Fans of many of the world’s most popular sports can enjoy their favorite teams through the winter season, but those who follow horse racing tend to experience a bit of a lull. It’s not that there are no events this time of year; it’s just that the major contests and week- (or weekend-) long festivals tend to take place in the spring and summer. Fortunately the new year is almost upon us, and that means some of these events will be here before we know it. So for the horse racing fans, here’s a look ahead at some of the biggest events of spring 2015.
Taking place over four days (March 10-13), the Cheltenham Festival marks one of the earliest significant racing events on the international calendar. Like many other racing events of its caliber, Cheltenham is known almost as much for its festive atmosphere as it is for the actual competition. However, it does contain quite a packed schedule, with each day bringing on numerous contests and its own (unofficial) signature race.
Those four signature races are the Champion Hurdle, the Champion Chase, the World Hurdle, and the Gold Cup. Because Cheltenham is not too far off, Betfair‘s online horse racing section already has odds posted on the likely winner at each event. At the Champion Hurdle, Faugheen is the favorite to take the title over defending champion Jezki; in the Champion Chase, 2013 winer Sprinter Sacre has the strongest odds to win and regain the title; in the World Hurdle, More Of That is expected to come out on top; and in the Gold Cup, Silviniaco Conti is the favorite in a loaded field. Keep an eye on these expected champions as Cheltenham draws nearer because each of the signature races looks to be exciting and well contested in 2015.
Crabbie’s Grand National
Arguably the most high-profile spring race in Europe, the Grand National is held annually at Aintree in early April. The 2015 event will take place between April 9-11, with each day holding unique racing excitement that draws large crowds. As mentioned with regard to Cheltenham, these events are often marked as much by their atmosphere as by the races. The same can certainly be said for the Grand National, where state-of-the-art facilities blend seamlessly with a strong sense of history.
As for the races themselves, the Grand National is perhaps a less well-rounded event than Cheltenham, but one with a bigger signature event. There are races during Opening Day and Ladies Day (designated on the second day of the festival), but it’s the Grand National race on the third day that truly draws the crowd. Every year, 40 horses compete in this exceptionally difficult race featuring a variety of different fences. This makes it one of the most high-volume contests in European racing. As of now, Shutthefrontdoor is the favorite horse to win the 2015 Grand National, but there’s still a lot of time to go before the event.
These are just a few of the outstanding racing events in the spring and through the summer. The American Triple Crown (consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes) gets underway not long after the conclusion of the Grand National, and in the UK the Royal Ascot takes place in the middle of June. But for those horse racing fans who can’t wait until the next big event, Cheltenham and the Grand National should offer plenty of excitement as they draw nearer and the competitions and favorites grow clearer.