November Cheltenham meeting was the perfect start to jump racing’s return

While the Cheltenham Festival is perhaps the biggest even on the jump racing calendar, the November meeting at the same venue is always a great occasion too. With the jumps season still in its early stages, the November fixture at Cheltenham is always a great way to fully welcome in the new campaign, and there is usually plenty of drama to go with it. 

Indeed, this year’s November meeting was even more special than usual. Since the Cheltenham Festival in 2020, fans of jump racing have been largely unable to attend their favourite fixtures, and often racecourses have felt like ghost towns as a result. This time though, the stands were packed to the rafters as racegoers revelled in their return to one of the sport’s best-loved venues. 

The most dramatic story came in the Gold Cup, as Midnight Shadow triumphed with Ryan Mania on board. The jockey had originally announced his retirement from the sport at the age of 25, but returned to action in October 2019. Wins like this are the reason he was unable to stay away from racing, and you could see what it meant to Mania as he and Midnight Shadow crossed the finish line. 

“This is great. I travelled six hours to be here today and it’s well worth the journey,” the Scot said afterwards. I’m sure it is emotional for most jockeys but it is especially emotional for me to have retired and come back and do all this for my family. To come down and ride these big winners is amazing.

It was a cracking race too. Last year’s winner Coole Cody established a firm lead in the middle part of the race, and looked all set to make it two on the spin in the Gold Cup for trainer Evan Williams, but the 10-year-old inexplicably fell at the second last. 

That allowed Mania and Midnight Shadow to assume control, and the pair quickly stormed into the lead. Despite fading as they approached the finish line, the eight-year-old had the strength of resolve to hold onto the lead and claim a famous victory.

It was the kind of spectacle that those in attendance would have been hoping for when they paid their admission fee. It’s live-action drama like that that has been missing from the lives of racing fans over the last 18 months, forced to make do with watching races unfold on their television sets. 

For Mania and Midnight Shadow, the sky is the limit. There is talk that the Sue Smith-trained horse could be set for a run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, which would be a major test of his credentials. Those seeking to find out what are the best horse racing betting sites may just fancy his chances.

But it’s no surprise that Midnight Shadow is being tipped for big things this season after the show he put on at Cheltenham. This was the perfect way to kick off the jump racing campaign in Britain, and you can bet that there will be plenty more moments of magic for fans to sink their teeth into before the season is out.  

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