Betway Bowl

Betway Bowl  The Betway Bowl is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 3 miles and 210 yards on the Mildmay Course at Aintree on the opening day of the three-day Grand National Festival in early April. Inaugurated, as the Perrier-Jouët Champagne Cup, in 1984, the race has been run under various titles, for sponsorship purposes, but has been sponsored by Betway since 2017. Worth £250,000 in guaranteed prize money, the Betway Bowl was promoted to Grade 1 status in 2010 and, alongside the Betfair Chase, King George VI Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup, remains one of just four races of its kind in the National Hunt calendar.

Originally intended as a consolation race for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Betway Bowl has been won by some notable staying steeplechasers, including Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid, See More Business, Silviniaco Conti and Clan Des Obeaux, in its history. Paul Nicholls, trainer of the three last named horses, also saddled What A Friend to victory in 2010, for a total of six wins altogether, making him the most successful handler in the history of the race.

The 2023 renewal of the Betway Bowl, scheduled for Thursday, April 13, is still several months away, so ante-post prices are not yet available. However, granted that the Mildmay Course at Aintree is a flat, sharp track, not unlike Kempton Park, horses that run creditably in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day are always worth considering for the Betway Bowl later in the season. Clan Des Obeaux, for example, has been a regular contestant in both races in recent seasons, winning the King George VI Chase in 2018 and 2019 and the Betway Bowl in 2021 and 2022. The last horse to win both races in the same season was the enigmatic, but talented, Might Bite in 2017/18; in between times, he also finished second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle

The Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle is a Grade 1 hurdle race run over 2 miles and 209 yards on the Mildmay Course at Aintree on the opening day of the Grand National Festival in April. As the name suggests, the race is restricted to horses aged four years or, in other words, horses aged three years at the start of the current season.

The Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle was inaugurated, in its current guise, as the Weetabix Hurdle, in 1976, when it replaced the Lancashire Hurdle, which was run for the final time the previous year. The word ‘Anniversary’ was added to the race title in 1988 and the race was promoted to Grade 1 status in 2005.

Nowadays, the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle is the second most prestigious juvenile hurdle in the British National Hunt calendar, after the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, it is often contested by horses that ran in the ‘championship’ race for juvenile hurdlers; the last horse to complete the Triumph Hurdle/ Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle double was Pentland Hills, trained by Nicky Henderson, in 2019.

Alan King and Paul Nicholls are, jointly, the leading trainers in the modern history of the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle. King was responsible for Katchit (2007), Walkon (2009), Grumeti (2012) and L’Unique (2013), while Nicholls saddled Le Duc (2003), Zarkandar (2011), All Yours (2015) and Monmiral (2021). The 2022 renewal of the Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle produced a dramatic result; odds-on favourite Pied Piper rallied to force a dead-heat with Knight Salute – whom he had beaten 17¼ lengths, on the same terms, in the Triumph Hurdle – in the final strides, only to be demoted to second place for causing interference.

The 2023 renewal of Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle is scheduled for 2.20pm on Thursday, April 7. Look out for horses that feature highly in the ante-post lists for the Triump Hurdle, such as the promising Daddy Long Legs, from the first crop of European champion three-year-old colt Almanzor.

Melling Chase

The Melling Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 2 miles and 4 furlongs on the Mildmay Course at Aintree in early April. Open to horses aged five years and upwards, the race is currently sponsored by leading American stockbroker Marsh & McLennan and, hence, known as the Marsh Chase for sponsorship purposes. The officially registered title, though, comes from the nearby village of Melling in Sefton, Merseyside. The Melling Chase is currently scheduled as the fourth race on the second day of the three-day Grand National Festival, a.k.a. Ladies’ Day.

The Melling Chase was inaugurated, as a Grade 1 contest, in 1991 and has maintained that status throughout its lifetime. Indeed, the field often features horses that contested the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and the roll of honour includes the likes of Viking Flagship, Moscow Flyer, Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre and Politologue. Paul Nicholls, trainer of Master Minded and Politologue, and Nicky Henderson, trainer of Sprinter Sacre, have both saddled three winners apiece and are, jointly, the leading handlers in the history of the Melling Chase.

A total of half a dozen horses have won the Melling Chase twice, but the most recent to them, Fakir D’oudairies, who won back-to-back renewals in 2021 and 2022, may be in a position to attempt an unprecedented hat-trick in 2023. Joseph O’Brien’s Kapgarde gelding will still only be an 8-year-old by the time 3.25pm on Friday, April 8 rolls around, so it will be interesting to see how his season develops. Of course, top-class two-mile steeplechasers, such as Energumene, Shiskin and Edwardstone, are always possibilities while, from the ‘intermediate’ division, leading Ryanair Chase fancies Allaho and Galopin Des Champs are other possibilities.