Cheltenham Racecourse hosts many of the biggest days of the National Hunt season. The Cheltenham Festival in March is up there with the most popular sporting events of the year but it’s far from the only time that top class horses descend on Cheltenham.
The three-day November Meeting, previously known as the Open Meeting, has plenty of high class races featuring some huge stars.
There are a total of nineteen races with twelve of those televised on ITV across the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. These include the TrustATrader Novices’ Hurdle on Friday, Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday and the Shloer Chase on Sunday.
Countryside Day: Friday
|1:10||Lycetts Insurance Brokers Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle||Class 3||2m5f|
|1:45||Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase||Class 2||2m|
|2:20||SSS Super Alloys Arkle Challenge Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase||Grade 2||2m|
|2:55||Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase||Class 2||3m5½f|
|3:30||TrustATrader Novices’ Hurdle||Grade 2||2m5f|
|4:05||Valda Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle||Class 2||2m½f|
|12:35||JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle||Grade 2||2m½f|
|1:10||Wienerberger Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase||Class 3||3m1f|
|1:45||From The Horse’s Mouth Podcast Novices’ Chase||Listed||3m½f|
|2:20||Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase||Premier Handicap||2m4f|
|2:55||Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle||Class 2||3m|
|3:20||Paddy Power Intermediate Handicap Hurdle||Class 3||2m5f|
|4:05||Karndean Designflooring Mares’ Open NH Flat Race||Listed||2m½f|
|1:10||mallardjewellers.com Maiden Hurdle||Class 2||2m½f|
|1:45||cavani.co.uk Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase||Class 3||2m4f|
|2:20||Jewson Handicap Chase||Premier Handicap||3m3½f|
|2:55||Shloer Chase||Grade 2||2m|
|3:30||Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle||Premier Handicap||2m½f|
|4:00||Turners Open NH Flat Race||Listed||2m½f|
About the Meeting
There are many jumps racing festivals held over the course of the year, with all roads ultimately leading to the big four-day Cheltenham Festival at Prestbury Park in March. It is fitting therefore that, for many, it is at Cheltenham racecourse where the latest National Hunt journey really begins each year. The jumps season will already be underway by the time we reach this three-day meeting in November – known to many as The Open Meeting but now called The November Meeting – but it is here where the season proper really begins to kick into gear.
Featuring early trials for the major Cheltenham Festival contests, a generous helping of high-quality handicapping action – including one of the biggest such events of the entire season – and plenty more besides, this meeting annually serves to warm the cockles of jumps fans as the winter months roll around.
Prestbury Juvenile Novices Hurdle
Anyone seeking a future star, and potential Cheltenham Festival winner, will do well to take in the major juvenile contest on the Saturday card. Held over a trip of 2m½f, this Grade 2 event is the first real recognised Triumph Hurdle trial of the season and as such attracts a number of the most highly touted three year old hurdlers in the game. Defi Du Seuil went on to land the Triumph for Philip Hobbs having taken this in 2016, whilst 2006 champ, Katchit, did even better, claiming Champion Hurdle glory in 2008.
Paddy Power Gold Cup
The big contest on the Saturday card at the meeting is this Premier Handicap held over a trip of 2m4½f. Open to runners aged four and older, there are 16 formidable fences standing between the runners and the considerable prize pool on offer – £160,000 in 2023. Still referred to as “the Mackeson” by racegoers of a certain vintage, BetVictor also sponsored the race between 2016 and 2019, with Paddy Power then once more taking up the reins, having previously backed the race between 2003 and 2014. Whilst this may “only” be a handicap, that hasn’t stopped a number of high class performers landing the prize over the years, including dual Champion Chaser, Fortria, who took this twice in the 1960s, and future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander, who came home in front in 2008.
The most eye-catching – and highest class – of the chases on Day 3 is this 2m Grade 2 affair open to runners aged four and older. Officially titled simply, “The Cheltenham Chase”, this event was added to the roster in 2009 and has quickly compiled a classy roll of honour. Classiest of them all – and our favourite chaser of all time – was 2015 hero Sprinter Sacre, who took this on route to that stunning second Queen Mother Champion Chase success when back at Cheltenham in March. The race remains one of the key early season trials for the Champion Chase and is an excellent prize in its own right, offering £100,000 in prize money in 2023.
Greatwood Handicap Hurdle
The closing Sunday of this meeting also sees one of the biggest and best early season handicap hurdles take place. Again, open to runners aged four and older, this Premier Handicap, 2m½f event offers excellent prize money – £100,000 at the time of writing. One of the classiest races of its type of the season, talented dual-purpose performer Detroit City and future Champion Hurdle winner Rooster Booster feature prominently on the list of previous winners. Best of the lot though was the Irish raider, Sizing Europe. Bursting onto the scene when taking this in 2007, the prolific Henry de Bromhead runner went on to score eight times at the very highest level.
Many of the races that feature heavily in this three-day meeting have been with us for a while now – the Paddy Power Gold Cup for example has been run in various guises since 1960 – however this meeting as a whole only came into being at Cheltenham Racecourse in 1999.
