Wednesday, March 9, 2011
DEFENDING CHAMPION BINOCULAR HEADS BAKER’S DOZEN IN STAN JAMES CHAMPION HURDLE
- FENTON “VERY HAPPY” WITH DUNGUIB
The countdown to The Festival enters its final stages today with the unveiling of the six-day confirmations for Centenary Day, Tuesday, March 15.
Binocular, trained by Nicky Henderson, landed the £370,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle (3.20pm) in spectacular fashion 12 months ago and the J P McManus-owned seven-year-old is one of 13 six-day confirmations for this year’s renewal along with the runner-up from last year, Khyber Kim. Menorah and Peddlers Cross were the two leading novice hurdlers of last season and the pair are both undefeated this term, while the three remaining Irish-trained entries include Hurricane Fly, who has won seven Grade One contests in Ireland but has yet to line up at Cheltenham.
Dunguib started the red-hot 4/5 favourite for the Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2010 but could fare no better than third behind Menorah and subsequently was sixth to Hurricane Fly in a Grade One contest at Punchestown in April. This season, the eight-year-old has made one appearance, posting a comfortable three-and-a-half length success in a Grade Two contest at Gowran Park on February 19.
His trainer Philip Fenton reported today: “Dunguib is in good form. He did his last bit of strong work this morning and we are very happy with him.
“I am sure that he is improved since winning at Gowran Park but I am also well aware that he needs to if he is going to run well at Cheltenham.
“There is obviously less talk and hype about the horse compared to last year, but things are running smoothly and we are very happy with him at the moment.”
Oscar Whisky, who is also trained by Nicky Henderson, landed the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las last time out and if either he or Binocular were to prevail on Tuesday, it would hand the master of Seven Barrows a sixth Stan James Champion Hurdle victory and make him the most successful trainer in the race’s history (he currently shares the record of five winners with Peter Easterby).
Alan King also has two to choose from with recent Kingwell Hurdle victor Mille Chief and Salden Licht, while Peddlers Cross’ handler Donald McCain could also be represented by Overturn. Completing the six-day confirmations for the Stan James Champion Hurdle are Bygones Of Brid, Clerk’s Choice and last year’s Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle winner Thousand Stars.
There will be a mighty roar from the crowd when the tapes go up for the opening contest of The Festival, the £100,000 Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30pm) for which there are 23 entries going forward, headed by last year’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper hero Cue Card. Cue Card, who will be a “banker” for many punters, had previously also been entered in the Stan James Champion Hurdle but trainer Colin Tizzard has now left the five-year-old solely in the Stan James Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
A cracking race is in prospect for the £130,000 The Irish Independent Arkle Trophy Chase (2.05pm), the two-mile championship for novice chasers which has 13 horses going forward. Medermit is rated by trainer Alan King as his leading hope for The Festival and was successful in a Grade One contest at Sandown last time, when he had Captain Chris in second. Captain Chris subsequently captured a Grade Two contest at Kempton on February 26, while formidable opposition is also likely to come from the Paul Nicholls-trained Ghizao, triumphant in the Grade Two The Independent Newspaper Novices’ Chase at The Open in November and Nicky Henderson’s Finian’s Rainbow, a winner of his three starts over fences to date.
A maximum field of 24 looks guaranteed for the £75,000 Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase (2.40pm) for which 37 contenders go forward, including last season’s victor Chief Dan George, while the 2010 hero A New Story is one of 23 remaining in the £40,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase along with Garde Champetre, the victorious horse in 2008 and 2009.
Quevega remains on course for a third consecutive victory at The Festival as the Willie Mullins-trained mare is one of 19 going forward in the £70,000 David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle (4.40pm), a race she has landed for the past two years. Centenary Day draws to a close with another competitive handicap, the £50,000 Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase (5.15pm), for which 51 entries remain.
The going at Cheltenham on ALL COURSES (Old, New & Cross Country) is currently:
GOOD TO SOFT, GOOD IN PLACES
Simon Claisse, Cheltenham’s Clerk of the Course and Director of Racing, commented: “We have seen some light rain today and the forecast is for further light rain and showers up to Monday.
“The acceptors for Centenary Day look fantastic and we have an extremely high-class renewal of the Stan James Champion Hurdle in prospect.”
THE FESTIVAL - FACTS AND FIGURES
Around 220,000 spectators attend the four days of the Festival. With ticket prices ranging from £20 - £80, the estimated gate receipts will total around £7 million.
