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Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Seven ways to get through summer - if you like jumps

Racing at Cartmel, the jewel in the summer-jumping crown
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Make the pilgrimage to Cartmel

The storied Cumbrian venue has a number of meetings over the summer, including their hugely popular Bank Holiday weekend meetings at Whitsun and the end of August. You won't be alone: Cartmel may be a small track (albeit with the longest run-in) but it boasts the third-highest average daily attendance of any jumps track in Britain after Cheltenham and Aintree. What's more, the Lake District is on your doorstep, the sticky toffee pudding is legendary, and Sir Tom Jones will be appearing after racing on Friday June 30.

Marvel at the magnificent Richard Johnson

Few sports offer the chance to watch its leading players on relatively minor stages but racing is different. All the top jockeys will be in action at what are affectionately called gaff tracks in the coming weeks, and none more so than indefatigable reigning champion Richard Johnson, who has taken a leaf out of his predecessor AP McCoy's book in the last two seasons by establishing a clear lead in the title race with a hatful of summer winners. You can set your watch by Johnson, who is the the same whether it's Newbury or Newton Abbot.

Head to Galway for a festival fix

Okay, they have plenty of Flat racing as well – it goes on so long they've got time for pretty much everything – but the Galway Plate and the Galway Hurdle are the highlights of the notorious seven-day jamboree featuring 51 races altogether. This year's dates are July 31 to August 6. There are also dual-purpose festivals at scenic Killarney (four days in July) and Listowel (seven days in September); the latter features the Kerry National.

Don't miss the highlights

While most of the summer jumps action is of the bread-and-butter variety, don't miss out on various highlights, such as the Pertemps Swinton Hurdle at Haydock's mixed meeting on May 13, or Stratford's end-of-season hunter-chase card, now pushed back until June 8 to get closer to the conclusion of point-to-point activity. Then there's the £50,000 Betfred Summer Plate on Market Rasen's Ladies Day on July 22 with a good card also featuring the Summer Handicap Hurdle. The Skeltons doubled up in last year's features with Long House Hall and Red Tornado.

Enjoy some French fancies

Jumps fans would be well advised to keep an eye on events across the Channel, when Auteuil hosts the premier jumps cards with the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris (French Gold Cup, on Sunday May 21) and Grand Course de Haies d'Auteuil (French Champion Hurdle on June 11). Willie Mullins, who likes having runners at Auteuil, is also looking farther afield to the Iroquois Hurdle at Percy Warner Park in Nashville on May 13, when Stayers' Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon is chasing a $500,000 bonus.

Try to make it pay

A quick look at last year's stats for jump yards from May to September reveal some noteworthy figures: Alan King, for example, saddled 26 winners from 85 runners in the period at a strike-rate of 31 per cent and a level-stakes profit of £11.69 (to a £1 stake). Others to note include Neil Mulholland (35-168, 21%, +£17.43), Charlie Longsdon (20-104, 19%, +£17.02) and Graeme McPherson (13-68, 19%, +£39.12).

Cheer on the jumps boys getting one over their Flat counterparts

Among trainers to have won the Ascot Stakes at the royal meeting in the last decade are Willie Mullins (twice), David Pipe, Nicky Henderson and Jonjo O'Neill; last year's winner Jennies Jewel was second at Punchestown two runs beforehand. Heartbreak City completed a hat-trick in the Ebor after scoring over hurdles at Tipperary and Galway; Philip Hobbs (Big Easy) and Alan King (Grumeti) won the Cesarewitch in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Martin Pipe and Henderson have both won the Newmarket marathon twice.

You can set your watch by Johnson, who is the the same whether it's Newbury or Newton Abbot

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