The thrill of top class jump racing action will be on view for all to savour at Exeter Racecourse next Tuesday when it stages its premier meeting of the season.
It’s a fixture that is both a sporting and social highlight in the calendar with horse racing enthusiasts and those who enjoy the big occasion heading to Haldon Hill to be close to the thrilling action.
The 188 Bet Haldon Gold Cup will take centre stage and with £65,000 in prize money, and £130,00 raceday total, it’s a race that is certain to attract some of the very best horses in action.
The 2016, Sir Valentino, is set to make his seasonal reappearance in attempting back-to-back victories in the race. The eight-year-old got the better of Garde La Victoire in last year’s renewal before graduating to the top two-mile races. His best performance came in the Queen Mother Champion Chase when he was third to Special Tiara.
Tom George is hoping to follow a similar programme this term, with Exeter the first port of call. “He'll be heading back for the Haldon Gold Cup and he'll figure in all the big two-mile chases. The two-mile division is probably going to be strong, but he's picking up good prize money the whole time and the Haldon Gold Cup is where we'll start off,” said George.
Gary Moore has said his star duo Ar Mad and Traffic Fluid might run, Paul Nicholl’s has targeted San Benedeto and Politologue for the race, Philip Hobbs intend to run Garde La Victoire and Brian Ellison could travel Forest Bihan from Malton in Yorkshire to take part.
After finishing second in a Grade One at Aintree on his final start last season, the Phil Martin-owned gelding made a winning return to action in early October in a valuable handicap chase at Kelso.
Ellison said: “He was very good at Kelso. He had been working well, but it is always difficult giving weight away to good horses.
“It was a good performance. He was brilliant with his jumping and he never missed a beat. We picked the race out a while a go and now we have just got to have a look at what we do next.
“We are looking at the Haldon Gold Cup and the Shloer Chase. Being that he has won around Kelso, the track at Exeter shouldn't be a problem.”
In the past the Haldon Gold Cup has attracted some of the country’s very best chasers, including past winners Edredon Bleu, Best Mate, Viking Flagship, Cue Card and Somersby, and is widely regarded as the first major contest over two miles in the jump racing calendar. It is also considered a stepping-stone to the world’s most prestigious race over this shortest distance a horse can run over fences – the Queen Mother Champion Chase which takes place at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
General manager Jack Parkinson said: “Haldon Gold Cup Day at Exeter is a superb day, and one that people come to enjoy from far and wide. The Haldon Gold Cup is always a brilliant race, but the supporting card, including a £20k novice steeplechase, often attracts the stars of the future too. It’s a terrific social occasion with a wonderful atmosphere and has to be considered as one the best sporting events Devon has to offer.”
The first of seven races comes under starters’ orders at 1pm and the gates open at 11pm. A free bus service to the racecourse is available from Exeter St David’s at 11.20am and the Bus and Coach Station at 11.35pm, returning half an hour after the last race.
Tickets are available from £14 if pre-booked online and hospitality packages are available with details at www.exeter-racecourse.co.uk.