The Festival is a massively important betting event, and one that can fundamentally affect the annual profits of bookmakers. Indeed, so important is the Cheltenham Festival that in 2003 when favourites won half of the races at the meeting, The Festival was blamed by the major bookmaking firms for significantly lower than expected profits that year. Through their 8,862 betting shops, telephone betting and online operations, Britain’s bookmakers put a great emphasis on the 27 races that comprise The Festival.
This year, something approaching £600 million (over half a billion pounds) will be staked on the outcome of those 27 events. The Festival will also account for around 10% of the Tote’s annual on-course pool betting turnover (not bad for four days’ racing out of a fixture list consisting of well over 1,400 meetings), and at least a million pounds changes hands on each race in the betting ring at the racecourse, with over 250 bookmakers in attendance for each day of The Festival.
Racecourse caterers Catering at Cheltenham will serve over 20,000 bottles of champagne, 30,000 bottles of wine, 240,000 bottles of beer & lager, and 220,000 pints of Ireland’s national drink, Guinness, as well as 10,000 gallons of tea and coffee. Whilst around 12,000 people each day will sit down to three or four course lunches in the various restaurants and hospitality areas, the remainder of the crowd will eat into a pile of burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches, that if laid end to end, would stretch almost three miles.
When over 65,000 people converge on Cheltenham, as they will on totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup day, they’ll come in every form of transport you can imagine.
Race sponsors (and official airline to The Festival) Ryanair bring a vast throng of racegoers from Ireland, staging many additional flights to their normal schedule from Ireland to Birmingham, Bristol and East Midlands airports.
Train operators Cross Country Trains, First Great Western and Virgin Trains all run additional services throughout the week. On a local level, taxi firms do significantly more business in Festival week than in any other week of the year.
Typically, 30,000 cars, 2,000 coaches and 50 stretch limos bring people to the races and there will be up to 650 helicopter landings at the course during the meeting, making it the busiest temporary airfield anywhere in the country – and that includes Silverstone on British Grand Prix day.
Last, but by no means least, many people staying in town just walk to the racecourse - the best way to beat the traffic.
The racecourse is a place where a great deal of cash changes hands, whether in bars, the betting ring or with the Tote. With the exception of Tote vouchers that can be purchased on the day, no bookmaker will accept a debit card on the racecourse, so best to come with banknotes. In 2010, almost £1.4m was drawn from the 20 cashpoints around the site-refilling pockets, handbags and wallets before returning to the battle against the bookies.
Cheltenham Tourism estimates that around 10,000 beds each night are filled during Festival week, ranging from 4* accommodation to local B & Bs. And nightclubs and bars around Cheltenham all benefit from the uplift in the numbers in Cheltenham. Gloucestershire Tourism put the value of The Festival to the wider local economy at £50 million.
Being at the Festival is not just about the racing, mind. There are 80 stands selling everything from wellies to wine, silverware to Spanish property and books to binoculars. You could even treat yourself to a hand-made rocking horse. With hundreds of thousands of pounds sure to be changing hands at The Festival 2011, this is a four-day micro-economy in its own right.
A new totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup is minted each year. There is 10 ounces of gold in the trophy, which will make it worth around £9,000 in 2011.
Prize money at this year’s Festival just under £3.4 million, an amazing average of £125,000 per race. Around half of that total comes from our race sponsors. The totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup is more valuable than ever at £500,000.
Value of major races 2011
10. Goodbye Lord Vestey – The changing dynamics of The Festival since 1990
At the end of The Festival in 2011, Lord Vestey will retire from his role as chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse. His successor is Robert Waley-Cohen, a longstanding owner/breeder who will be represented in this year’s totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup by leading fancy Long Run.
Lord Vestey assumed the chairmanship at Cheltenham in 1990, and the following 21 years have seen some phenomenal changes at The Festival:
1990 2011 % Change
Number of days at The Festival 3 4 +33
Number of races 18 27 +50
Total Prize Money £942,772 £3,375,000 +258
Champion Hurdle Prize Money £85,000 £370,000 +335
Gold Cup Prize Money £115,000 £500,000 +335
Average Prize Money per race £52,376 £125,000 +139
Contribution from sponsors £257,000 £1,800,000 +600
Total number of spectators 147,728 219,263 (2010 figure) +48
Average number of spectators per day 49,243 54,816 +11
Total number of runners 322 489 (2010 figure) +52
Average number of runners per day 107 122 +14
11. 27 races at The Festival in 2011
2011 sees an increase to 27 races at The Festival with the new Jewson Novices’ Chase, a Grade Two contest over two and a half miles on Thursday. Jewson are not new sponsors at The Festival, having previously backed the novices’ handicap chase, which will be run as the Centenary Novices’ Chase in 2011.