Cheltenham 2015: Manchester racing pedigree will live on at Prestbury Park

Manchester horse racing fans have no better reason to make the 128-mile pilgrimage to Cheltenham this spring than Donald McCain.

McCain, who trains a successful stable in Cheshire, is the son of the late Ginger, the trainer who exercised three-time Grand National winner Red Rum on a Southport beach.




There are other figures in the world of national hunt racing who have close ties to North West England, though the sport is not what it was up here.

Once a leading venue, it is now 51 years since the Manchester Racecourse hosted a race, won by Lester Piggott.

Castle Irwell used to be the home of one of the great betting races in the calendar – the November Handicap – but now it is home to thousands of students.

As universities and the masses flocked to Manchester, racing ceased to be on the industry radar. There have been various attempts to return the sport to the city but all have been rebuked in the planning stages, most recently in 2010.

So thank goodness for Prestbury Park, which plays host to four days of top class racing each March and is known as the Olympics of national hunt.

This is what tens of thousands of trainers, stable staff, jockeys and owners get out of bed at 5am throughout the dark days of winter for – a shot at Festival glory.

But it’s also what hundreds of thousands of punters wait for patiently each year, no doubt eager to make use of Paddy Power free bets for Cheltenham.

The best festival of the year beginning with C takes place in mid-March, not late December.




Most legends of the game, both equine and human, have earned their stripes on this patch of Cotswolds turf.

Golden Miller, Flyingbolt, Mill House, Arkle, Desert Orchid, Best Mate, Kauto Star, Denman and more.

Trainers from the greatest of them all, Vincent O’Brien, to Paul Nicholls, Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson, have plotted and schemed all year to peak for these four days.

Giants of the saddle from Pat Taafe, John Francome, Peter Scudamore, Terry Biddlecombe and Richard Dunwoody, to modern greats Richard Johnson, Barry Geraghty, Ruby Walsh and the incomparable AP McCoy all strive every sinew to get up that famous hill in front and receive the adulation of the crowd.

Racing may not take place in Manchester as a physical spectacle anymore but thousands of Mancunians will be dreaming of Festival glory between March 10-13 and long may this continue.


Main image courtesy of Equine Productions via YouTube, with thanks.

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