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International Racing News


Unequalled Class Set For Cheltenham

Mar 5 2012

The depth of hurdle racing and steeplechasing of the March festival has to be seen to be appreciated over the remarkable four-day carnival of jumps racing. The quality of the horses in general, the speed they show on the flat and the confidence they display as they effortlessly take the jumps is something to watch.

Cheltenham’s class is obvious by just quickly glancing the program – three Grade 1 races on Day 1, four on Day 2, two on Day 3 and a Grade 1 treble including the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Day 4.

This year’s Cheltenham Festival – run from Tuesday, March 13, through Friday, March 16 – has attracted an enormously talented list of entries yet again...

On Day 1, the Champion Hurdle pits emerging superstar Hurricane Fly against proven champion Binocular and the brilliant Zarkander. The fact class jumpers Rock On Ruby and Oscars Well are expected to start long double figure odds gives an indication of the depth.

On Day 2, the Queen Mother Champion Chase is without retired great and dual winner Master Minded this year but a new breed of champion “short-course” steeplechaser has stepped up to fill the void – last year’s winner Sizing Europe, 2010 winner Big Zeb and Finian’s Rainbow among them.

On Day 3, the greatest hurdler in the world looks to make it four consecutive World Hurdles as he strives to win 16 races in a row. Big Buck’s will be a prohibitive favourite, even though class jumpers Oscar Whisky and Thousand Stars are set to line up.

On Day 4, Festival culminates in a showdown for the ages as defending champion Long Run comes up against jumping ageing immortal Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The two champions are in outstanding form but the Gold Cup is never that simple and this year the field runs particularly deep with in-form jumpers Burton Port, Grans Cruz, Synchronised, Midnight Chase and Quel Esprit.

Shane McNally


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