Back to the future
After a brilliant 2016-17 jumps season, Cheltenham looks forward to new challenges by celebrating the behind-the-scenes stars
French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher Voltaire saw the importance in recognizing achievement. He wrote, “appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
Reflecting on what is good, propels us forward, whether it is in the educational or business setting. At Cheltenham, after a thrilling 2016/2017 season of top class jump racing, there is excitement in the air as the equestrian world looks forward to its next new chapter. But before it does, later this month The Mccoys, a brand new Oscar-equivalent set of awards will recognize all those who have made an outstanding contribution to the sport in the season just gone. It puts a satisfactory full stop to 2016/17 and marks the past 12 months in style. Horses, stable staff, trainers and owners across all four of the Jockey Club’s South West racecourses at Cheltenham, Wincanton, Exeter and Warwick, will be acknowledged and celebrated alike. The awards – 17 of them in all – are named the “Mccoys” after Sir A.P.MCCOY, the recording-breaking 20-time Champion Jump Jockey who retired from race riding in April, 2015. Recipients will be presented a miniature replica of the full-size Mccoy statue which was unveiled at the Festival in March. The ceremony takes place on Friday, September 29 in The Centaur, at a three-course celebration dinner with Champagne reception.
“It’s a great way to look back at the season just gone and celebrate the individuals who help make jump racing the thrilling exciting sport it is,” says Sarah-jane Muirie, Regional Communications Manager. “It is the first time these awards have been held and we are all looking forward to it. It is also a fantastic way to motivate us all into the new season ahead.”
This of course kicks off on Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28 with The Showcase as the leading horses, jockeys and trainers return to their spiritual home for seven races each day. Local food and drink producers will also be showcasing their wares for racegoers to sample and purchase in the Food Zone at The Centaur. Under 18’s can get in for free – apart from Festival days - which gives younger racegoers a change to enjoy the action. One of the season’s most popular days is Countryside Day on November 17 which marks the beginning of the three-day November Meeting and features six exciting races. A tradition dating back over 20 years, this unique country fair atmosphere helps raise money for the Countryside Alliance and Injured Jockeys Fund. As well as a silent auction, pre-racing activities take place in the paddock to help raise awareness for these important causes.
The highlight of the first half of the Jump racing season and the biggest race day outside of The Festival is the Betvictor Gold Cup Day, which features seven top quality races on Saturday, November 18.
Over the three days £750,000 is available in prize money over the 19 races which makes the meeting the third largest Jump fixture in the UK behind The Festival in March and The Randox Health Grand National at Aintree in April.
The November Meeting Sunday concludes the weekend and is the only Sunday where racing takes place at Cheltenham.
“This is the ideal opportunity to bring the whole family and there is free kids’ entertainment for everyone to enjoy as well as six races to experience,”
says Alice Linley, Regional Marketing Executive for the Jockey Club.
“Our special guest will be Peter Rabbit, whose creator has very strong Gloucestershire connections. Beatrix Potter created one of her most loved characters, The Tailor of Gloucester in the city. The building where her charming shop and museum is next to the cathedral, features in her illustrations. It is fitting that we should have Peter Rabbit here. He is an iconic character loved by past and current generations of children.”
Peter Rabbit will be in the Family Fun Zone situated in the tented village, where Showtime Shane will also perform live magic on the hour. As well as numerous animals on show; balloon artists, indoor inflatables and rosette making will be on the cards and there is an opportunity to plait a horse’s mane or dress up as a jockey. Alice and her colleagues will also be looking to recruit more young riders to the free Junior Jumpers scheme which is a fantastic initiative to help younger racegoers feel part of the jump racing scene.
November is a key month for celebrating one of Cheltenham’s successful landmarks of recent years – the Princess Royal Stand which will be in its third season of use. The purpose-built five and a half storey grandstand, opened by the Princess Royal in November 2915, marked the final part of a £45 million redevelopment of the course.
David Mackinnon, Regional Head of Operations who oversaw the project, admits it has been a huge success in every way.
“The cross way and the crescent walk round the parade ring frames the local ampitheatre. It is incredible. It has been unanimously well received from the high-end Cheltenham Club users and other race goers. Would we change anything two years later? The answer is no.”
The grandstand, which includes private boxes, restaurants and viewing facilities for racegoers, also provides a number of bars including a public bar, the Vestey Bar after Lord Vestey, who was Chairman for Cheltenham for 21 years until 2011.
When The November Meeting arrives, racegoers know the season is in full swing and all eyes will be on the horses, jockeys, trainers and owners who will be in the running for the next set of Mccoy awards.
AP Mccoy unveils a statue of himself during Champion Day of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse
The parade ring during Ladies’ Day of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse