The Cheltenham Festival has been given a boost this week with the news that the Jewson Novices Chase has been upgraded to Grade 1 status. The Jewson was one of four National Hunt races upgraded from grade 2 status ensuring that there will be 13 top level contests at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival. The move reflects the quality of the race over the past couple of years with the race often packed with top class runners.
The other three races to receive an upgrade to Grade 1 status are the Mildmay Novices Chase and the Mersey Novices Hurdle at the Grand National meeting, as well as the Celebration Chase at Sandown. The Jewson race at Cheltenham though is the big news with the Festival the highlight of the year for the sport and another Grade 1 race can only enhance that reputation.
We have seen some very nice winners of the Jewson Novices Chase since its new incarnation over 2m 4f in 2011. Sir Des Champs is perhaps the best name on the list having won the race back in 2012, before going onto finish second in the Gold Cup the following season. More recently it was Benefficient who claimed the win for Ireland in 2013 at a bigger price of 20/1 ahead of warm favourite, Dynaste.
There was more good news for the Festival with the news that the National Hunt Chase was granted listed status for the first time. That can only boost the Festival even further with the four mile race already one of the most popular of the week. Other races to have been upgraded for the new season include the Becher Chase, which is now a grade 3 renewal and the Imperial Cup at Sandown, which will also now be a grade 3 contest.