JUMP racing’s Olympics, the Cheltenham Festival, will be well under way by the time you read this column.

Despite the threat posed by the coronavirus, tens of thousands of spectators have flocked for their annual pilgrimage to the Gloucestershire spa town.

The meeting, which attracts up to 70,000 people a day, lasts four days with the feature event of the week, the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, taking place on Friday. Former Coral Welsh Grand National winner, Native River, won the race in 2018 but this year he’s been ruled out due to injury.

His jockey Richard Johnson is quite rightly ‘gutted’ because he thought the ten-year-old had a great chance of becoming one of the few equine stars to have won the race twice.

The betting is wide open with the Nicky Henderson trained Santini and last year’s winner Al Boum Photo, trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins, heading the market. Just behind is Delta Work, trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott.

In a very competitive renewal for the prestigious prize, other horses strongly fancied include Lostintranslation, Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy.

We are fortunate at Chepstow Racecourse to attract top class horses and over the years lots of horses who have won the Coral Welsh Grand National have been successful in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, including Cool Ground, Master Oats and Synchronised.

This year, the 2018 Welsh National winner Elegant Escape, trained by Colin Tizzard, bids to complete that historic double, but his odds are 50-1 so the bookmakers think it’s unlikely!

One other Welsh fact linked to the Gold Cup is that it’s 30 years since Carmarthenshire trained Norton’s Coin won the race at odds of 100-1 for trainer Sirrell Griffiths and jockey Graham McCourt – I was in the crowd that day and I can say from personal experience, you could hear a pin drop as Norton’s Coin passed the post in front.

Best of luck if you are having a bet this year.

The next big meeting in the jump racing calendar is the Randox Health Grand National on Saturday 4th April and it’s a great day for us because we are racing at Chepstow too. It’s a very popular format to come to us and see some live racing and then enjoy the big race from Aintree at 5.15pm on the various big screens around the course.

This year, we have added the attraction of Bruce Foxton and From The Jam playing after racing – it’s a greatest hits show including Going Underground, Strange Town, In The City, Town Called Malice and That’s Entertainment. The band will be on stage around 6.20pm. Tickets start from £22.

Finally, we are selling a new package for James Arthur Race Night on Saturday, 6th June – the Chart Topper deal includes a ticket to the event plus two drinks and a race night programme, all for £49. It’s available in advance only, either online or over the phone on 01291 622260.