The Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, which is now under the umbrella of Flutter Entertainment along with betting exchange bookie Betfair, has had a long history of sponsoring races at Cheltenham. Between 2003 and 2015, for example, it was the sponsor of the feature chase race during the November Meeting.
Early in 2016 it was confirmed that BetVictor would take over sponsorship duty for what was then known as the Cheltenham Open. It meant that the Irish company no longer had ties to Cheltenham as it didn’t sponsor any of the races run during the Cheltenham Festival. That’s all changing, however, as Paddy Power will sponsor three races during the New Year’s Day Meeting.
Which Races Will Be Sponsored
The new deal between Paddy Power and Cheltenham Racecourse that sees the Irish bookmaker return to sponsoring event there for the first time since 2015 will see it have its name attached to three races. The Dipper Novices’ Chase, which is a Grade 2 offering, will now be known as the Paddy Power Broken Resolutions Already Dipper Novices’ Chase.
That race is worth £35,000, which is roughly half the £70,000 that the newly named Paddy Power Handicap Chase is worth. That is a Grade 3 event and, as with most other races run on New Year’s Day, is seen as a chance for horses to gain some experience of the course before the Cheltenham Festival comes around in March.
That is reflected in the new name of the final race sponsored by the betting firm, the Paddy Power 68 Sleeps To Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle. The race might only be worth £25,000, but it’s one that can give watching punters a real sense of what’s to come during the Festival. It’s all part of a seven race programme that gives trainers a chance to look at their horses ahead of the main event.
What’s Being Said About The Deal
Understandably a spokesperson for Paddy Power was quick to point out how excited the company is to be sponsoring races at the ‘Home Of Jump Racing’ once again. They said, “It’s a perfect time to rekindle the relationship at the start of a new year and new decade. We wanted to kick the new year off with a bang, and what better place to blow the Christmas cobwebs off than at the magnificent Cheltenham on New Year’s Day?”
The general feeling of positivity was reiterated by Paul Binfield, who is Paddy Power’s Racecourse Ambassador. He said:
“I and all the team at Paddy Power look forward to working with the team at Cheltenham for what should be a great day’s racing on New Year’s Day”.
The idea that they’re keen to reignite their ‘love affair with Prestbury Park’ is not surprising, given the course is considered to be one of the finest for jump racing in the world.
Why The Three Races Are Important
The three races picked by Paddy Power haven’t been done so accidentally, with all three of them offering something interesting to punters. The Paddy Power Broken Resolutions Already Dipper Novices’ Chase is a Grade 2 race, for example, and is run over 2 and a half miles. It was won by Lostintranslation at the start of 2019, with the Colin Tizzard trained horse going on to finish second in the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase during the Festival.
The Grade 3 Paddy Power Handicap Chase is also run over the same distance and in 2019 Aso won it. The victory came ahead of a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase during the course’s major meeting in March, losing out to Frodon. It’s a chance for people interested in racing to see some top horses give a decent account of themselves at a meeting that is free for people under the age of 18 to attend.
The Handicap Chase is also the race that Kalashnikov is likely to feature in as he continues his recovery. A Grade 1 winner at Aintree last season, he’s already raced twice in this campaign but his trainer, Amy Murphy, is hoping that the Grade 3 chase will prove to a good target after his recent run-out at Newbury. It should be a solid practice for him ahead of the ‘plenty of big races’ that he’ll be running in in the spring.
The importance of the final race that Paddy Power are sponsoring, the 68 Sleeps To Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle, is summed up in its title. As soon as the New Year’s Day meeting is over the eyes of the racing world begin to turn towards the Cheltenham Festival, so this is a decent chance for bettors to have half an eye on what is likely to happen when the main event gets underway. It is the penultimate chance to do so, with Festival Trials Day being the other.
The Rest Of The Race Card
Of course, just because Paddy Power have decided to reignite their sponsorship of races at Cheltenham doesn’t mean that the ones that they’ve chosen to do so with are the only ones worthy of a mention. The New Year’s Day meeting contains an additional four races on the race card that usually runs from 12.15pm until 3.50pm. The Grade 2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle is another top race, run over 2 and a half miles and worth £50,000.
Here’s how the race card looks for the day:
- The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Listed)
- The Markel Insurance Handicap Steeple Chase (Class 2)
- The Paddy Power Broken Resolutions Already Dipper Novices’ Steeple Chase (Grade 2)
- The Paddy Power Handicap Steeple Chase (Grade 3)
- The Paddy Power 68 Sleeps to Cheltenham Handicap Hurdle (Class 2)
- The Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle Race (Grade 2)
- The EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed)
With a Grade 3 race and two Grade 2 offerings, it’s easy to understand why so many people rate the New Year’s Day meeting at Cheltenham has being the perfect way to kick off the new calendar year. It also explains why Paddy Power were happy to get back involved with their Prestbury Park sponsorship when the three races became available.