New Jumps Season

jump “My name is The Beast and I am addicted to racing.”

Well they say confession is good for the soul and I do love my racing. To say I love all racing would, perhaps, be an exaggeration, but I like most racing.

What I cannot stand is the silly harness racing or trotting that seems especially prevalent in the Francophone world. First of all, the horses look downright silly prancing about like goodness knows what. Also with it being so easy for a horse to be disqualified by breaking its step, the scope for race fixing makes any allegations in this country pale into insignificance.

I am starting to become more tolerant of all weather racing. I am not particularly impressed with it as a spectacle, nor at its general quality, although this is now starting to improve. Its one redeeming feature is the form does tend to stand up better than on turf, mainly because of the similarities between the courses and consistency of the going, therefore as a profitable betting medium it is redeemed, but only just.

That leaves us with the racing on turf. I am of an age when I can recall there being two distinct racing seasons, flat and National Hunt. There was a slight overlap of the two codes in the spring and autumn but on the whole you knew where you were.

For me the turf flat season keeps the racing passion ticking over. I enjoy flat racing but it rarely gets my pulse racing in the same was a good national hunt race does.

For me the jumps season still ends at Sandown late April / early May, then slowly ticks over until a brief false start at Chepstow early October followed by the real thing at the first Cheltenham meeting. Then the season is off and running, peaking with the three big festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown then winding down again towards Sandown.

This weekend sees the first meeting of the season at Cheltenham, the meeting where the big trainers start campaigning their stars. One thing I like about jump racing is the equine stars are around for a long time, returning year after year. There is a durability, unlike the flat where, nowadays especially, one good season means being shipped off to stud and never seen again.

Immediately after the Open meeting, Kempton redeems itself from its all weather sell out by staging their first jump meeting of the season. The following weekend Aintree takes centre stage and next Sunday has Kauto Star’s seasonal reappearance pencilled in – I will be there for that one.

As I write this, one day before the open meeting, I feel like a child on Christmas Eve, knowing Santa is on his way with a sack full of goodies, but not knowing what those goodies are going to be.

Tomorrow as I drive to Cheltenham I will be pondering. Will Kauto Star carry on from where he left off last season and will he ever jump a last fence without inducing a coronary on those watching? Which Black Jack Ketchum will turn up this year? Is Denman the next super horse? Will Voy Por Ustedes end up being my Cheltenham banker for the third year running?  

All these and many other questions will be answered in the coming weeks and months and I cannot wait – bring it on.

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