The Cheltenham racing festival, or more simply Cheltenham Festival, is well known, well respected, and very, very well bet on. Over the course of the week of races, hundreds of millions of pounds will be gambled in what has become a favourite for punters in Britain.
If you’re not familiar with Cheltenham, it might just seem like one more locale for horse races. Settle in and read on, as we outline what makes Cheltenham Festival a big event, and why you need to do your research to get success in the stakes.
The History of the Cheltenham Festival
Coming in second behind the Grand National when it comes to prize money, the Cheltenham Festival is one of the big events in the UK’s National Hunt racing calendar. Held annually in March – typically across St Patrick’s Day and a favourite therefore of the Irish punter – it involves scores of races across four days.
This festival has a long history, extending back to 1860 when the National Hunt Chase was seen at Market Harborough. The event was moved about over a number of locations for the following 50 years, before finally settling down at Cheltenham Racecourse in 1911, where it has remained to this day.
Originally a two-day event, Cheltenham had become a three-day ‘extravaganza’ before, in 2005, it had a fourth day added to allow for one Championship race to be held on each day. More about that in the ‘Racing At Cheltenham’ section below.
Because of all the changes in the event in its 150 year-plus history, Cheltenham Festival saw in total 27 races held over the four days in 2015. A remarkable number that punters can feast on. But with these openings comes the responsibility for some serious research and clever budgeting.
Racing at Cheltenham
The Gold Cup started back in 1924, and whilst it began as a supporting event for the County Hurdle it moved into its own spotlight to become the main race in following years.
There are a number of other races at Cheltenham that have been around from the early years – the Stayers Hurdle first appeared in 1912 and the Champion Hurdle just 15 years later. Other Championship Races, like the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1959, have started more recently to become mainstays in the Festival.
When Cheltenham became a four-day event, organisers wanted to ensure there would still be six races per day, which meant five new ones were introduced. Since then, a few more have been added and this means it’s a hectic schedule for punters to get their heads around.
Grade I events include the Triumph Hurdle, Champion Bumper, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Championship Races mentioned above, along with sponsored races like the Ryanair Chase, Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and the Arkle Challenge Trophy.
What to Wear
Dress Codes are important parts of racing calendar events the world over, so it’s important to know what you’re doing if you’re planning on attending. Good news however to all of you who hate dress codes – Cheltenham Festival doesn’t have one (as such)! They’re clear that they understand that weather dictates clothes in the region, meaning that if you rock up with jeans and a big coat you should be right to head on in.
That said, normal form is for gentlemen to wear suits, and the women on the day often adorn hats for the occasion. Fancy dress is allowed but the Club reserves the right to refuse entry if your outfit is deemed offensive.
So the main thing to remember is, dress sensibly and you should be fine.
Head over to our Cheltenham Festival preview page for jockey reviews and betting odds!