cheltenham festival

Everything you need to know about the Cheltenham Festival and more…

The Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup is the highlight of the entire Cheltenham Festival. It awards the 2nd highest prize money of any horse race in Great Britain, after the Grand National. However, do you know all these Cheltenham Gold Cup facts?

  • Currently, this famous National Hunt steeplechase takes place on Cheltenham’s New Course. 22 fences are jumped, over a 3 miles 2.5 furlong course. Horses 5 years and over can take part in this race. This blue riband race of the National Hunt racing calendar takes place on the final day of the festival.
  • Golden Miller holds the record for the horse with the most Cheltenham Gold Cup wins with 5 victories in a row – the horse won in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, and 1936. Infact, Golden Miller is the only horse to have won both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same year – achieved in 1934.
  • Only three other horses have won at least three times (they all happen to have won in consecutive years too):
    • Cottage Rake won in 1948, 1949, and 1950
    • Arkle won in 1964, 1965, and 1966. Infact Arkle’s jockey for all three wins, Pat Taaffe, also won on another horse (Fort Leney) in 1968 – his 4 wins make him the most successful winning jockey at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
    • Best Mate won in 2002, 2003, and 2004.
  • One of the most famous winning horses of recent times is Kauto Star – by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in both 2007 and 2009, the horse became the first to regain the trophy. In the intervening year (2008) Kauto Star finished 2nd to stablemate Denman. Denman finished 2nd to Kauto Star in 2009.

Cheltenham Festival Feature Races Facts

Under the 4 day Cheltenham Festival calendar currently in use, each day’s feature race is a championship race. These feature races are all Grade 1 races, but such is the quality of racing at the festival there are many more Grade 1 races throughout the 4 days. Do you know these Cheltenham Festival Feature Races Facts?

  • Tuesday – Champion Hurdle (2 miles 1/2 furlong). This is the most well regarded National Hunt hurdles race of the year. For horses at least 4 years old. Eight hurdles have to be jumped to complete the race, which takes place on the Old Course. Five horses tie the record for most wins in this race, each winning three times in consecutive years – Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then, and Istabraq.
  • Wednesday – Queen Mother Champion Chase (2 miles). This National Hunt steeplechase which is run on the Old Course, is the most important minimum distance allowed chase in the National Hunt year. It’s for horses at least 5 years old, and twelve fences need to be jumped to finish the race. Only one horse has won at least three times – Badsworth Boy in 1983, 1984, and 1985.
  • Thursday – Stayers’ Hurdle (3 miles). This is the leading National Hunt long-distance hurdles race of the season. Twelve hurdles need to be jumped to finish the race, and it is held on the New Course. Horses at least 4 years old can participate. The race became known as the Stayers’ Hurdle from 1972, but renamed the World Hurdle between 2005 and 2016. However, since 2017 it has reverted back to the Stayer’s Hurdle. Since 1972, only 1 horse has won at least four times – that’s Big Buck’s (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012). Infact, the jockey on each of those occasions was Ruby Walsh, who also won in 2017 on Nichols Canyon – his 5 wins make him the leading jockey since 1972.
  • Friday – Cheltenham Gold Cup (3 miles 2 1/2 furlongs)

Cheltenham Festival Tuesday

7 races are scheduled on the opening day of the 4 day Cheltenham Festival. 4 of these are Grade 1 races. In 2019, Day 1 of 4 falls on Tuesday 12th March 2019.

  • 13:30 Supreme Novices Hurdle (Grade 1, Hurdles) – Horses must be at least 4 years old. Takes place on the Old Course, with a race distance of 2 miles 1/2 furlong. 8 hurdles have to be jumped to finish. You will hear the traditional Cheltenham Roar, from the assembled crowd, at the start of this race as it is the first event of the festival. Jockey Ruby Walsh has won this race 5 times on 5 different horses, since 2006.
  • 14:10 Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices Chase (Grade 1, Fences) – Horses must be at least 5 years old. Run on the Old Course, the race is 2 miles. 13 fences must be jumped to complete the race. The famous Ruby Walsh-Willie Mullins jockey-trainer combination had 2 consecutive wins in 2015 and 2016 with Un de Sceaux and Douvan.
  • 14:50 Festival Trophy Handicap Chase (Grade 3, Fences)
  • 15:30 CHAMPION HURDLE CHALLENGE TROPHY (GRADE 1, HURDLES)
  • 16:10 David Nicholson Mares Hurdle (Grade 1, Hurdles) – Mares must be at least 4 years old. Takes place on the Old Course, over a distance of 2 miles 4 furlongs. 9 hurdles have to be jumped to complete the race. Quevega won this race 6 times in a row between 2009 and 2014. Ruby Walsh was the jockey on all of those occasions – he also won this race for a 7th time in 2016 on a different horse (Vroum Vroum Mag). Willie Mullins was the trainer for each of Ruby Walsh’s 7 wins, and he also had another win with Glens Melody in 2015. Quevega (6 wins), Walsh (7 wins), and Mullins (8 wins) hold the records for most successful horse, jockey, and trainer in this race.
  • 16:50 National Hunt Challenge Cup (Grade 2, Fences)
  • 17:30 Centenary Novices Handicap Chase (Listed, Fences)

Cheltenham Festival Wednesday

7 races (4 of which are Grade 1 contests) take place on Cheltenham Wednesday (the 2nd day of the Cheltenham Festival) under the current schedule. In 2019, the 2nd day falls on Wednesday 13th March 2019. All of the races below will be run on the Old Course, with the exception of the Cross Country Chase which will be run on the Cross Country Course.

