Racing week: Cheltenham loses top sponsor

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  • A bad week for . . .

    Cheltenham racecourse, which has lost the backing of bonusprint.com for its £110,000 Gold Cup in December. The race has been sponsored by George Ward’s Grunwick Group since 1992 and has also been known as the Tripleprint Gold Cup during that time. Cheltenham is now looking for a new sponsor for this high-profile handicap chase over two miles and five furlongs, whose previous winners include Addington Boy and Legal Right.

    But a good week for . . .

    All-weather racing. With the BHB’s co-operation, the three domestic tracks could rise to seven by next autumn. Newbury and Kempton, currently installing all-weather circuits, are to apply for fixtures for 2006, while the Great Leighs track has now been guaranteed a minimum of nine fixtures in 2006. Meanwhile, Sedgefield, planning to add an all-weather track to its jumps circuit, could also be in the running when bidding begins next month.

    Also a bad week for . . .

    Mick Fitzgerald, who had to defend himself against accusations that he punched a mount. A racegoer at Uttoxeter claimed he saw the Grand National-winning jockey strike The Bushkeeper and reported him to the RSPCA. Fitzgerald denied any wrongdoing and had the sympathy of many about the incident. With a kick mark on his breeches, he claimed he was, in fact, the injured party.

    Over the water

    The head quarters of jump racing in France, Auteuil, is to host a 2million euro (£1,363,640) two-day international jumping festival on 5-6 November. The course hopes to attract the best runners from Britain and Ireland. Four Group 1 races will be held over the two days with a three-mile champion hurdle on Saturday and France’s equivalent of the King George VI Chase on the Sunday.


    “I think we may have to find some money” — David Thorpe, chairman of the Racecourse Association, on the possibility that tracks could have to subsidise Channel 4’s racing coverage, which reputedly leaves a hole of £9 million in the station’s accounts, or lose the broadcaster’s extensive TV coverage of the sport. The Levy Board has confirmed that competition law would not allow it to any make payments to Channel 4 to help broker a deal. Many of Britain’s biggest racecourses are already in discussions with the BBC and ITV about coverage of top races in case Channel 4 does pull out.

    Earthmover retires

    Earthmover, who made history by twice winning the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham with a six-year gap between his two victories, has been retired. The 14-year-old’s last race was at Cheltenham last month when he finished third. A success point-to-pointer, Earthmover won his first Cheltenham Foxhunter in 1998. During his career he won 19 races under Rules, with wins over hurdles as well as fences, and earned £188,765 in prize money.

    University racing links

    Oxford Brookes University has forged closer links with the horse racing industry, through a partnership with Northern Racing. For five years, the top students on its equine science course will receive a cash prize and a pair of annual admission badges to one of Northern Racing’s nine tracks. Northern Racing will also accept students from the equestrian degree course on a one-year placement at one of its racecourses.

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