It’s the most important race day of the year, at Exeter, where the feature contest is the G2 Haldon Gold Cup (2:00pm). Paul Nicholls’ Politologue looks likely to start as the favourite, despite falling at the final fence last time out (Aintree).
Garde La Victoire remains a doughty competitor and should benefit from a good seasonal reappearance, at Auteuil (France). Others in contention include Ar Mad, Forest Bihan, San Benedeto and Kerry Lee’s Gino Trail.
Exeter Racecourse doesn’t hold many fixtures of any great importance, but the Haldon Gold Cup is taken very seriously by everybody involved in National Hunt racing and always attracts a strong field of runners. The race distance is a tad over 2m 1f and there are 12 fences to negotiate. Haldon is the name of a ridge which is situated in the heart of the Devonshire countryside. It was a Neolithic settlement which attracts a lot of tourists, historians and geologists to the area.
Remembering The Incredible ‘Best Mate’
Tragically, this race is notorious for being the event where Best Mate lost his life in 2005. This superb and highly-popular bay gelding won the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (2000), the November Novices’ Chase (2000), the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase (2001), the Cheltenham Gold Cup (2002, 2003, 2004), the Peterborough Chase (2002), the King George VI Chase (2002) and the Ericsson Chase (2003).
Best Mate was named British Horse Racing Board’s Jump Horse of the Year and the Champion Three-Mile Chaser for two years running. He is honoured with a statue at Cheltenham Racecourse.
Recent winners of the Haldon Gold Cup include Somersby, God’s Own, Vibrato Valtat and Sir Valentino (the current champion).The Paul Nicholls-trained French bay gelding , Azertyiop won as a 7-year-old in 2004. Owned by John Hales and bred by Pierre de Maleissye Melun, he was out of a dam called Temara and sired by Baby Turk. His other major wins included the Kingwell Hurdle (2001), the November Novices’ Chase (2002), the Arkle Challenge Trophy (2003), the Game Spirit Chase (2004), (2005) and the Queen Mother Champion Chase (2004).
Edredon Bleu scooped back-to-back wins in 2002 and 2003. Jim Culloty was in the saddle for both rides and the horse was another French bay gelding. Trained by Henrietta Knight, owned by Jim Lewis and bred by Lucien Chevrollier, his dam was Nuit Bleue and his sire was Grand Tresor. Over a remarkable six-season period, he also won the Grand Annual Chase (1998), the Peterborough Chase (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001), the Queen Mother Champion Chase (2000), the Championship Chase (2001), the Desert Orchid Chase (2003), the Clonmel Oil Chase (2003) and the King George VI Chase (2003).
The Richard Johnson and David Nicholson partnership struck in 1997, when Viking Flagship added yet another major win to his impressive record. The Irish gelding had previously scored victories in the Punchestown Champion Chase (1993), the Swordlestown Cup Novice Chase (1993), the Victor Chandler Chase (1994), the Game Spirit Chase (1994, 1996), the Queen Mother Champion Chase (1994, 1995), the Tingle Creek Chase (1994), the Castleford Chase (1994, 1997) and the Melling Chase (1995, 1996).
Who is your pick, for the 2017 renewal of the Haldon Gold Cup? Make sure that you get your bet on in time, for what should be an absorbing chase!
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