Cheltenham changes name of Open fixture to avoid golf confusion
The Open, for 17 years the fixture that has traditionally raised the curtain on the jumps season, has been closed down.
However, before panic sets in, Cheltenham's most important meeting outside the Festival has survived and will go ahead as scheduled from November 17-19. But its title name has been changed because of alleged confusion with the other Open. Yes, that's right: the golf championship.
The 157-year-old golf tournament, the oldest of the four major championships, has other imitations including the US Open but Cheltenham's Open, which features races such as the BetVictor Gold Cup, will henceforth be known as the November meeting.
The track introduced titles to differentiate between its fixtures, which before the turn of the year also include the Showcase meeting in October and International in December. They will continue under the same names.
But discussions with the guardians of golf, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (the R&A), have ended with Cheltenham agreeing not to use the Open name anymore.
Ian Renton, regional director for the Jockey Club, South-West, said: "Following conversations with the R&A, we have jointly made the decisions that the three-day fixture in November at Cheltenham, staged in the middle of the month each year, is to be called The November meeting from 2017 onwards.
"This will help both parties promote their respective events and in the modern world of digital marketing avoid a clash of the words 'The Open' when promoting each event, both of which are marketed all year round."
The Open always seemed a curious title for a race meeting and after 17 years in existence now is a curious time to suddenly drop it.
It would appear the organisers of the Open, the golf championship, were not open to Cheltenham's three-day meeting continuing as another Open. You might say it's an open-and-shut case.
Of course the names are identical but how hard is it to distinguish between golf's version and racing's? True, the likes of Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy's former caddie have been spotted at Prestbury Park, but never when armed with a bag of clubs.
Such a clash of names is not exactly unique. There are two big races commonly referred to as the Gold Cup, one at Cheltenham and one at Ascot, plus many inferior versions.
Mind you, one worries for the future of the Cheltenham Festival as there are two of those, too. In a Google search it is the jazz, science, music and literature event that comes top of the list.
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