CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL RACECARDS

View all the Cheltenham Festival 2023 racecards for each day of the festival, all in one place.

Cheltenham Races Guide

The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of National Hunt jumps racing and a week that all racing fans look forward to. The prestige of the Cheltenham Festival is unrivaled with 28 top-class races spread across four days showcasing many of the sport’s best horses. There are 14 Grade 1 contests including the feature race on each day, the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers Hurdle and The Gold Cup.

 

Cheltenham has three courses, the New Course, the Old Course and the Cross Country Course. The first two days of the Festival are run on the Old Course, before switching to the New course for the final two days. The Cross Country Chase on Wednesday is the only race to be run over the cross country fences, a figure-of-eight course set in the centre of Cheltenham racecourse that crosses both the Old and New courses.

The first day of the Cheltenham Festival, Champions Day, takes place on Tuesday 14th March 2023.

 

The opening race is traditionally the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, where the the best two-mile novice hurdlers from Britain and Ireland will be greeted by the infamous Cheltenham roar as the week’s action gets underway. Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson have dominated the first Grade 1 contest of the festival in recent years,  winning seven of the last nine runnings with high-class performers such as Vautour and Douvan scoring for the former and Altior and Shishkin for the latter.

 

The Arkle Challenge Trophy is a race for 2m novice chasers often seen as a stepping stone to the Champion Chase the following year. Iconic chasers Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop, Voy Por Ustedes, Sizing Europe, Sprinter Sacre and Altior all won this race en route to Champion Chase glory 12 months later over the same course-and-distance. With the emergence of a classy performer throughout the season likely, it has historically been an enjoyable spectacle for punters with seven odds-on favourites winning in the past decade. Four of those were for trainer Nicky Henderson, including last year’s winner Shishkin. 

 

The Ultima Handicap Chase is the first handicap of the festival and one of two staying handicap chases on offer over the four days. The field tackle 20 fences on the Old Course in a 3m1f test, with British-trained horses winning the last 15 runnings of the contest. Jonjo O’Neill and David Pipe have been responsible for three of those victories apiece and with a field of over 20 runners usually expected, the race often provides punters with a challenging betting heat with just two favourites scoring this century.

 

The feature race on Day 1 is the Champion Hurdle, the most prestigious 2m hurdle race in the British calendar. Superstars Night Nurse, Monksfield and Sea Pigeon won it twice each in a golden era for hurdling over four decades ago, while Istabraq emulated See You Then by winning the race for the third year in a row in 2000. Istabraq’s owner JP McManus has become synonymous with the race, with his green and gold silks carried to victory for six of the last 12 runnings.

 

The Mares Hurdle is a relatively new addition to the Cheltenham Festival, established in 2008 as an incentive to keep mares in racing. Irish trainer Willie Mullins has won no fewer than nine of the 14 runnings, six of those with the remarkable Quevega. While Quevega’s place in Cheltenham folklore is set in stone, with a wine bar at the racecourse named in her honour, Mullins’ dominance in the race has begun to subside slightly with the last three runnings falling in the favour of other trainers. 

 

The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle is for four-year-olds who are generally thought not to have quite the class to compete in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle. Introduced initially as a Listed race when the festival went to four days in 2005, the race was awarded Grade 3 status in 2009 and has become the bookmaker’s friend in recent years. In the past decade there have been seven winners with a starting price of 25-1 or higher including last year’s shock 80-1 winner Jeff Kidder for trainer Noel Meade.

 

The first amateur riders’ race at Cheltenham is the National Hunt Chase. Initially a gruelling test over 4m for novice chasers, the distance was reduced to 3m6f in 2020 after just four runners completed the course 12 months earlier. A higher calibre of horse is needed to win the race in recent years demonstrated by 2017 winner Tiger Roll, who went on to win back-to-back Grand Nationals. Amateur riders were unable to compete in 2021 due to Covid-19 protocols but return to their rightful place for this year’s renewal which will be music to the ears of Jamie Codd, who has won the race three times in the last seven years. 

The second day of the Cheltenham Festival is Ladies Day and takes place on Wednesday 15th March 2023.

 

The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle kicks off the day and is often a stepping stone to either the Champion Hurdle or novice chases such as the Marsh Novices’ Chase or the Festival Novices’ Chase. Ireland have held the monopoly over this race in recent years with Ben Pauling’s Willoughby Court in 2017 the only non Irish-trained winner in the last eight years. The Irish dominance continued in last year’s race with the Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger emphatically dispatching Britain’s big hope Bravemansgame.

 

The Festival Novices’ Chase (formerly the RSA) is the novice equivalent of the Gold Cup and the most prestigious race of the season for staying novice chasers. In the last decade both Bobs Worth and Lord Windermere have returned after winning this contest to land the Gold Cup. The latter provided jockey Davy Russell with one of his three wins in the race, the best record of any jockey still riding.

