RECORD PRIZE MONEY OFFERED BY CHELTENHAM IN 2007/2008
Cheltenham today revealed full details of its new season, highlighting the news that prize money offered at the home of Jump racing in 2007/08 is a new record of £5.9 million. Last season's equivalent figure was just under £5.5 million
Cheltenham Racecourse now boasts an amazing average prize money figure of almost £55,000 per race, while during The Festival - March 11 to 14, 2008 - the average reaches £137,000.
Edward Gillespie, Cheltenham's Managing Director, said today: "We want to continue rewarding those who invest in Jump racing and these increases in prize money demonstrate that commitment.
"We want the best of racing here at Cheltenham for everyone connected with the sport, and are always striving to keep raising the bar.
"With the level of interest in Jump racing at a real high, thanks largely to the human and equine heroes of our sport, we are confident that 2007/08 will be another exciting and memorable season at Cheltenham."
Cheltenham's opening meeting of the season, now named The Showcase, moves to a Friday and Saturday slot for the first time and receives a major injection of cash (further details below).
At The Open (November 16 to 18, 2007), the big races also receive significant increases, with the Paddy Power Gold Cup up £10,000 at £120,000 and the Greatwood Hurdle boosted £35,000 to £100,000, both reaching their highest-ever levels.
There is an additional fixture added to the April meeting, with Friday evening action on April 18 following the afternoon racing on Wednesday and Thursday, April 16 & 17, 2008.
UPGRADES AT THE FESTIVAL
Two races at The Festival have been promoted to Grade One for 2008 and gain prize money as well as status. They are the Ryanair Chase, now worth £200,000 from £175,000 in 2007, and the Spa Hurdle (formerly the Brit Insurance Hurdle), the three-mile novices' hurdle, boosted by £20,000 to £100,000.
The Festival's feature, the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, increases in value to £450,000 from £425,000, reinforcing its position as the richest Jump race in Britain outside the John Smith's Grand National.
The National Hunt Chase has also had a prize money injection, with its value rising 50 per cent to £75,000 from £50,000. The race is moving from Thursday (New Course) to Wednesday (Old Course) and is being reduced in distance to four miles, while the amateur riders will have to be Category B (Britain) and Category C (Ireland) to qualify to ride in the race. The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase switches to Thursday.
Finally there is a new £100,000 race for The Festival in 2008 - the Grade Two David Nicholson Mares Hurdle over two miles, four and a half furlongs on Friday, adding a seventh race on the Friday for the first time since The Festival moved to the four-day format in 2005.
As in previous years, discounts for Festival tickets bought in advance are available, this season until December 3.
Cheltenham's opening meeting of the 2007/2008 season, now titled "The Showcase", moves to Friday and Saturday, October 19 & 20, having previously been a mid-week event. The prize money has increased by £70,000 to bring the total offered over the two days to £232,000, with a £50,000 race on the Saturday and a £30,000 race on the Friday.
There will also be a number of new features, designed to involve visitors in the wider aspects of the sport. Hurdlers' Hall, near the paddock, will be transformed into an exhibition of every conceivable aspect of Jump racing - including breeding, owning, training and caring for horses. There will be a chance for racegoers to try their skill as a commentator, weigh in like a jockey and be part of a stewards' enquiry.
Throughout the afternoon, there will be a trail around the course to places that are normally off-limits, such as watching a race from a private box, going to the start, having the chance to judge the best-turned out horse and making a presentation.
The December Meeting became the Boylesports International last year, with a huge
injection of prize money.
This year's Boylesports International, on Friday and Saturday, December 14 & 15, again features the £200,000 boylesports.com International and the £150,000 boylesports.com Gold Cup on the second day, with the £100,000 boylepoker.com Handicap Chase the highlight on the first day.
The boylesports.com International is one of the most valuable hurdle races of the entire season and there is a £200,000 sponsor's bonus if the winner goes on to triumph in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at The Festival.
EXTRA DAY AT THE APRIL MEETING
Cheltenham has acquired an extra day's racing this season, bring the total to 17. The Friday evening on April 18 forms part of the April Meeting and follows afternoon racing on Wednesday and Thursday, April 16 & 17.
Four races have been added over the three days to give three cards of six contests. The new races are a two mile novices' chase, a £30,000 three mile conditions hurdle, a two mile one furlong handicap hurdle and a three mile four furlong handicap chase.