A Look Forward To Horse Racing In 2020
If you’ve not already pencilled in the most important horse racing dates in 2020 into your diary, then here are the biggest and best meetings to looks forward to for both the jumps and the flat.
Matchbook Clarence House Chase Day – Ascot – Saturday 18 January
Punters can look forward to an exciting renewal of the Clarence House Chase, a Grade 1 run over 2 miles. The first three horses in the 2019 Tingle Creek Chase, Defi Du Seuil, Un De Sceaux, and Waiting Patiently are all set to renew rivalries. Defi Du Seul won last year’s Tingle Creek but, as he was beaten on his one previous visit to Ascot, the connections of course winners Un De Sceaux and Waiting Patiently will be hoping to take their revenge.
Festival Trials Day – Cheltenham – Saturday 25 January
Festival Trials Day is a meeting that tends to throw up plenty of Cheltenham Festival clues, and Frodon, Siruh Di Luc, and Paisley Park all won on this day last year before going on to success at the Cheltenham Festival. Paisley Park looks likely to return this year to try and win back-to-back Cleeve Hurdles. Meanwhile, the Cotswold Steeple Chase will be on the agenda of some Gold Cup hopefuls.
Contenders Day – Sandown – Saturday 1 February
The Contenders Hurdle is normally a race that Nicky Henderson targets with one of his Champion Hurdle hopefuls and it could be last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills that takes over from the injured Buveur D’Air this year. Henderson has said that his 5-year-old has taken a massive step forward since he was beaten on his seasonal debut, so he could be a good bet providing he’s not at prohibitive odds.
The Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase is also run on this card and we can only hope that this year’s renewal is as good as last year, when Defi Du Seuil beat Lostintranslation and Vinndication in a thriller.
The Dublin Racing Festival – Leopardstown – February 1-2
If you want to treat yourself to a new horse racing adventure in 2020, the two-day Dublin Racing Festival could be where to go. It’s certainly on my bucket list, and why wouldn’t it be with eight grade one races and €1.8 Million of prize money up for grabs. The highlights are the Irish Champion Hurdle in which Willie Mullins looks sure to field the likes of Saldier, Sharjah, and Klassical Dream. Reigning Champion Apple’s Jade may also be back having returned to form last time at Leopardstown.
Willie Mullins could also be represented in the other main highlight, the Irish Gold Cup. Kemboy could easily step up on his comeback run over Christmas, but he could face plenty of tough opposition including Delta Work.
The Dublin Festival will also showcase plenty of other top Irish horses that could make the journey across the Irish Sea for the Cheltenham Festival the following month. Notebook, Battleoverdoyen, and Envoi Allen are just three of the exciting novices that look sure to bid for more grade one success.
Betfair Super Saturday – Newbury – 8 February
There is also normally plenty of Cheltenham Festival clues on offer at Betfair Super Saturday, where Cheltenham Gold Cup winners such as Native River and Coneygree have warmed up for success in the Blue Riband by winning the Betfair Denman Steeple Chase.
Plenty of Champion Chase winners have also had their prep run in the Game Spirit Chase at this meeting, a race which will be known as the Betfair Exchange Steeple Chase this year.
There’s also the lucrative Betfair Hurdle Race, a two-mile handicap hurdle that will be have been on the target-list for many top trainers for a long time.
Grand National Trial Day – Haydock – Saturday 15 February
The 3 miles 4 furlongs Grand National Trial is the highlight of Haydock’s February Card and it’s been won by some old favourites including Master Oats and Sunny Bay. It’s a spectacular race in its own right but, ironically, it’s proven a terrible trial for the Grand National, with the winner rarely sighted in the big race at Aintree in April.
Kempton Park Chase Day – Kempton – Saturday 22 February
Plenty of trainers preserve the handicap marks of their potential Grand National challengers until this meeting, which traditionally falls after the weights for the Grand National have been announced. Some of those horses take in the 888Sport Handicap Chase (formerly the Racing Post Chase), but you need to go back to 1996 for the last winner to go on to win the Grand National who was… Rough Quest.