 

The Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle is one of the most competitive races of the festival. The winner needs to cope with the hustle and bustle of a field that usually features 20-plus runners and it also has to be a quality horse – seven times in the last ten years this has gone to a horse with experience in graded races. Supasundae and Whisper both went on to Grade 1 glory after taking this race. Only one favourite has won the contest in the last ten years, with last year’s winning mare Heaven Help Us continuing the trend with a front-running victory at 33-1 under Richard Condon.

 

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the most prestigious 2m chase in Britain and Ireland and has been won by some of the fastest chasers in racing. Nicky Henderson has won five of the last ten runnings of the race, including with superstar Sprinter Sacre in 2013 and 2016 and most recently with Altior in 2018 and 2019. Ante-post favourite and unbeaten chaser Shishkin could continue Henderson’s fine record in the race and follow up his Arkle triumph at last year’s festival.

 

The only race not run on the main Cheltenham racecourse is the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, which has its own track in the centre of the course. The obstacles and raised banks make it a unique test and it is no surprise that it has become a specialist’s track with multiple winners a common occurrence. Garde Champetre won back-to-back runnings in 2008 and 2009 for Nina Carberry and Enda Bolger while Balthazar King is another two-time winner. Tiger Roll won this on the way to landing the Grand National in 2018 and 2019 and conquered 2020 French-trained winner Easysland to win the race for a third time last year.

 

The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase, named after the father of Nicky Henderson, was switched to Wednesday last year from its Friday slot it had held since 2009. Crucially, this means that instead of being run on the New Course the 2m handicap now takes place on the Old Course. Whatever the day, it invariably attracts a big field and is run at a fast pace which makes it a distinctive test – four of the last seven winners had run in the race previously; Next Sensation, Rock The World, Le Prezien and Croco Bay.

 

The only race at the Festival not to be run over obstacles is the Champion Bumper. It is designed for horses who are yet to begin their jumping careers and is often a starting point for top-class hurdlers and chasers, most notably Cue Card who won the race in 2010 at 40-1 and remains the only successful four-year-old this century. In recent years, the Cheveley Park Stud operation, who are better known for the exploits on the Flat, have used this race as a grounding for their future jump stars including the last three winners Envoi Allen, Ferny Hollow and Sir Gerhard.

The penultimate day of the Cheltenham Festival takes place on Thursday 16th March 2023, also known as St Patrick’s Thursday.

 

The opening race is the Marsh Novices’ Chase, registered as the Golden Miller, and is the chase equivalent of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Run over the intermediate trip of 2m4f, the race has gone to an Irish-trained horse on all but three occasions since its inception in 2011. Often producing breathtaking displays such as Vautour’s flawless 15-length demolition job in 2015 and thrilling finishes like Samcro’s narrow 2020 victory by a nose over Melon, it should get St Patrick’s Day off to a flying start.

 

The Pertemps Network Final Hurdle is an ultra-competitive handicap contested by horses who have earned their spot through finishing in the first six in one of a series of qualifying races. A race which requires plenty of strategic planning, it is no coincidence trainers have gone on to win multiple runnings after cracking the code with a breakthrough success. David Pipe struck with Buena Vista in 2010 and 2011, Pat Kelly with Mall Dini (2016) and Presenting Percy (2017), while Gordon Elliott has gone one better to win the race three years running with Delta Work (2018) and Sire Du Berlais (2019, 2020).

 

The Ryanair Chase is the feature race over fences on day three of the Cheltenham Festival. A Grade 1 test over 2m4½f, it is the championship contest for chasers whose optimum trip falls between that of the Champion Chase and Gold Cup. It has been won by stars such as Un De Sceaux and Vautour as well as producing subsequent King George winners Cue Card and Frodon. Despite sponsoring the race since 2006, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has only tasted victory once as an owner with Balko Des Flos.

 

The Stayers’ Hurdle is the most prestigious race of the season for long-distance hurdlers and threw up one of the greatest stars of 21st century jump racing in Big Bucks’, who won it four times in a row from 2009 to 2012 in the colours of the late Andy Stewart for trainer Paul Nicholls. Other classy multiple winners include Baracouda and Inglis Drever, who remains the only horse to regain his crown this century when following up his win in 2005 with back-to-back victories in 2007 and 2008.

 

The Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase is run over 2m 4½ furlongs. Though short-priced horses have scored in the last four years the race can throw up winners at longer odds, such as Darna (33-1), Carrickboy (50-1), Holmwood Legend (25-1) and Something Wells (33-1) who have all been successful since 2009. Legendary trainer Martin Pipe won this race four times and his son David is close to emulating that feat with three winners of his own, making him the joint-most prolific trainer in this race since the turn of the century with Venetia Williams.

 

The Daylesford Mares Novices’ Hurdle is one of the newest additions to the Cheltenham Festival calendar and since its introduction in 2016 has been somewhat of a one-man show, with Willie Mullins taking the first five runnings of the race. Mullins’ wins have ranged from odds-on shots such as Limini and Laurina to outsiders like 50-1 2019 winner Eglantine Du Seuil. The dominant reign of Mullins was brought to an end last year by fellow Irish trainer Henry de Bromhead with Telmesomethinggirl. With no winners trained outside of Ireland yet, this could prove a happy hunting ground for Irish punters enjoying St Patrick’s Day.

