The Cheltenham Gold Cup has received a boost with a record number of entries for this year’s race, despite many of the top contenders being absent from the field.

A new champion will definitely be crowned at this year’s Cheltenham Festival following the sad loss of Best Mate, while last year’s Gold Cup winner Kicking King has been ruled out due to an injury.

Beef or Salmon and Kingscliff are currently favourites for the prestigious title among the 64 horses entered for the Festival’s chasing highlight.

Martin Pipe has five entries including Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Our Vic and 2004 Hennessy Gold Cup champion Celestial Gold.

Other names worthy of note include: Take The Stand, who was second behind Kicking King in last year’s race; Monkerhostin, who ran well in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day; Impek, from Henrietta Knight’s famous stable; Hedgehunter, winner of the 2005 Grand National and Coral Welsh National winner Silver Birch.

France embraces female jockeys

Female jockeys are to have their own series of flat races in France in an attempt to provide members of the fairer sex with more race-riding opportunities. Three races per month from the existing programme at tracks in Paris will be reserved for professional female jockeys under the new initiative. There are also plans for a championship and a high profile feature race during the summer. The series is open to jockeys from around the world and gets underway at Longchamp on 23 March.

Racing breaks records

British racing broke records once again last season with more than 14,500 horses in training (up 3.2%), more than 94,500 runners (up 2%) and 1,300 fixtures staged. Total prize money fell just short of the previous season’s +£100m mark at £99.3m. Race day attendances was just under 6m, but this may be in part due to the temporary closure of Ascot racecourse.

BHB chief executive Greg Nichols said: “British Racing has never been more popular — it is second only to football in spectator numbers and television viewers.”

Kentucky Derby on UK TV

British racing enthusiasts can look forward to watching action from top races in America, such as the Kentucky Derby, on digital subscription TV channel Racing UK. The coverage will initially be transmitted as a programme called Racing World on the Racing UK channel, although there are plans for it to become a channel in its own right later in the year.

Starting trouble

Horses that play up when being loaded into the starting stalls will be given less leeway under the Jockey Club’s new start procedures. In an attempt to reduce delays at the start of races the new initiative will give horses only two attempts to be loaded into the stalls. The order that horses are loaded into the stalls has also been changed to a drawn order to try to speed up the process.

Football friendly moves for Derby

England’s World Cup warm-up match against Jamaica on 3 June will kick off an hour earlier than originally scheduled to avoid a clash with the Epsom Derby. The match had originally been due to get underway at 3pm with the Derby at 4.20pm, but the Football Association has agreed to move kick off to 2pm so enthusiasts can watch both events live on TV.


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