Cheltenham Festival (March 10, 11, 12, and 13)
March is all about the Cheltenham Festival. I can’t wait for the massive roar of the appreciative crowd as the tapes go up for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle to start the meeting.
The highlight on day one is the Champion Hurdle. The day two highlight is the Champion Chase, whilst the Stayer’s Hurdle takes the headlines on day three. However, those are only the warm-up for Friday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, the race every owner, trainer, and jockey dreams of winning.
There’s also plenty of alternative markets to get involved in such as the top Cheltenham Festival trainer and jockey markets. And don’t forget about the Prestbury Cup, the battle for bragging rights between the English and the Irish.
Grand National Meeting – Aintree – April 2, 3, and 4
There’s less than three weeks to wait from the end of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival to the start of the 2020 Grand National Meeting at Aintree. Many of the Cheltenham winners and also-rans will make their way to Aintree, whilst other contenders will come her fresh after missing Cheltenham.
Grade one races and Ladies Day are all highlights, but could 2020 be the year that Tiger Roll returns to Aintree to make history by equalling Red Rum’s success of three wins in the race? He’ll have to defy a big rating if he’s to do so this year, and he could face some serious opposition in the form of former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River and reigning Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint.
Fairyhouse Easter Festival – Fairyhouse – 11-13 April
If you can’t get the buzz of the Grand National out of your system, the good news is you’ll only have to wait until Easter Monday for the Irish Grand National. Willie Mullins broke his duck in the race last year and is sure to have a few lined-up for this year’s version, but so will many other trainers who are eager to plunder a tasty prize. This meeting also features many other excellent races over three days and is another near the top of the bucket list.
Scottish Grand National – Ayr – April 18
The Scottish Grand National Meeting starts on Friday 17 April, but the Scottish Grand National is run on the Saturday. Nominating contenders at this early stage isn’t easy, but don’t be afraid to have a punt on a lightly weighted outsider as these types of horses have won plenty of Scottish Nationals.
Bet365 Jumps Finale – Sandown – April 25
The Bet365 Gold Cup is the biggest attraction at the meeting that traditionally now brings the English jumps season to a close. Plenty of horses that have fluffed their lines on either the English or Scottish Nationals will turn up for this marathon test over 3 miles and 5 furlongs, but it’s often won by a horse that has been specifically targeted at the race.
Punchestown Festival – Punchestown – April 28 – May 2
The English jumps season may close on April 25, but there’s one massive hurrah to go in the shape of the Punchestown Festival. The meeting tends to be dominated by Irish trainers, especially Willie Mullins, but it’s full of thrills and spills.
Many form-lines from Cheltenham and Aintree are turned on their heads at this right-handed track, so make a few notes about horses that go well this way round that may have flopped at the other big spring festivals. Real Steel is one that bounced back to form here last year, so watch out for him on his return to the meeting this year.
Qipco Guineas Meeting – Newmarket – May 2-3
The flat season has already been on the go for about six weeks at this point, so keep an eye on some of the trials in the build-up to this meeting where the first two classics of the season are run. The 2,000 Guineas takes place on the Saturday, and star two-year-old Pinatubo will reportedly head here without a prep run.
There are plenty of challengers in the shape of French horse Earthlight and the Irish-trained Siskin. Meanwhile, one of the legions of beautifully bred Aidan O’Brien-trained horses is sure to make giant strides from two to three.
The 1,000 Guineas takes place on the Sunday and it will be interesting to see which of the three-year-old fillies comes out on top. Quadrilateral is the ante-post favourite and this daughter of Frankel looked impressive when winning on the Rowley Mile last year.
