Dust off your tweed outfits — jump racing is back and in full swing. Here's what not to miss, where to go and who to watch...
1. The return of last season’s stars
This season sees the return of plenty of exciting horses that were in the spotlight last year. Coneygree, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup as a novice in March, is making his first appearance of the season at Sandown Park on Sunday (8 November). The Grand National-winning gelding Many Clouds, who also took the Hennessy Gold Cup, is back and will be aimed again at this year’s National. Meanwhile dual King George VI victor Silviniaco Conti — who will be aiming at a third win in December — made his seasonal debut last week, finishing second at Wetherby.
2. The arrival of fresh talent
With the arrival of a new season comes the emergence of fresh talent. Keep an eye on trainers Ben Pauling and Harry Whittington — two new trainers going from strength-to-strength. Former assistant to Paul Nicholls, Dan Skelton has now fully established himself as a trainer and has serious horsepower for this season. Champion trainer Paul has also tipped his new conditional jockey Harry Cobden as a rider to keep an eye on this season.
With around 120 horses in residence at Manor Farm Stables in Somerset, it’s a 24-7 job for Champion National Hunt
3…. And new equine talent too
We mustn’t forget the equine prospects too — the Ben Pauling-trained Barters Hill won all four bumper starts last season. “He jumps like a stag and appears to have more gears than last year,” said the trainer. Keep your eye on mud-loving Broadway Buffalo, who is trained by David Pipe — he is a potential Grand National horse.
In H&H’s recent National Hunt special issue (5 November) guest editor Paul Nicholls flagged up a future stable star, Aux Ptits Soins. The grey gelding has overcome problems to flourish for Paul and owner John Hales.
4. Must-see meetings
The racing calendar is packed full of days offering thrilling jump racing action not to be missed — Cheltenham’s The Open meeting (13-15 November) kick starts the flurry of big weekends.
Newbury hosts the popular Hennessy Gold Cup during their bet365 Festival (26-28 November), while racing on Boxing Day is the highlight of Christmas for any racing fan — the King George VI Gold Cup returns to Kempton Park on 26 December. The must-sees in the new year are, of course, the Cheltenham Festival (15-18 March) where the country’s top National Hunt horses will battle it out. Or why not witness the most famous horse race in the world — the Grand National — at Aintree (9 April).
5. Redeveloped Cheltenham
Talking of Cheltenham — the home of National Hunt racing has invested in a £45m redevelopment, including a five-and-a-half-storey grandstand for fans to enjoy. The new building will be officially opened by Princess Anne on 13 November.
6. Wave goodbye to fascinators
Wrap up in style — no fascinators or stilettos here (well, unless you’re attending the Grand National meeting). Going jump racing this season provides the perfect excuse to don the tweed or maybe some faux fur?
7. AP on Channel 4 Racing
8. Family fun
Love going racing but not sure what to do with your children? Most racecourses now provide fun family racedays — fairs, pony rides and facepainting — so the younger racegoers are never missing out. If you are yet to get into the festive spirit, don’t miss Sandown Park’s Tingle Creek Festival (5 December) — with its Christmas themes, mince pies and mulled wine you’ll leave feeling festive for sure.
9. The ideal Christmas present
With the countdown to Christmas underway, you may already be thinking of present ideas — have a look at the Injured Jockeys Fund’s new collection of gifts on sale. Perfect presents or stocking fillers and all for a great cause. Also, with some great packages available, tickets to the races will go down a treat.
Don’t miss this week’s National Hunt special of Horse & Hound magazine, guest edited by Paul Nicholls (5 November)