With this year’s Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, racegoers everywhere are eagerly anticipating the chance to revel in some serious racing action! Although the 2020 meeting is yet to commence, we have already identified some new features and delights which could be making its way into the Cheltenham Festival for 2021 and beyond!
When is Cheltenham Festival 2021?
Dates for Cheltenham Festival 2021 will be Tuesday 16th – Friday 19th March 2021.
What’s new for Cheltenham Festival 2021?
The Return of Buveur D’Air
Having sustained a foot injury during the Grade 1 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle last November, Buveur D’Air has been in recovery ever since. The 10-year-old gelding, who would have entered the Champion Hurdle, suffered a splinter to the foot which was discovered after the Newcastle race. Trainer, Nicky Henderson, was initially concerned that the injury would threaten his racing career. Thankfully, as time has progressed, it seems that Buveur D’Air will be back in time for the Cheltenham Festival 2021. Buveur D’Air has experienced previous Cheltenham Festival success, having won the Champion Hurdle in 2018 and the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy in 2017. Buveaur D’Air would have been on track to take the Champion Hurdle crown for a second time had it not been for his injury. Although we sadly won’t see him for the rest of this season, we can’t wait for Buveur D’Air to make his comeback and look forward to seeing him at the Cheltenham Festival 2021.
Introduction of Mares Chase
Last year there were talks of a new Cheltenham race entering the scene and it looks like this will be a reality for the Cheltenham Festival 2021! There was a lot of speculation that a 2m4f hurdle race would be included as an in between option to the Champion Hurdle and Stayers Hurdle. However, it has since been revealed that the mares will get their own race. Whilst racegoers have responded positively to this new addition, many have questioned which race this will be replacing. Regional Director for Cheltenham, Ian Renton, confirmed that none of the Grade 1 races will be replaced but is still yet to reveal the exact one. ‘We’ll make a decision after we’ve fully reviewed this year’s festival, so it will probably be early summer. Dropping a race that isn’t a Grade 1 means it probably is our decision, but we’ll discuss it with the BHA, owners and trainers.’ There have been rumours that the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase will be axed, as well as the Kim Muir, Fred Winter and National Hunt Chase. It’s always exciting to see a new race enter the mix and is good to know that Cheltenham are always looking for ways to refresh the festival.
A potential 5th Day?
What a stir this proposition has caused! This is a subject that has divided racegoers and is a debate in which everyone seems to have a strong opinion. Many are of the view that the quality of the racing action would be reduced if another day was added to the festival and that the ideas is nothing more than a mere commercial venture. Cheltenham chairman, Martin St Quinton, who revealed the plans for a 5th day said, ‘we’re always keen to look at ways of innovating and improving things and widening the appeal of racing. I wouldn’t rule anything in, but I wouldn’t rule anything out.’ Despite the strong opposition, let’s not forget the great backlash that occurred when the festival changed from 3 days to 4 days back in 2005. Although this is unlikely to be established for Cheltenham Festival 2021, it is something that could be on the cards for the future. Whatever your thoughts are on the matter, at least the Cheltenham Festival never fails to get people talking!
Although it may be early days, there is already plenty to look forward to for The Cheltenham Festival 2021! As we witness the action unfold in a weeks’ time, further clues and information will be revealed as to what else we can expect from next year’s greatest show on turf!