Monday, March 10, 2008

Cheltenham Runner is No Relation to Blogger

Thanks to everyone who has suggested placing a Transatlantic wager on the Scottish horse Big Eared Fran, who is entered in the Cheltenham Festival's Championship Bumper this week. The Festival is the biggest jump racing event in the year's calendar in the UK and creates quite a frenzy.

Big Eared Fran is by the famous flat racing sire Danehill and originally was destined for flat racing with the Coolmore Stud but has changed hands (and racing genres). Trained by the legendary Martin Pipe, the horse is named for his current part owner, former England and Rangers football player Francis Jeffers.

A win by a Scottish-owned horse at "the biggest show on turf" would be a Seriously Big Deal, since the festival is normally dominated by Irish horses and trainers.

The horses to watch are the super star Kauto Star and his stablemate Denman, both entered in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Kauto Star is recovering from a foot abscess but is expected to start.

Cheltenham is in the scenic Cotswolds district of England, west of London. To make the festival more challenging, southern England is bracing for the arrival of the storm that swept across the USA this weekend. Gale-force winds and torrential rains are predicted, which will make the "going" soft and deep, which is tough on jumping horses attempting Cheltenham's long, long course of what we Americans would call brush jumps.

Animal rights advocates are highly critical of the number of horses injured and killed at Cheltenham each year. During the 2006 Festival, 11 horses perished in just four days. In protest, a woman dressed in black gothic robes representing a mourning costume will be present at the Festival. She will be wearing a wide-brimmed hat that features a model racehorse tumbling over a hurdle.

Cheltenham is also noteworthy for its popular amateurs-to-ride races.