin winner Hardy Eustace will have to banish a bout of the blues on his latest and disappointing effort in the AIG Europe Champion Hurdle at Leopradstown. At the age of nine many assume his time could have passed.

Masses of horses that are placed within the race previously have place that beneficial expertise to good use by returning once more the following year to run well. Ireland’s formidable trio of Brave Inca, Macs Joy and Al Eile, who finished third, fifth and seventh respectively in last year’s race will all be fancying their possibilities of winning this race a second time around.

The house-based mostly challenge appearance poor and has been hit laborious by a spate of cruel injuries yet as the loss of kind of rising contenders like Faasel and Penzance. Maybe the most effective of the British will be Arcalis, whose chances will be much increased by quick ground at Cheltenham, and a return to create for his stable.

Wednesday sees the two-mile heavyweights clash in the stirring championship that is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Predicting this year’s winner revolves around whether or not punters suppose twin winner and reigning champion Moscow Flyer is just a jaded member of the recent guard ready to be over excited by young pretenders like the stylish Kauto Star and the improving Fota Island.

Disappointing on his two starts thus way this season, the mighty Moscow Flyer is twelve years old and you’ve got to travel back almost thirty years (1977) to seek out the last winner from that age group.

Kauto Star, by contrast, has youth on his aspect and hails from the Paul Nicholls stable that has the best recent record in this race with winners in 2004 and 1999, and four placed horses since 2000. Kauto Star may be a worthy favourite to feature to that auspicious tally.

Thursday’s championship race is that the World Hurdle, formerly known as the Stayers’ Hurdle and rather like the Queen Mother Champion Chase, it features a past champion in Baracouda attempting to add a 3rd title at the age of eleven in what should rank a 1 of the foremost open renewals in living memory.

Except for the foot-and-mouth abandonment of 2001, Baracouda would already have 3 Stayers’ titles to his name however his task this year is made even tougher by his advancing years and the presence of a robust domestic and Irish challenge from Mighty Man, No Refuge, Asian Maze and Golden Cross.

Friday March 17 is Cheltenham Gold Cup day and after the good dominance of the chasing blue riband by three times victor Best Mate, this year’s renewal is one in all the poorest and conjointly most open in years and possible to supply a surprise result in this greatly-anticipated championship event.

The loss through injury of Kicking King, last year’s straightforward winner, has left the race wide-open however several backers can be wanting to Monkerhostin, runner-up to the imperious Kicking King within the 2005 King George VI Chase, as a  doable winner. Seven of the last ten Gold Cup winners ran in the King George, making it a key trial for future Gold Cup heroes.

Cheltenham week closes with the Midlands Grand National day on March 18 and Ossmoses, a course winner last year, can be a number one fancy for the four-mile one-and-a-0.5 furlong prize given his preference for running over long-distances within the mud. On the identical card backers should watch out for Sue Smith’s robust mare Viciana within the EBF Mares’ Novices’ Chase Final.

March closes with the William Hill Lincoln run for the primary time at Redcar (due to building work at Doncaster) and the draw is certain to own a massive say in the outcome of this one-mile handicap, and the first huge prize of the new turf Flat season.

Twelve months ago Newmarket trainer Sir Michael Stoute won this contest for the primary time with Stream of Gold and bids to do the identical again with the progressive King’s Majesty whereas James Fanshawe can be trying for straightforward ground if he’s to run Cesare, another young and improving horse.

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