Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is the highlight of the year for National Hunt fans and takes place over four days in March at Cheltenham Racecourse.

The best chasers and hurdlers from Great Britain and Ireland clash over a variety of distances in the season’s championship races.

The chasing highlights are the Arkle Chase, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Champion Hurdle is the main event over the smaller obstacles with other top races including the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Triumph Hurdle.

Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Festival History & Famous winners

The Cheltenham Festival was originally known as the Grand National Hunt Festival in 1860. It was staged at Market Harborough and later Warwick before Prestbury Park became its permanent home in 1911.

The longest-running championship event at the Festival is the Stayers’ Hurdle which first took place in 1912.

Past winners at the Festival reads like jump racing’s Hall of Fame. There have been five three-time winners of the Champion Hurdle; Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq.

The great Golden Miller won the Cheltenham Gold Cup for five consecutive seasons between 1932 and 1936.

Other multiple winners include Arkle (1964, 1965, 1966) and Best Mate (2002, 2003, 2004).

Other legends of the sport to have won here include four-time Stayers’ Hurdle winner Big Buck’s (2009-2012), three-time Champion Chaser Badsworth Boy (1983-1985) and the remarkable six-time Mares’ Hurdle winner Quevega (2009-2014).

Cheltenham Festival Day 1

After months of anticipation, the tapes will finally go up on the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle to launch another Cheltenham Festival. This is greeted by the famous “Cheltenham Roar” as the 4-day battle between Britain and Ireland (and punter and bookmaker) gets underway. Past winners include Golden Cygnet (1978), Vautour (2014) and Altior (2016).

The Grade 1 Arkle Trophy is the launch pad of future Champion Chasers. Horses to win both races at Cheltenham racecourse during their careers include Flyingbolt (1965), Moscow Flyer (2002), Sprinter Sacre (2012) and Altior (2017).

The highlight of the opening day is the Champion Hurdle over two miles. This race has been dominated by owner JP McManus and trainer Nicky Henderson in recent times. Brilliant 2020 winner Epatante took their respective tallies to nine and eight. Henderson’s victories include a hat-trick by See You Then (1985-1987) while JP McManus will forever be associated with Istabraq (1998-2000).

Cheltenham Festival Day 2

The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle is the opening race on day 2, the two miles and five-furlong novice event won by Istabraq in 1997. Subsequent winners include Hardy Eustace (2003), Simonsig (2012), Faugheen (2014) and Envoi Allen (2020).

The RSA Chase is the championship event for three-mile novice chasers. The 2020 renewal was won by Champ who cut down Minella Indo and Allaho on the run-in. This race is regarded as the top trial for prospective Gold Cup horses. Notable past winners include Arkle (1963), Garrison Savannah (1990), Denman (2007) and Bobs Worth (2012).

The feature event on day 2 is the Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles. Badsworth Boy remains the only three-time winner while famous dual winners include Master Minded (2008, 2009), Sprinter Sacre (2013, 2016) and Altior (2018, 2019).

Cheltenham Festival Day 3

The Golden Miller Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles gets the action underway on day 3. This race was first run in 2011 but has already produced leading chasers Sir Des Champs (2012), Vautour (2015) and Defi Du Seuil (2019).

The Grade 1 Ryanair Chase has provided a championship race for two and a half mile horses since 2005. Albertas Run (2010, 2011) became the first horse to win the race twice. Willie Mullins has enjoyed great success in recent seasons with Vautour (2016), Un de Sceaux (2017) and Min (2020).

The Stayers’ Hurdle was won for four successive seasons by the Paul Nicholls-trained Big Buck’s from 2009 to 2012. Inglis Drever (2005, 2007, 2008) won three times and Baracouda (2002, 2003) won twice for France. Paisley Park was expected to follow up his 2019 victory in 2020 but failed to land a blow behind 50-1 shot Lisnagar Oscar.

Cheltenham Festival Day 4

The final day begins with the juvenile hurdling championship, the Triumph Hurdle. Katchit (2007) was the last horse to win this race and go on to win a Champion Hurdle. Tiger Roll (2014) won here and went on to win the Grand National in 2018 and 2019.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup provides the climax to the festival over an extended three and a quarter miles. This is regarded as the blue riband event of steeplechasing and the roll of honour contains many legends of the turf. Golden Miller racked up an incredible five successive victories from 1932 to 1936. Many regard three-time winner Arkle as the greatest steeplechaser of all-time.

There have also been some dramatic races including the emotional victories of Dawn Run (1986) and Desert Orchid (1989). Al Boum Photo won the Gold Cup in 2019 and 2020 and will be seeking to equal Best Mate’s achievement of three consecutive wins (2002 to 2004) in 2021.

Best Trainers & Jockeys at Cheltenham Festival

Willie Mullins and Paul Townend teamed up to land a sensational Gold Cup day treble in 2020. Mullins won the first four races on the card, securing a seventh title as Champion Trainer at the Festival. The only trainers to challenge his dominance in the past ten years have been Gordon Elliott (2017 and 2018) and Nicky Henderson (2012).

Townend’s treble brought him level with Barry Geraghty on five winners for the week and he claimed the Ruby Walsh Trophy by having two second places.

The trophy honours Ruby Walsh who was top jockey at the meeting on eleven occasions, riding 59 festival winners. He rode a record seven winners in 2009, a figure he equalled in 2016.

Betting on Cheltenham Festival 2021

The Festival is by far the busiest race meeting of the year for the UK’s bookmakers taking place at Cheltenham racecourse every March.

Punters will gamble an estimated £600 million over the course of the four days. Cheltenham accounts for eight of the top ten betting races each year, rivalled only by the Aintree Grand National and the Epsom Derby.

Ante-post odds on the top races at the meeting are available all year round. In recent seasons, bookmakers have declared “Non-Runner No Bet” terms on the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Stayers’ Hurdle and Champion Chase in the run-up to the festival. There are also special enhanced place terms throughout the week and best odds guaranteed from top online bookmakers and the best horse racing betting sites.

The Cheltenham Festival is an ideal time to open new accounts with some fantastic special offers for new customers. 888Sport offered 28-1 about Epatante to win the Champion Hurdle to a £5 stake while Paddy Power offered 40-1 to a £1 stake. That provided many new customers with a healthy balance for the remaining three days of the festival meeting!

If you are looking to bet online we recommend the following great deals:

Summary

The Cheltenham Festival is the life-blood of many National Hunt supporters.

From the moment the horses cross the line in the finale, the countdown begins to the following years meeting. Almost every notable winner from October onwards receives an ante-post quote for a race at the festival meeting.

The friendly rivalry between Britain and Ireland adds spice to four days of enthralling jump racing action. Prize money is big and legends are made.

The stunning backdrop of Cheltenham racecourse provides the perfect setting for the drama to unfold. The real stars are the horses with the likes of Arkle, Istabraq, Desert Orchid and Best Mate.

The Cheltenham Festival is simply unmissable for jump horse racing fans!