Set in the heart of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham racecourse has hosted racing since 1815 and now showcases some of the best jump racing in Britain.
The highlight of its calendar is the Cheltenham Festival, which runs for four days in March and features 28 races, including 15 Grade 1 events. It is the most popular jumps meeting in the world with more than 65,000 racegoers each day and is widely considered the pinnacle of the jump racing season. Every owner, jockey and trainer dreams of a winner at the Cheltenham Festival.
Iconic duo Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins have combined to be Cheltenham Festival top jockey and trainer five times, while Walsh has managed a further six top jockey titles.
The Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ kicks off the Cheltenham Festival in March. It is run on the Old Course and is often a gateway to bigger prizes, with 2018 Champion Chase winner Altior on the race’s roll of honour.
The Racing Post Arkle pits the best novice chasers against each other. Several winners have gone on to win the Champion Chase, including Altior. In 2018 the race was convincingly won by the Willie Mullins-trained Footpad.
The Unibet Champion Hurdle is one of the most prestigious races at the Cheltenham Festival and takes place on the opening day. Its list of winners features many of the most highly acclaimed hurdlers in the sport’s history, including three-time winners Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq.
The RSA Chase is run on the Wednesday of the Cheltenham Festival. This is another race for novice chasers run over a longer distance than the Racing Post Arkle. Several winners of the race have gone on to win the most prestigious race in the jumps calendar, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The most recent horse to do so was Lord Windermere.
This Grade 1 is the leading two-mile race in the jumps calendar and is the feature race on the second day. It was given its present title in 1980 – the year of the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday – in recognition of her support for jump racing.
The JLT Novices’ Chase takes place on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival. The leading jockey in the race is Ruby Walsh, who has won it three times. His most recent win came with Yorkhill in 2017.
The Ryanair Chase is open to horses aged five or older and was introduced when the festival gained an extra day in 2005.
The Stayers’ Hurdle is the leading long-distance hurdle race in the jumps calendar and is run on the Thursday of the Cheltenham Festival. Big Buck’s, trained by Paul Nicholls, won the race a record four times.
The Triumph Hurdle is a Grade 1 race run over two miles and a furlong and exclusively contested by juvenile hurdlers. The race was won in 2014 by Tiger Roll, who went on to win the 2018 Grand National.
The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is run before the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Grade 1 race is for novice hurdlers and was won three times by legendary jockey Sir Anthony McCoy.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the biggest race on the track’s calendar, featuring the best three-mile chasers. It is the most valuable non-handicap race in Britain and its roll of honour features legendary horses such as Arkle and Kauto Star. It takes place on the Friday of the Cheltenham Festival.
Away from the Cheltenham Festival
While the Cheltenham Festival dominates both Cheltenham’s season and the National Hunt campaign in general, there is plenty of other top-quality action at the track. Cheltenham typically hosts racing from October through to May, with the last meeting of the season solely for hunter chasers.
The November meeting is the first main fixture of Cheltenham’s season, while Trials Day in late January is often used as a stepping stone for runners being prepared for the festival.
The BetVictor Gold Cup
The BetVictor Gold Cup, a Grade 3 handicap chase over two and a half miles, is the centrepiece of the three-day November meeting. Another important race at the meeting is the Shloer Chase, a Grade 2 contest over two miles.
Caspian Caviar Gold Cup
The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, or the December Gold Cup, is a Grade 3 handicap chase run over two miles and four and a half furlongs at the December meeting and is often contested by prominent finishers from the BetVictor Gold Cup, although only three horses have won both races in the same season – Pegwell Bay, Senor El Betrutti and Exotic Dancer.
Trivia: For the last six years the top trainer at the Cheltenham Festival has been based in Ireland.