A look ahead to the Cheltenham Festival
The Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest events on the horse racing calendar. Each year, racing fans enjoy four days of glorious horse racing. The event takes place at Cheltenham racecourse, considered the home of Jump racing.
This year, the festival begins on 15th March and ends on 18th March. More than £4.5 million in prize money is up for grabs.
The popularity of the Cheltenham festival
There’s absolutely no denying the popularity of the festival, an event which has seen all sorts of statistics as jockeys, trainers, and fans from around Britain and from across the world make their way to the event. Here are just some of the stats the festival has registered in the past that demonstrate the festival’s popularity:
- 134,600 people have used the Cheltenham Spa train station over the four days.
- 80,000 people have hopped on the shuttle bus between the town centre and the racecourse.
- The average attendance over the four days of the festival has been 65,000.
- 71,500 have attended on Gold Cup Day.
Research by YouGov also shows that the festival is especially popular with Generation X-ers and Baby Boomers.
Who will be running?
Not so much is known about who will be participating in the event at the time of writing. It’s all speculation and rumour, but some online bookmakers have started making their antepost predictions about who they expect to win certain events. These include predictions of:
- A Plus Tard winning the Gold Cup.
- Ferny Hollow taking the Arkle Chase.
- Honeysuckle charging to victory in the Champion Hurdle.
- Klassical Dream giving their jockey and trainer a win to celebrate in the Stayer’s Hurdle.
In terms of trainers, the festival has seen some real heavyweights in the past: Willie Mullins, who has produced 72 festival winners; Nicky Henderson, who has been behind the success of 62 winners at the festival; Paul Nicholls, whose efforts have created 46 winners; and Henry de Bromhead, whose nine festival winners are a sign of his progression from strength to strength over the last decade. All of these trainers are likely to be people fans will see or whose involvement they’ll witness at the festival.
Preparing for the race
Meanwhile, yards will be training their horses to power their way across the finishing line first, especially when it comes to events like the Cheltenham Gold Cup. To win this race is a serious feather in a jockey’s cap.
Yards have been somewhat secretive about how they’re getting their potentially Cheltenham prize-winning horses into shape for the festival, but top trainer Paul Nicholls and other voices in horse racing have expressed concern over the way some horses have switched yards close to the event.
They feel this move could be damaging to the horse’s prospects of winning. Ideally, the horse should be eating the same hay, the same feed and generally observing the same diet. People do things so differently at different yards. These aspects of the horse’s routine are likely to change when they change yards.
The races not to miss at the festival
Of course, all of the races are exciting, but some are absolutely not to be missed:
Queen Mother Champion Chase
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a two-mile race and is all about speed rather than stamina. In 2020, Politlogue took the race, making trainer Paul Nicholls very proud and robbing Nicky Henderson of a treble.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the one everyone especially wants to win. Fans will see some real drama unfold during this three mile and 2.5 furlong steeple chase. It’s a gruelling race that puts £625,000 up for grabs as first prize. Several horses have made their name in the Gold Cup, including Best Mate, Kauto Star and Denman. In 2021, Minella Indo came in and gave rising training star Henry de Bromhead a win in this magnificent event.
The Stayer’s Hurdle is another tough three miler and the most prestigious hurdle event in the racing calendar. In 2021, Flooring Porter came out on top and added a win to the belt of trainer Gavin Cromwell. Baracouda, Inglis Drever and Thistlecrack are other horses that have made a name for themselves in this event.
The excitement is building
Anticipation is beginning to mount, as fans are already seeing references to the Cheltenham Festival in the media from trainers. Bookmakers offering Cheltenham odds have began to offer their antepost predictions and punters will already be thinking about which horses they wish to lay their money down on.
Meanwhile, fans will be studying the form and keeping their eyes open for horses that might surprise the racing world at Cheltenham. Some experts have predicted Samcro could turn up a surprise, now that some inquiries and discoveries have been made around the horse’s health. Another to look out for could be Annamix, a horse which has shown real ability but is still relatively unknown and, since Willie Mullins is the trainer, could have real connections that boost its performance or take it all the way.
Cheltenham will soon be here before racing fans know it. Trainers and jockeys from around the world come to take part in the action. Fans from the UK and further across the globe will also make their way and soak up everything that’s going on. It’s going to be an amazing event as always.