 

The second of the staying handicap chases at the festival is the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup for amateur riders over 3m2f. This race can often provide the platform for bigger things with Ballabriggs taking the 2010 running en route to Grand National glory the following year. Last year’s winner Mount Ida certainly fits that progressive profile and was guided to victory by professional Jack Kennedy due to Covid-19 restrictions preventing amateur jockeys from riding. Jamie Codd has ridden a race record four winners since 2009 and will likely have the pick of the Gordon Elliott representatives as Cullentra house bid to win the race for a third year running.

The final day of the Cheltenham Festival is Gold Cup day, taking place on Friday 17th March 2023.

 

The Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle is the championship event for four-year-old juvenile hurdlers. Four winners have gone on to land the Champion Hurdle, most recently Katchit in 2008. This was also the race that Tiger Roll burst onto the scene in 2014 with the first of his five festival wins. The 2020 running produced one of the most dramatic moments at the festival in recent years as Goshen was set to be the most impressive winner of the race since the ill-fated Our Conor, with the race at his mercy when ten lengths clear approaching the last only to unseat jockey Jamie Moore.

 

The Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle has been dominated by Willie Mullins since the race moved from its traditional slot as the final race of the meeting to its current placing as the second race on Friday in 2009. Mullins has won the race five times since then while Dan Skelton has also enjoyed this 2m1f handicap hurdle, landing his first festival winner with Superb Story in 2016 before following up with Mohaayed in 2018 and Ch’tibello in 2019. A race often won by a smooth-travelling horse scything through the field from the back, Belfast Banter’s 33-1 win last year continued the good record of outsiders with only one outright favourite winning since Master Tern in 2000.

 

Young long-distance stars get their chance to shine in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over 3m, a race won by future Stayers’ Hurdle winner Penhill in 2017. The race also gives an indication to potential Gold Cup horses with Bobs Worth and Minella Indo taking this race in 2011 and 2019 respectively prior to their wins in the festival feature. The only trainers successful more than once since the race was founded in 2005 are Jonjo O’Neill and Willie Mullins, who have both won it twice.

 

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious contest in jump racing, the championship event for long-distance chasers and a true test of stamina over a gruelling 3m2f½f. Most of the sport’s biggest names, from Golden Miler to Desert Orchid, Dawn Run to Kauto Star, have won it. The legendary Arkle triumphed three times in the 1960s and the feat was matched by Best Mate in the early-2000s. After seven years without an Irish-trained winner between 2007 and 2013, there has been a significant change in fortune with Ireland taking six of the last eight runnings.

 

The St James’s Place Festival Hunters’ Chase, formerly known as the Foxhunters’, is run over the same course-and-distance as the Gold Cup that precedes it but with the crucial difference being that it is for amateur riders. In order to qualify a horse must be aged at least five and finished either first or second in hunter chases, won two open point-to-points or won one point-to-point and finished first or second in a hunter chase throughout the season. It is often viewed as pinnacle of the season for amateurs although last year’s winner Porlock Bay was ridden by professional Lorcan Williams due to Covid-19 restrictions forbidding amatuer riders to take part.

 

The newest race in the festival programme is the Mrs Paddy Power Mares Chase, a Grade 2 run over 2m4f½f. The race was added to the meeting in 2021 in place of the novice handicap chase which was dropped from Cheltenham and is now run at Sandown the Saturday before the festival. In line with the other two contests for fillies and mares during the week Willie Mullins asserted his dominance early by saddling a 1-2 in the inaugural running of the race last year with Colreevy narrowly edging out Elimay.

 

The meeting ends with the only race confined to conditional jockeys, the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle over 2m 4½f. The race commemorates the 15-time champion jumps trainer who won 34 races at the Cheltenham Festival during his record-breaking career. It is restricted to horses with a BHA rating no higher than 145 but Champagne Classic, Killultagh Vic, Don Poli, Sir Des Champs and last year’s winner Galopin Des Champs have all gone on from success here to score at Grade 1 level. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which are the biggest races at the Cheltenham Festival?

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle has a high profile due to being the first race of the meeting but also because it has a history of producing superstars. The Champion Hurdle is the feature race on day one, with the Racing Post Arkle and the Mares’ Hurdle the other Grade 1s on Tuesday. The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the feature on day two, with the RSA Chase and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle also significant races on Wednesday. The Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase share the limelight on Thursday, while the final day of the Cheltenham Festival is all about the Gold Cup, the most important and most valuable race of the entire meeting.

When are the Cheltenham runners confirmed?

Horses can be entered for races at Cheltenham at staggered intervals throughout January and February, handicap entries begin in late February. There is then a five-day declaration stage, for horses to be removed from any race. The final declaration stage is 48h before the race, at which point no horse is allowed to be double-entered at the Cheltenham Festival.

What are Cheltenham Non-Runners?

A non-runner is a horse that has been withdrawn from a race, after the 48h declaration stage. A non-runner on the day of the race, can cause a rule-4 in the betting ring, meaning any winnings to punters could be subject to a deduction.