Thursday 11 March 2021

Kauto Star versus Denman

Sadly, Kauto Star and Denman are no longer with us, having shuffled off their mortal coils in 2015 and 2018, respectively. However, both horses achieved iconic status and their head-to-head rivalry, particularly in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, will live long in the memory of National Hunt racing fans. According to Timeform, Kauto Star was rated 8lb superior to Denman, but what might have happened if the latter had remained healthy throughout his career is a matter for conjecture.

Direct contemporaries, born within a month of each other at the turn of the twenty-first century, albeit in France and Ireland, respectively, Kauto Star and Denman became stable companions at Paul Nicholls' Manor Farm Stables in Ditcheat, Somerset. Collectively, they ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup times and against each other on four occasions, in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

In the absence of Denman, who had stormed home to a 10-length victory in the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase 48 hours earlier, Kauto Star ran in, and won, the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the first time in 2007. Sent off favourite, at 5/4, Kauto Star quickened to lead at the second-last fence and stayed on strongly in the closing stages to beat Exotic Dancer by 2½ lengths.

The following year, 2008, both horses arrived at the Cheltenham Festival in peak form. Defending champion Kauto Star was once again sent off favourite, but had no answer to Denman, who went clear approaching the third-last fence and was driven out to win by 7 lengths. Denman subsequently received treatment for an irregular heartbeat, which delayed his return to action until February, 2009, and it would be fair to say that he was never quite the same horse again.

Nevertheless, Kauto Star and Denman reopposed in the 2009 Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Kauto Star running out an impressive 13-length winner and, in so doing, becoming the first horse in history to regain his title. They did so again in 2010, with Kauto Star falling at the fourth-last and Denman finishing a tired, 7-length second to Imperial Commander, and again, as 11-year-olds, in 2011. On the latter occasion, Denman once again fared the better of the pair, but proved no match for the 6-year-old Long Run, who stayed on strongly to win by 7 lengths.

Tuesday 2 March 2021

ITV Showing Six Live Races Every Day of 2021 Cheltenham Festival


More of the Cheltenham Festival than ever before will be broadcast on terrestrial television in the UK this year with ITV Racing showing six out of the seven races per day live as part of their coverage.

Cheltenham is the biggest horse racing meeting over jumps anywhere in the world. The 2021 Festival takes place from Tuesday, 16 March through until Friday, 19 March.

As part of ITV Racing’s broadcast schedule, traditional race times are expected to be brought forward by ten minutes and intervals between them reduced by five. As Cheltenham takes place behind closed doors this year, permission has been granted by those owning media rights to the Festival to show all but one race each day.

This increases the mainstream attention it shall receive. Here’s a brief summary of what you can expect day by day at the Cheltenham Festival.

Champion Hurdle day

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle sees Appreciate It tackle a speedier type in Metier, with Shishkin out to follow-up on previous Festival success in the Arkle for novice chasers. After the first of many wide-open Cheltenham handicaps in the Ultima over fences, the Champion Hurdle takes centre stage.

Goshen is out to make amends for unseating Jamie Moore at the final flight when he was cruising to victory in the Triumph Hurdle last year. However, the youngster faces two mighty mares in the 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante and fellow Festival winner Honeysuckle.

The Mares’ Hurdle will be less competitive as a result, but Concertista and Roksana are former Cheltenham winners taking part. ITV’s last race on Champion Hurdle day will be the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

Ladies Day

In a cracking Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, three Grade 1 winners are set to do battle in Bob Olinger, Bravemansgame and Gaillard Du Mesnil. The Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, meanwhile, sees Monkfish out to continue his fine form after winning the Albert Bartlett last year and stepping up on that over fences.

Following a typically wide-open Coral Cup is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Ladies Day was all the poorer for Chacun Pour Soi and Festival veteran Altior missing the race 12 months ago. Tiger Roll takes to the Cross Country course for what could be the final time too with the Grand Annual Chase rounding off ITV coverage.

St Patrick’s Thursday

Everyone’s idea of a Cheltenham banker, Envoi Allen, kicks things off in the Marsh Novices’ Chase on the penultimate day of Cheltenham. Following the Pertemps Final that brings a series of staying handicap hurdles throughout the British Isles to an end is the Ryanair Chase.

Willie Mullins has a strong hand for this, including Allaho and last year’s winner Min among others. The Stayers’ Hurdle sees Paisley Park looking to cement his comeback after flopping at the Festival 12 months ago.

In the Paddy Power Plate and Dawn Run for mares that are novices over hurdles, there are two open races from a betting perspective that round off St Patrick’s Thursday on ITV.

Gold Cup Day

Finally, Cheltenham Gold Cup day kicks off with the Triumph Hurdle – a division in which Gordon Elliott has a strong string. Many tips for the County Handicap Hurdle include Betfair Hurdle scorer Soaring Glory, although he could run in the Supreme earlier on during the week.

The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is another open contest, with the Gold Cup itself all about Al Boum Photo bidding for his hat-trick. New dangers have emerged, including previous Festival winners A Plus Tard and Champ, plus the rapidly progressing novice Royale Pagaille.

Before ITV Racing brings the curtain down on their Cheltenham coverage, there is the Hunter Chase and the meeting’s newest race. A Mares’ Chase, for which Elimay is favourite, completes what promises to be a fantastic Festival which you can witness live on TV.