The premier race of Day One at the Cheltenham Festival is the Champion Hurdle and the final race of the day is open to novices. It makes sense, therefore, for Day Two to get underway with a novice’s hurdle, especially as Day One kicks off with the same sort of race. Ladies Day at the Festival is filled with fascinating races, with the whole day building to the Queen Mother Champion Chase. It starts as it means to go on, though, with a classic race that grabs the attention and doesn’t let go.
When this race was first run back in 1971 it was known as the Aldsworth Hurdle. In 1974 Sun Alliance began to sponsor the race and so it became the Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle. Their association with the race lasted until 2006 when Ballymore Properties took over sponsorship duties. Neptune Investment Management became the race’s sponsor’s in 2010 and Ballymore took over again in 2018. The official name of the race is the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle, in honour of one of the founders of the Cheltenham Festival, Baring Bingham.
|Course||Grade||Fences||Distance (m)||Winner / Purse|
|Old Course||Grade 1||10||2m 5f (4225m)||£70,338 / £122,000|
The race lasts for two miles and five furlongs, with horses needing to make it over ten hurdles if they’re hoping to emerge victorious. It’s a Grade 1 race and is open to horses aged four and up. As with most Day Two races, it’s run left-handed around the Old Course.
Weight-wise four-year-olds can be ten stone twelve pounds and five-year-olds or older can be eleven stone seven pound. There’s a seven pound allowance for both fillies and mares. As you may well have established from the title, it’s a race for novices.
As with other races for novices, this has never been won by the same horse more than once for obvious reasons. There’s something of a link between the most successful jockey and the most successful trainer, with both Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins managing four wins each. The link, of course, is that Walsh was riding horses trained by Mullins every time he won.
It all began in 2008 when Walsh and Mullins saw Fiveforthree make it across the finishing line first, then they followed it up the next year with Mikael d’Haguenet. Faugheen was the winner in 2014 for the pair and their four wins to date were rounded off by Yorkhill in 2016. Interestingly, plenty of trainers including Oliver Sherwood, Martin Pipe and Edward O’Grady have trained winning horses on two occasions, but only Nigel Twiston-Davies has managed to train three winners, obviously apart from Mullins.
Since its inauguration in 1971, the race has only been called off once. Even that was back in 2001, when the entire Cheltenham Festival was cancelled because of the outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth disease. There is one other year of note as far as the race’s running is concerned, however; back in 2008 the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle, as it was called then, was ran on the New Course because of high winds on the Old Course when it was supposed to be run.
CBO Rating | 9/10
The Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle is a cracking way to start the second day of the Cheltenham Festival. It may not benefit from the famed ‘Cheltenham Roar’ as the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle does on Day One, but people are still very excited to be at the racecourse and they aren’t shy in showing their appreciation. Ladies Day always runs the risk of things off the course gaining more attention than what’s happening on it, but this race ensures that doesn’t happen too early in the proceedings.
As is the case with other races for novices, this race can be a fascinating watch if you’re interested to know about the likely future of the sport and which horses to watch out for. In the past it’s been won by some impressive horses, including the likes of Istabraq, Monsignor and Fundamentalist. It’s not quite as open a field as handicapped novice races tend to be, simply because the playing field isn’t as level owning to the lack of handicapping, but it’s still a race you’ll want to have a flutter on if you fancy your chances of spotting a big winner.
Ladies Day has many races to recommend it and that capture the imagination, but if you think that it’s all about what dresses the punters are wearing or are waiting impatiently for the Queen Mother Champion Chase then you’re doing this race a disservice. Have a look at the field, see if Ruby Walsh is riding a horse trained by Willie Mullins and if not then have a punt on a horse of your liking!