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English Horseracing Festival – Cheltenham Festival

Horse racing events don’t get much bigger than the Cheltenham Festival – four days of top quality National Hunt racing featuring some of the best jockeys, horses and trainers in the world.

The festival, which is held annually in England, is a real highlight of the British racing calendar. It draws huge audiences, both at the course and on television. Racing enthusiasts come from all over to visit Cheltenham Racecourse during the festival, but it is particularly popular with fans from England and Ireland.

The Cheltenham Festival takes place over nearly a full week in March, running from Tuesday to Friday and usually coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day. It is known not only for the quality of the racing, but also the amazing atmosphere it generates.

The crowds are usually very loud as they get behind their selections, and the noise they generate when the first race of the festival starts is so notable it is referred to as the “Cheltenham Roar”.

Naturally, a horse racing event of this scale attracts a lot of betting ihe Cheltenham Fesnterest. The on course bookmakers are incredibly busy during festival week, and bookmaking shops and online betting sites also take millions upon millions in wagers.

We’ve got more betting information on the Cheltenham Festival, along with a history of the event and some other key information.

A Brief History of the Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival effectively originated in 1860. It was known as the National Hunt Meeting then, which is still the festival’s official title, and it first took place at Market Harborough.

The event featured one main race, the Grand National Hunt, along with a few steeplechases. The National Hunt Meeting regularly changed venues over the next few years, before finally settling at Cheltenham Racecourse (Prestbury Park) in 1911. By this time it had already become a two day event.

After the move to Cheltenham, the event grew further in its significance to the racing calendar. It was expanded from two days to three in 1923, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup was established as a major race at the festival in the following year.

Three years after that, in 1927, the Champion Hurdle was introduced. Both remain feature races at the festival to this day.

The Modern Cheltenham Festival

The festival continued to increase in popularity over the years, and is today recognized as one of the premier sporting events taking place in the United Kingdom. It was expanded to four days in 2005, with six races taking place each day.

Additional races have been added to the schedule since then, and as of 2014 there were 27 races taking place.

Although the Cheltenham Festival attracts horses from all over the world, it features primarily horses trained in Britain and Ireland.

It is considered a major showpiece of National Hunt Racing, and the crowds for the week consistently total over 200,000.

The prize money awarded is second only to the Grand National meeting held at Aintree in April.

The Championship Races

Each day of the Cheltenham Festival features one of four championship races. These four races are the most important races of the week, with the most prestigious of all being the Cheltenham Gold Cup which is held on the Friday.

Below are some key details about each of the championship races.

Champion Hurdle

This race was established in 1927, and currently takes place on the opening day of the festival. It is open to horses over the age of four years, and is run over two miles and half a furlong (3,319 meters). It’s a hurdle race, with eight hurdles to be jumped.

Queen Mother Champion Chase

Established in 1959, the Queen Mother Champion Chase is run on the old course at Cheltenham. It is run over 2 miles (3,219 meters), and 12 fences. It is the primary minimum-distance race of the National Hunt racing calendar, and is open to horses aged five or over. It takes place on the second day of the festival.

World Hurdle

The World Hurdle replaced the Spa Hurdle in 1972, and was originally known as the Stayers’ Hurdle. The name was changed to its current moniker in 2005, when Ladbrokes took over its sponsorship.

The race is open to four year olds and up, and is run over 3 miles (4,828 meters) with 12 hurdles to be jumped. It is run on the third day of the festival.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is held on the final day of the festival, and is considered the most important race of the week. It was established in 1924, and horses must be at least five years old to take part.

The race is run over a distance of three miles and two and a half furlongs (5,331 meters), and consists of 22 fences.

Betting on the Cheltenham Festival

The betting is a huge part of pretty much any horse racing event. This is especially true of the Cheltenham Festival, as it attracts major betting interest. There are hundreds of millions of pounds bet on the races over the four days, both on and off the course, and there is a sizable ante-post market too.

Picking winners at the festival is notoriously difficult. Most of the races are very competitive – particularly the championship races – and there are usually several horses in contention.

There is also the fact that the course is very challenging, and fallers are commonplace. These factors combined mean it’s hard for even the best bettors to do well consistently at this event.

Betting on the festival is a lot of fun though, and it is more than possible to pick a few winners over the four days.

There is no particular strategy that we’d recommend using, although of course it helps if you are familiar with the relevant form.

It’s also useful to study how well certain horses, jockeys, and trainers do at the festival.

One piece of betting advice that you should definitely consider following is to try and take advantage of all the special offers available at online bookmakers during the Cheltenham Festival.

The online betting market is extremely competitive, and this is really highlighted during major sporting events when most betting sites will run all kinds of different promotions to try and attract your business.

During festival week you will find lots of extra value available online, including enhanced prices and free bets, and you really should try and benefit from this as much as you can.

The best offers are usually available at the biggest and most popular betting sites, such as the ones that we recommend.

Top Jockeys & Leading Trainers

Each year, the jockey who rides the most winners during the Cheltenham Festival is named the top jockey. The trainer who trains the most winners is named the leading trainer.

The following table shows the top jockey and the leading trainer for each of the last ten years:

Year Top Jockey Leading Trainer
2017 Ruby Walsh Gordon Elliot
2016 Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins
2015 Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins
2014 Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins
2013 Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins
2012 Barry Geraghty Nicky Henderson
2011 Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins
2010 Ruby Walsh Paul Nicholls
2009 Ruby Walsh Paul Nicholls
2008 Ruby Walsh Paul Nicholls
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