Are you ready for Cheltenham? A guide to the biggest festival on the calendar
As February draws to a close, the talking begins to subside and attention turns to the west
country in anticipation of the first, and many say the best, festival on the jump racing
calendar. Cheltenham will welcome around a quarter of a million racegoers over the four day
festival and an estimated £600 million will be wagered.
If you are planning on joining their number, tickets are still available, but they are selling
quickly, especially for Gold Cup Day on Friday 16 March, which is expected to be a sell-out.
Here is our day-by-day guide to what is happening when.
The first day of the festival is all about the Champions Hurdle, and Nicky Henderson’s
Buveur D’Air is odds on favourite to win it for the second year in succession. However, the
Twitter experts at RacingTips are quick to remind punters that there are six other races to
think about, so look beyond the obvious.
The first race, the Novice Hurdles, is always a tough one to call due to the large field and
can throw out some unexpected results. Their top tip for the day is the Arkle Chase, where
the Willie Mullins trained Footpad will be hard to beat.
Wednesday is all about style, sophistication, champagne and hats – lots of hats. The ladies
arrive in all their finery, and the gentlemen are expected to make some sort of an effort, too.
It’s not all about the fashion, however, and the racing will be as serious as ever. The main
race of the day is the Queen Mother Champions Chase, a race named in honour of a lady
who was passionate about her horse racing, and was also known to enjoy a glass of
Again, a Henderson trained horse is odds-on for the major prize of the day, this time Altior,
who has had a long lay off through injury but looked better and stronger than he’s ever been
when he had a run out at Newbury last week.
So where would the tipsters be placing their hard-earned money on Ladies Day? They are
focused on the RSA Chase, where Presenting Percy looks to be the star of the field.
St Patricks Day
On to Thursday, and the most obvious change trackside is that the champagne is swapped
for Guinness as everyone gets into the Irish spirit. This is a tradition that honours the 10,000
Irish race fans who typically make the trip over every year to cheer on the large contingent of
runners from the Emerald Isle.
The favourite of Thursday’s showcase race, the Stayers Hurdle is a tougher one to call, and
the bookmakers have been changing their minds time and again. In circumstances like
these, the advice from the tipsters is to look a little further down the race card for a tempting
each way bet, and the smart money is on yet another Nicky Henderson runner. L’Ami Serge
is coming into form at just the right time, and could well pull a surprise out of the bag.
Gold Cup Day
As the festival reaches its crescendo, all eyes will be on the main race of the entire week,
the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Plenty has been said already about Sizing John, last year’s
winner, and Might Bite, long the bookmakers’ favourite. However, those in the know are
suggesting that punters would do well to look beyond these two horses and instead place a
few pounds on Native River. Willie Mullins has never tasted Gold Cup success, but this
might just be his year. The horse came in third last year, but has got better and better. The
bookmakers are coming round to the same way of thinking, and the odds are shortening