Known as The Open Meeting from the time of its inception until 2017, it will forever be referred to as such by many racing fans. The official title of the event according to the racecourse itself though is, The November Meeting. The reason given for this change being in order to avoid confusion with The British Open. That’s the same British Open played in July using a metal stick and a little white ball. Nevertheless, it seems somebody, somewhere must have been confused.
Regardless of the naming alterations though, this has always been a celebration of the sport which has drawn together the great and the good of the jumping game and remains one of the first dates pencilled into the diaries of National Hunt fans.
A Complete History of the November Meeting
Formerly known as the Cheltenham Open, the now-branded November Meeting has long been what many consider the true start of the jump racing season. There are certainly earlier jump races that take place but the three-day meeting is the first big fixture on the National Hunt calendar.
For all the jump racing fans out there this is something that can never come soon enough. We certainly can’t help but feel a little excited as the meeting draws near but how exactly did it become such an important part of Cheltenham’s fixture list? Technically speaking the meeting didn’t begin until 2000 but some of the races that form it have histories that stretch further back.
1960 – Mackeson Gold Cup Established
Stout producers Mackeson sponsor the first ever running of this November handicap, run over a distance of two miles, four and a half furlongs. Their partnership with the race lasted for 35 consecutive years before being replaced by Murphy’s Brewery in 1996. Now known as the Paddy Power Gold Cup, it has long been the feature race of the entire November Meeting.
1994 – Sharp Novices’ Hurdle Moved
Originally held in December, organisers opted to bring the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle, or rather the Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle, forward a month. It was a feature of the November Meeting at Cheltenham until 2023 when it moved to Cheltenham’s late October meeting. In the race’s time it has seen its fair share of superb winners including Cue Card, Dodging Bullets and Altior.
1994 – Hyde Novices’ Hurdle Founded
Fresh on the scene in 1994 was the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle, known more recently as the Ballymore and TrustATrader Novices’ Hurdle. It began as a lower class affair but in 2008 attained Grade 2 status.
1994 – November Novices’ Chase Also Part of Reshuffle
Organisers at Cheltenham were kept busy in 1994 with this race featuring another of their changes. Previously known as the Coventry Novices’ Chase, the minimum distance event underwent a makeover including an upgrade to Grade 2 status. Best Mate won the contest six years after its reclassification, for what was his first major chase title.
2004 – Greatwood Hurdle Re-Classified
For a period the Greatwood Hurdle, another main highlight of the long weekend, carried Listed status but in 2004 it enjoyed an upgrade to Grade 3, now a Premier Handicap. The minimum distance event has kept this grade since, allowing it to attract a high calibre of hurdlers to Cheltenham.
Also enjoying a promotion was the Prestbury Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle, now reclassified as a Grade 2 contest.
2005 – Pipe Hits Smoking Hot Form
No trainer has dominated the November Gold Cup quite like Martin Pipe did between 1996 and 2005. In this fairly short space of time the 15-time Champion Trainer saddled the winner on seven occasions, putting his overall tally up to eight. This is enough to hand him a giant lead at the top of the leaderboard for this race and is a record unlikely to be broken for quite some time.
2007 – A Future Star is Born
The November Meeting is no stranger to well-recognised names but few winning horses have gone on to enjoy more success than Sizing Europe. His victory in the 2007 Greatwood Hurdle was the first major title he claimed, acting as the platform for what turned out to be a trophy-laden career.
2008 – Joe Lively Storms to Victory
For a long time the Paddy Power Handicap Chase, known in the past under several different titles, has been one of the big betting events of the November Meeting. Hopeful punters witnessed quite the scene in 2008 as Joe Lively, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by his son Joe, claimed a devastating 14 length win. Never before had a horse won this traditionally competitive handicap by such an impressive margin.
2009 – New Race Added
When founded, the November Meeting didn’t require the creation of races in order to complete the fixture. It did however add something new to its schedule during this renewal as it rolled out the Cheltenham Chase, also known as the Shloer Chase. Initially a conditions race, it moved to a Listed affair before being handed Grade 2 status two years later in 2015. Quite fittingly the upgrade in class saw a classy runner, Sprinter Sacre, win during the same year.
2012 – Coneygree on the Map
After destroying the field in a Class 4 contest at Uttoxeter, Mark Bradstock sent Coneygree to compete in Hyde Novices’ Hurdle. Winners of the race have rarely enjoyed a huge amount of success later on but Coneygree is most certainly an exception to the rule. The 8/1 shot absolutely cruised to a November Meeting win before returning to Cheltenham a month later for another Grade 2 win.
2013 – Greatwood Returns
Between 2003 and 2011 the retired racehorse charity Greatwood had sponsored the minimum distance hurdle race that ran in the November Meeting. The name switched to the Racing Post Hurdle in 2012 but the change didn’t last long as when Stan James bookmakers began sponsoring in 2013, they put Greatwood back into the title.
2017 – Meeting Handed a Name Change
Following conversations with The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Cheltenham Racecourse decided to change the name of this meeting. According to both parties, having two events called The Open was in no way beneficial when it came to promoting either event. To avoid any future confusion between the historic golf tournament and the long weekend racing fixture, Cheltenham opted to choose the more distinctive ‘November Meeting’ for their event’s new title.