Tattersalls Irish Guineas Festival – Curragh – May 24-25
The Irish Guineas Festival is very similar to the Qipco Guineas Meeting at Newmarket, with the Irish 2,000 Guineas taking place on the Saturday and the Irish 1,000 Guineas taking place on the Sunday. Aidan O’Brien has surrendered his stranglehold on these races in recent years but has still won two of the last five editions of each.
Oaks & Derby Meeting – Epsom – June 5-6
These are the two flat races that most owners want to win. The Epsom Oaks takes place on Friday on Investec Ladies’ Day and Quadrilateral also heads this ante-post market. However, there’s been plenty of shrewd money around for Domino Darling, a daughter of the former Derby-winner Golden Horn.
The Investec Derby takes place on the Saturday and Pinatubo also heads the early markets. He looks sure to shorten if winning the 2,000 Guineas, but will he have the stamina for this 1 mile 4 furlongs test? Many breeding analysts think he won’t, but Godolphin have two other interesting contenders in Military March and Al Suhail.
Royal Ascot – Ascot – 16-20 June
If the Derby Meeting is for the purist, then Royal Ascot is about the razzmatazz and social mingling, as well as some seriously good horse racing. It’s five days of pure extravagance, from the multitude of champagne that gets drunk to the champagne performances on the track.
This is not an occasion to miss, whether you’re lucky enough to attend in person or simply intend to enjoy it from the comfort of your armchair.
Irish Derby – Curragh – June 26
The social jetsetters don’t have to wait long for their next taste of top-class flat action, with the Irish Derby often offering a rematch from some of the main protagonists from Epsom. But watch out for Aidan O’Brien outsiders, as he often wins this race with one of his more less fancied runners.
Irish Oaks – Curragh – July 18
The fact the Irish Oaks is run much later than the Irish Derby means that runners from Royal Ascot come much more into the equation having had much longer to recover from their exertions. That often makes this race more competitive in years where there is no standout performer like Enable.
Qipco Goodwood Festival – Goodwood – July 28 – Aug 1
This is simply another thrilling five days of horse racing action, and bumper crowds flock to what is considered the second biggest social gathering in the world of horse racing. There are plenty of highlights, with the biggest being the Group 1 Sussex Stakes which has been won by Frankel and many other top milers over the years. Many racegoers still refer to this meeting as Glorious Goodwood.
Yorkshire Ebor Festival – York – August 19-22
York’s Ebor Festival is the highlight of the northern horse racing scene, and York Racecourse is considered the second-best flat racing racecourse in Britain behind Ascot. The best horses from all areas of the country come and do battle in top races such as the Juddmonte International and Yorkshire Oaks, whilst the Ebor is Europe’s richest handicap.
St Leger Festival – Doncaster – September 9-12
The fifth and final English Classic takes place on Saturday 12 September, and it’s always worth keeping an eye out for potential challengers from the John Gosden yard.
Longines Irish Champions Weekend – Curragh – September 13
This card hosts the Irish St Leger, as well as other Groups 1s including the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five, Moyglare Stud Stakes, and the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes.
2020/21 National Hunt Season
There may seem a myriad of amazing race meetings to enjoy before the 2020/21 national Hunt Season takes place, but here are few more important dates you might want to put in your diary.
BetVictor Gold Cup – Cheltenham – November 14
The BetVictor Gold Cup is the highlight of this three-day meeting and it falls on the middle of the three days. Sunday is also a big day with the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle Taking Place.
Ladbrokes Winter Carnival – Newbury – November 27-28
This wonderful two-day meeting often throws up plenty of useful horses but is most famous for the Ladbrokes Trophy, a handicap that was formerly known as the Hennessy.
Tingle Creek Day – Sandown – December 5
The Tingle Creek Chase is often the first chance to see the top two-mile chasers in action and is often a thrilling spectacle over the stiff Sandown fences.
King George Chase – Kempton – Boxing Day
The King George Chase is always a thrill on Boxing Day and it’s always exciting to consider which of this season’s top novice chasers may be taking on the established horses come Christmas.