For any racing fan, the Cheltenham Festival is about as good as it gets. The Festival is National Hunt racing’s time to shine. It’s where the best equine talent from both sides of the Irish sea comes together for four days of action which really puts horse racing on the map.
The four-day meeting has just about everything. 12 Grade Ones including the four Championship races (Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup) where the best of the best take each other one, while the deviously tricky handicaps, which give the slightly less talented horse a chance to strut their stuff, compliment them superbly.
It is also, of course, synonymous as one of the horse racing betting calendars standout meetings and you can get all the latest Cheltenham Festival odds at our website.
The traditional curtain-raiser at Cheltenham is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and its start is greeted by the famous ‘Cheltenham Roar’. Recent renewals of the two-mile contest have been dominated by Irish-trained contenders, with five of the last seven winners coming from across the Irish Sea. Four of those were ridden by the Festival’s leading jockey Ruby Walsh and trained by Willie Mullins, though with Walsh’s retirement last year he won’t be able to add to his record six wins in the race. Shishkin is the current 4/1 favourite in our latest horse racing odds.
The Grade 1 action keeps coming on day 1 with the Arkle Challenge Trophy the second race scheduled for the Cheltenham Festival 2020 card. Won by some of the sport’s greats including Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and Altior in recent times, the two-mile Chase is one of the best spectacles over the four days, with the race always run at a ferocious pace. It has been won by Mullins in consecutive years, most recently with Duc des Genievres. Notebook currently leads the betting odds at 7/2.
The feature on the opening day is the Champion Hurdle, which is the most prestigious hurdle race of the entire National Hunt calendar. It pits the best of the best against each other, though this year’s race is perhaps the most open in a number of years. Impressive Christmas Hurdle winner Epatante heads the betting at 3/1, though there are several candidates who look to have genuine claims of capturing the Grade One prize.
Epatante will be bidding to give owner J P McManus his fourth consecutive win in the race after Buveur d’Air won the race back-to-back in 2017 and 2018, before Espoir d’Allen was a surprise victor 12 months ago.
Tuesday’s final Grade 1 contest is the Mares’ Hurdle, which in all honesty could be called the Willie Mullins Mares’ Hurdle! The Irish handler has won the race a staggering nine times, most notably with Quevega, who won the race six times in a row from 2009 to 2014. He looks to hold a very strong hand in the race this year with Benie Des Dieux a short price to record her second victory having won it in 2018. She’s 4/5 in the Cheltenham Festival runners.
Three handicaps (Ultima, Close Brothers and National Hunt Chase) round off the rest of the day 1 card.
Day Two of the Cheltenham Festival is the glamorous and exciting Ladies Day and it begins with the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Though often a good trial for the following year’s Champion Hurdle, recent winners Samcro and City Island have gone over fences in the following season. Samcro was seen by many as the Irish banker of the week and his trainer Gordon Elliott looks to have another this time around with the unbeaten Envoi Allen very well-fancied to continue that streak at 5/4.
The RSA Novices’ Chase pits some of the best up and coming novice chasers as they look to stake their claims of being Gold Cup contenders the following year. Last year saw an epic battle between Topofthegame, Santini and Delta Work with the Paul Nicholls-trained Topofthegame emerging victorious. This year, Champ, named after former Champion Jockey AP McCoy, is the favourite though he was a faller the last time he ran at Cheltenham. He’s currently 7/2 in the live horse racing odds.
Wednesday’s feature race is the Queen Mother Champion Chase which has been won in consecutive years by Nicky Henderson’s Altior. The 10-year-old was all set to be stepped up in trip this year with the Gold Cup muted as a possible target, though things haven’t gone right and he’s back over the minimum distance as he seeks to win the race again. He has plenty of young pretenders in opposition, though, with Philip Hobbs’ Defi Du Seuil the current market leader at 15/8 as he bids to win at the Festival for a third time.
The other races on the card include the Cross Country, won for the last two years by Grand National hero Tiger Roll and the Champion Bumper, which sees some of National Hunt’s potential superstars of the future.
Thursday is St Patrick’s day at Cheltenham and the feature is the Stayers’ Hurdle. Paisley Park was an impressive winner of the race last year and looks one who could dominate the division for years to come. He’s been victorious on both starts this season and is now seen by many as the banker of the entire meeting at 11/8. It will take a pretty good one to beat him!
The day opens up with the newly-named Marsh Chase which looks a pretty open renewal, though if current market leader Faugheen (6/1) were victorious it would surely bring the house down. The 12-year-old is hugely popular and if were to emerge victorious it would be met with similar scenes to Frodon’s victory in the Ryanair Chase last year.
Nicholls’ charge put in one of the bravest performances in modern memory and in doing so made his jockey Bryony Frost the first women to win a Grade One at the Cheltenham Festival. The scenes after the victory will live long in the memory of any Cheltenham fan.
Thursday last year was a good day for the women jockeys with Lizzie Kelly also gaining victory in the fiercely competitive Plate Handicap Chase, while one of the biggest shocks came in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle where 50/1 shot Eglantine Du Seuil came out on top.
The penultimate day is completed by two of the most competitive races of the festival, with the Pertemps and the Kim Muir for amateur jockeys.
The fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival is of course headlined by the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The most famous of all 28 races during the four days and the one all jockeys, trainers and owners want to win. This year’s contest looks as interesting a renewal as we’ve seen in a number of years with so many of the leading contenders having genuine and reasonable cases for claiming the three-mile contest. One of those is most definitely last year’s impressive winner Al Boum Photo, who gave his trainer Willie Mullins his first taste of success in the blue riband event and is 4/1 in the latest racing odds.
Two novice hurdles are a large part of Friday’s action. The Triumph for juveniles over 2m1f and the Albert Bartlett over three miles. The former, in particular, is one of the most competitive and attritional races of the meeting with young horses having their stamina tested to the max over the lengthy three-mile trip. The Triumph is another contest often viewed as a genuine trial for the following year’s Champion Hurdle and a prime example of that is this year with the 2019 winner Pentland Hills one of the leading contenders for Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle.
The Foxhunters is the Gold Cup for the amateur jockeys and is always a brilliant race to watch, while the County Hurdle and Grand Annual are another set of incredibly competitive handicaps. Finding a horse that places is hard enough, let alone the winner!
Conditional jockeys are the order of the day in the final race of the Festival with Martin Pipe handicap hurdle their big chance to shine. Last year, Early Doors gave Jonjo O’Neill Jr his first Cheltenham winner and if this season is anything to go by, it was the first of many at Cheltenham.
So there you have it, a comprehensive run-through of the glitz and glamour of the Cheltenham Festival. In short, there is something for everyone and we can’t wait for it all to get started in the second week of March.
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