By the time the sixth race is run on Champion Day you’ll know whether you’re up or down for the day. Will you spend the last two races chasing your profits or adding more winnings to your bank account? However your day’s gone, the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle is an interesting race to watch and try to learn from.
The race is one of numerous races that was added to the Festival rota back in 2005, when the decision was made to add an extra day to proceedings and turn it from a three day meeting into a four day one. It was moved from Ladies Day to Champion Day for 2021 to make room for a new Mares’ Chase on Gold Cup Day (with the Grand Annual Chase moving to Ladies Day in the old Fred Winter slot)
It was one of only a handful of races during the Festival that was not sponsored. Instead it is dedicated to the memory of Fred Winter, who won seventeen races at the Festival as a jockey and twenty-eight more as a trainer of horses. He died in 2004 and the race was named for him. However that changed in 2019 when Boodles began sponsoring the race.
|Course||Grade||Fences||Distance (m)||Winner / Purse|
|Old Course||Grade 3||8||2m 87y (3300m)||£33,762 / £59,000|
If you’re sharp on your spotting of race names then you’ll have noticed that this one is for juvenile novices. That means that it’s only open to horses aged four that had not won a race before the start of the season. It lasts for two miles and half a furlong and has eight hurdles that jockeys will need to guide their horses over. It’s run left-handed on the Old Course and is a handicapped race.
The prize money for the race amounted to an impressive nearly £80,000 in 2019, with over £45,000 going to the winner. This is a good race to look for each-way bets given it usually carries a big field and has been known for long odds winners, such as Jeff Kidder winning at 80/1 in 2021.
Obviously no horse has won this race more than once, with the very fact that they’ve won it previously then precluding them from taking part in the future as it’s a race for novices. Even if that wasn’t the case, it is a race for four-year-olds, so they’d be a year older than that the next time the race came around. There are no such restrictions in place for the jockeys, but that hasn’t resulted in any of them managing to win the race more than once either.
Interestingly, only one amateur jockey has won the race and only one woman has done so. What makes it so interesting is that it’s the same person that ticks both boxes, Miss Nina Carberry. Horses and jockeys might not have won the race more than once but the same is not true of trainers. Paul Nicholls is the joint-most successful trainer in the race, having won it three times in 2010, 2015 and 2016. Gordon Elliot is the only other trainer to win the race three times, with victories in 2013, 2018 and 2020.
When the race was first run back in 2005 it was classed as a listed event, gaining Grade 3 status four years after its inauguration.
CBO Rating | 6/10
By the time this race comes around a lot of the punters who came for the experience rather than the racing might have started to make their way home or, at the very least, to the bar. Champion Day is as much about the antics going on off the course as much as on it, after all. The Champion Hurdle is the event that captures the attention of the majority of people, so once that’s run some interest may wane. If you like your horses, however, then this should keep your attention with ease. It’s a chance to see some young horses at a crucial stage in their development and you might want to make a note of any of the ones that impress you.
The penultimate race of Champion Day is all about seeing horses in their development. At four-years-old they are quite immature and are still learning how to cope with the jumps and the distance they’re expected to cover. It’s also a tricky one for racegoers to know how to bet on, with more than twenty horses typically tending to make up the field. If you’d like a bit of a clue then it’s always worth having a look at which horse won the Supreme Novices Hurdle. If it’s a horse that was flat bred then the going is most likely good, so look for flat bred horses of a similar profile. If a horse bred for National Hunt racing came home in the Supreme then the going is tough, so look for a horse that likes tough running.
Watching a race that’s all about the development of the horses taking part in it might not appeal to everyone, but the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle offers a good chance to either learn about the horses or to develop your knowledge of the sport in general.