  • 13:30 Baring Bingham Novices Hurdle (Grade 1, 10 Hurdles, 2 miles 5 furlongs) – This race features novice hurdlers, aged at least four years. Jockey Ruby Walsh has had 4 wins since 2008 in this race (Fiveforthree, Mikael d’Haguenet, Faugheen, and Yorkhill), making him the race’s leading jockey. Willie Mullins was the trainer on all these 4 occasions, making him the race’s leading trainer.
  • 14:10 RSA Chase (Grade 1, 19 Fences, 3 miles 1/2 furlong) – You will see novice chasers in this race, aged at least 5 years old. It is not unusual for winners of this race to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following year – e.g. Denman, Bobs Worth, and Lord Windermere.
  • 14:50 Coral Cup (Grade 3, Hurdles)
  • 15:30 QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE (GRADE 1, 12 FENCES, 2 MILES)
  • 16:10 Cross Country Chase (Ungraded, Cross Country)
  • 16:50 Fred Winter Juvenile Novices Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, Hurdles)
  • 17:30 Champion Bumper (Grade 1, National Hunt Flat Race, 2 miles 1/2 furlong) – For horses aged 4-6 years old. The highest regarded bumper (i.e. flat race) in the National Hunt year. Trainer Willie Mullins has had a record 8 wins in this race, whilst jockey Ruby Walsh has had a record 3 wins in this race. The inexperienced horses who do well in this race, unsurprisingly often go on to great success in their future jumping career.

Cheltenham Festival Thursday

7 races are scheduled for Cheltenham Thursday, the 3rd of 4 days in the current Cheltenham calendar. 3 of these are Grade 1 contests. All races below will be run on the New Course. In 2019, Cheltenham Thursday falls on 14th March 2019.

  • 13:30 Golden Miller Novices Chase (Grade 1, 17 Fences, 2 miles 4 furlongs) – Novice chasers, at least 5 years old, take part. Ruby Walsh is the leading jockey in this race with 3 wins – Vantour in 2015, Black Hercules in 2016, and Yorkhill in 2017. Willie Mullins was the trainer of all these horses, as well as the 2012 winner Sir Des Champs – his 4 wins make him the leading trainer in this race.
  • 14:10 Pertemps Final (Grade 3, Hurdles)
  • 14:50 Festival Trophy, currently known as the Ryanair Chase (Grade 1, 17 Fences, 2 miles 5 furlongs) – Horses aged 5 years or older take part. Ruby Walsh is the race’s leading jockey with 4 wins, including on the Willie Mullins trained pair Vantour in 2016 and Un De Sceaux in 2017.
  • 15:30 STAYERS HURDLE (GRADE 1, 12 HURDLES, 3 MILES)
  • 16:10 Mildmay of Flete Challenge Cup, currently known as the Brown Advisory Merriebelle Stable Plate (Grade 3, Fences)
  • 16:50 Dawn Run Mares Novices Hurdle (Grade 2, Hurdles)
  • 17:30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (Ungraded, Fences)

Cheltenham Festival Friday

7 races will take place on Cheltenham Friday – the final day of the current 4 day Cheltenham Festival calendar. In 2019, the final day falls on Friday 15th March 2019. These races will take place on the New Course. 3 of these are Grade 1 races. Friday is, of course, Cheltenham Gold Cup Day – the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the 2nd biggest race in the National Hunt calendar, after the Grand National. However, there is so much more to look forward to on Friday as well.

  • 13:30 Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1, 8 Hurdles, 2 miles 1 furlong) – Novice hurdlers, at least 4 years old, take part. This is the leading National Hunt race, for juveniles only. Barry Geraghty’s 5 wins make him the race’s leading jockey, whilst Nicky Henderson’s 6 wins make him the race’s leading trainer. 4 horses who have won the Triumph Hurdle, have later gone on to win the Champion Hurdle – the last of which was Katchit (2007 Triumph Hurdle winner, 2008 Champion Hurdle winner).
  • 14:10 County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, Hurdles)
  • 14:50 Spa Novices Hurdle (Grade 1, 12 Hurdles, 3 miles) – Novice hurdlers, at least 4 years old, take part. Tony McCoy is the leading jockey in this race with 3 wins – Black Jack Ketchum in 2006, Wichita Lineman in 2007, and At Fishers Cross in 2013.
  • 15:30 CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP (GRADE 1, 22 FENCES, 3 MILES 2 1/2 FURLONGS)
  • 16:10 Foxhunter Chase (Ungraded, Fences)
  • 16:50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle (Ungraded, Hurdles)
  • 17:30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase (Grade 3, Fences)

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