If you have even the slightest interest in jump racing, you will undoubtedly have heard the words ‘Cheltenham Festival’. Now it’s March you will have heard about nothing else as the excitement of racing fans ramps up as the hallowed week approaches. Whatever your level of awareness, we at myracing have got you covered with this Cheltenham Festival guide which will tell you everything you need to know.
The Festival is the pinnacle of jump racing and the majority of the big races outside of Festival week are stepping stones towards the ultimate goal of winning a major Cheltenham race. This meeting is also internationally regarded as it’s so important that it is the main annual target for Ireland as well as Britain. It facilitates the yearly clash between the two as each seeks to establish its dominance as jump racing’s major force. Horses on both sides of the Irish Sea are primed to produce their highest level of performance in the best and most competitive races of the season.
Grade 1s are the pinnacle of racing and there are plenty of those on offer across the week. There is one so-called championship race on each of the days in which the cream of the crop in the two disciplines (chasing and hurdling) compete to be crowned as the best horse over their specified distances. Here is a day-by-day breakdown of the best races to look forward to.
The championship race on day one is the Champion Hurdle. This race is for the finest hurdlers over the minimum trip of around two miles. The wonderful Honeysuckle won last year’s renewal and she remains undefeated making her well placed to defend her title again. She faces some stiff competition including a previous Festival Grade 1 winner Appreciate It who steps into open company for the first time.
Two other key Grade 1s on day one are the opening race the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle Novices’ Chase. The former looks likely to be yet another clash between Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins who each train two of the four horses at the top of the betting. This race is for the best novice hurdlers learning their trade over the minimum distance of around two miles.
Alan King’s Edwardstone heads the market for the Arkle having won a Grade 1 earlier on in the season and he has impressed again since then. Irish challenger Blue Lord is also a Grade 1 winner and looks best placed to try and take the crown of best two-mile novice chaser.
The Champion Chase takes centre stage on day two. This race is for the best two-mile chasers around and this year’s renewal is set to be round two of Shishkin versus Energumene. These two clashed in a rare titanic matchup of the best of the British against the best of the Irish outside of the Festival. Shishkin won that day in what was a great spectacle and is likely to come out on top again in what should be one of the highlights of the week.
The other two key Grade 1s on the day are the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over the intermediate distance of 2m5f and the three-mile Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase for staying novice chasers. Ballymore’s are often won by the Irish and they look set to win it again this year with most of the likely runners at the head of the market. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has possibly the best chance of stunning the Irish with Grade 1 winner Stage Star.
With the two Irish horses at the head of the market for the Brown Advisory looking unlikely to run here, this could be England versus Scotland with Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor looking set to clash with the head-to-head delicately poised at one win a piece.
The most prestigious race on the Thursday is the Stayers’ Hurdle. This is a three-mile hurdle race for the best hurdlers over a longer distance. Last year’s winner Flooring Porter returns but could be vulnerable this year with previous festival winners Klassical Dream and Champ in opposition this time round.
Also on this day is the Ryanair Chase over an extended 2m4f for horses who don’t stay the Gold Cup trip and don’t possess the speed for the Champion Chase. Last year’s dominant winner Allaho looks hard to oppose this year after his demolition of the field in 2021.
Thursday kicks off with the Turners Novices’ Chase over a similar intermediate trip as the Ryanair. This year’s renewal looks set for one of the clashes of the week with Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs likely to thrash it out.
Perhaps the most famous race of the week or the blue riband event is the Boodles Gold Cup. This race requires the perfect balance of stamina and class as the best staying chasers compete over 3m2f. This is a wide open renewal and the Irish-trained trio of A Plus Tard, Galvin and last year’s winner Minella Indo head the market. The shortest-priced British contender is the Dan Skelton-trained Protektorat.
The day kicks off in strong fashion with the JCB Triumph Hurdle. This is where the best four-year-old novices compete to be crowned the best juvenile. Gordon Elliott’s Pied Piper absolutely destroyed the opposition in a trial here in January. Vauban and Fil Dor are also prominent in the betting and have shown enough form this year to rightfully claim the crown.
The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is for stayers over a trip of three miles. This is not a race suited to every horse but if you have stamina in abundance you have a chance of taking this often gruelling test. The race is very open this year with the first three in the market separated by a point. Minella Crooner, Hillcrest and Ginto lead the market.
Betting on the Cheltenham Festival is so competitive that the bookmakers are forced to give out great offers that you are unlikely to see during the rest of the jumps season. Now is the best time to open new accounts and check out what is on offer with your existing accounts. myracing has you covered and we’re always on the lookout for the best offers and you can find them in the free bets section of our website. We will also be providing plenty of betting news content which will keep you in the know as soon as it breaks.
All of the best trainers and jockeys in Britain and Ireland will be attending. The main Irish trainers to look out for are Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead. These three are likely to dominate the entire week and will probably have more winners between them than the other trainers combined.
The home team are represented by champion trainer Paul Nicholls, Cheltenham Festival specialist Nicky Henderson and the up-and-coming Dan Skelton. Nicholls will be looking to come back strongly after drawing a blank last year while the other two will be trying to add to their tally and fight off the Irish invaders.
Most of the British-based top jockeys will be there including Harry Cobden, Harry Skelton and Nico de Boinville. The only notable absence is champion-elect Brian Hughes. Of the Irish contingent it is stalwart Davy Russell, last year’s Queen of Cheltenham Rachael Blackmore, Paul Townend and Jack Kennedy who you should be on the lookout for. Townend and Blackmore should be fighting it out for the top jockey title once again and it should make for thrilling viewing.
Due to the significance of the Festival, the vast majority of the races will be live on ITV Racing as well as morning preview shows on each of the four days. When ITV coverage finishes each day, the remaining races will be on Racing TV, a subscription service channel. If you back any of our selections you can watch them live on the free Racing Post app or at www.racingpost.com. Simply log in to one of your bookmaker accounts and click ‘Watch live’ on the racecards.
If you wish to attend in person, limited tickets are available on the Jockey Club website but they are selling out fast!
Our team of expert’s tips have already started flooding in with some ante-post tips already available on the myracing website and our free app. Content will be ramping up over the next two weeks and throughout the week of the Festival we will provide plenty of free horse racing tips to guide you through its many betting challenges. myracing aims to provide you with the knowledge to get everything you can out of the most exciting week of the year for jump racing enthusiasts.
If you back any of our selections you can watch them live on the free Racing Post app or racingpost.com. Simply log in to one of your bookmaker accounts and click ‘Watch live’ on the racecards.