Meeting - The Showcase, Cheltenham Racecourse
Dates - Friday, October 19 & Saturday, October 20
First race - 2.20pm (both days)
Admission prices - Club & Tattersalls combined - £20 a day (£15 aged 16 to 24); advance booking £18 or £34 for both days. Best Mate - £8 a day ; advance booking £14 for both days. Accompanied children under 16 admitted FREE to all enclosures. FREE car parking.
Cheltenham Racecourse opens its doors for the 2007/2008 jumps season with the new two-day Showcase meeting, which involves much boosted prize money and a move to the weekend.
The Showcase, staged on Friday, October 19, and Saturday, October 20, offers total prize money of £233,000, a tremendous £72,500 increase over 12 months ago.
The highlight is the extended two and a half mile Pyments Quantity Surveyor Handicap Chase (3.25pm) on the second day, which boasts prize money of £50,000 and is designed to whet the appetite for the £120,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday, November 17, which forms the focal point of The Open (November 16, 17 & 18)
David Pipe has saddled six winners at Cheltenham, including Gaspara at The Festival, since he took over the licence at the famous Pond House Stables on the Somerset/Devon border from his father Martin Pipe for the 2006/2007 campaign.
Pipe has enjoyed a good start to his second season at the helm as he sits third in the trainers’ table with 34 winners already on the board and he is eager to add to his Cheltenham tally.
The Nicholashayne handler said today: “I am looking forward to starting off again at Cheltenham. Everyone wants to win there and we are no different so we will have a look in the next week at what we have and pencil in some runners for the first meeting, The Showcase.
“Any winner at Cheltenham is great, so the aim this year is to have as many winners as possible there.”
Pipe believes that the revamped Pyments Quantity Surveyor Handicap Chase is a positive move by the racecourse as a potential stepping-stone to the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
“The race certainly comes into the equation, coming less than a month before the big meeting in November, The Open, and gives trainers the option of getting course and distance experience into their horses ahead of time.
“It is good that they have made the first meeting more of an event with the move to Friday and Saturday and increased prize money. Trainers and owners are always happy when prize money goes up.”
Evan Williams, fourth in the championship table with 27 successes, is a trainer to watch at Cheltenham’s initial meeting and he is intending to field a typically strong team.
“There are valuable handicaps at the meeting that we will consider and we will look at the £50,000 chase for Gan Eagla.
“There is also a two mile, five furlong handicap hurdle (the opening Wateraid/Severn Trent Water Handicap Hurdle at 2.20pm) also on the Saturday and we may have one or two eligible for that.”
Gan Eagla, an eight-year-old bred by top Irish Flat trainer Jim Bolger, made all to win a Hereford novice chase in May and has been second twice since.
An exciting feature of the opening day (Friday, October 19) is the £22,000 Jewson Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final (3.30pm) over an extended two miles, which is the culmination of a summer-long series for novice hurdlers, and Williams is looking to mount a strong challenge with Deep Purple and Danehill Willy.
Deep Purple is unbeaten in two starts over hurdles and landed the series qualifier at Stratford on May 25 before easily collecting another contest at Newton Abbott in June, while Danehill Willy captured a brace of series qualifiers at Wincanton on May 1 and Uttoxeter on June 7.
Williams revealed today: “They are both being aimed at the Jewson Final and we will look closer to the time before making a final decision as to which of them runs, but that has certainly been the plan since they won their qualifiers.
“Deep Purple is unbeaten and Danehill Willy is a horse who very much needed his first run over hurdles and was then quite impressive last time. It makes sense to go to the final because it is such a good prize.
“We thought they would both appreciate a bit of summer grass and a freshen up and are now bring them back with the Jewson Final as the first target this autumn.”
Williams saddled Backstage to victory in the £12,500 Tiger Developments Novices’ Chase (2.55pm, Friday, October 19) in 2006 and the Welsh trainer is eyeing a repeat result with smart young chaser Enlightenment in the two-mile contest.
The lightly-raced seven-year-old returned from a rest to make a pleasing winning debut over fences in an extended two-mile, one furlong novice event at Stratford on September 9, drawing three lengths clear of Tessanora.
Williams reported: “Enlightenment will be entered in the two-mile Tiger Developments Novices’ Chase on the Friday. There is a three-mile novices’ chase on the Saturday but I think I prefer to keep him at two miles for the time being and build up quietly from there.
“He won a point-to-point in Ireland and he is by Presenting which suggests that he will be a three-miler in time, but he has a lot of pace.
“He is a delicate horse. He is big and quite light-framed so I do not want to do too much too soon with him.
“I was pleased with his last run at Stratford - he did it with a little bit in hand. I will run him quite sparingly but when we get close to those big targets in the spring I will then probably step him up in trip.”
The feature event on day one is the £30,000 Showcase Handicap Chase (4.05pm) over an extended three miles. Both days have seven races.
The Showcase is so named because the meeting is designed to involve racegoers in the wider aspects of the sport.
Hurdlers’ Hall, near the paddock, will be transformed into an exhibition of every conceivable aspect of Jump racing - including breeding, owning, training and caring for horses.
There will be a chance for racegoers to try their skill as a commentator, weigh in like a jockey and be part of a stewards’ enquiry.
Throughout each afternoon, a trail around the course will encourage racegoers to go to places that are normally off-limits, such as watching a race from a private box, going to the start, having the chance to judge the best-turned out horse and making a presentation.
Cheltenham will show Premiership football on certain televisions at the course on Saturday, October 20. The Everton versus Liverpool game can be watched from 12.45pm in the Istabraq Bar in Tattersalls and the Desert Orchid Bar in the Best Mate enclosure.
The Aston Villa v Manchester United match will be shown from 5.15pm on the big screen in the Centaur, working around the last race (5.45pm), and continuing until it finishes at 7pm.