Cheltenham Festival 2021: The Stage Has Been Set
Renowned for its unrivalled jumps racing in the picturesque Gloucestershire countryside – the Cheltenham Festival undoubtedly represents the pinnacle of National Hunt Horse Racing in the UK.
The magnificent four-day event succeeds in attracting the very finest horses year-in-year-out along with some of the most decorated jockeys in the business all vying to compete for the ultimate sporting accolades. Avid racegoers can indeed relish an experience unrivalled by most, with the feature races, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Champion Chase, certain to catch the eye.
Owners and trainers long dream of entering runners in races at Cheltenham, which has only made its elite status more prominent. Year on year the four-day bonanza increases in popularity, with record crowds of over 262,000 in attendance across the event in 2019.
Proceedings kick off in style with Champion Day, a fixture boasting four Grade One races. The day opens with the exciting Supreme Novices Hurdle, which has seen the likes of Vautour, Douvan and Brave Inca reign victorious.
The showcase of the opening day, however, is undoubtedly the Champion Hurdle. The premier two-mile hurdle is globally recognised as one of the National Hunt’s most prominent spectacles and has seen a superb selection of legendary victors, including Istabraq, Hurricane Fly and Sea Pigeon.
This year sees the Nicky Henderson-trained mare Epatante and Henry de Bromhead’s Honeysuckle, who remains unbeaten in six starts, headline the card.
Honeysuckle and Epatante head marvellous mares among Champion Hurdle entries >>> https://t.co/HganaqPc7C
— Racing Post (@RacingPost) January 16, 2020
Other major races on day one include the Arkle Challenge Trophy, the Ultima Handicap Chase and the National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup, which is Grade 2 Novice Chase of about 4m.
Ladies Day: Fashion, Excitement and Blistering Pace Racing
Following on from the splendid opening day, is one that needs no introduction. Ladies Day, renowned for its unparalleled glamour and style, it is regarded as one of the world’s most eminent social occasions on the horse racing calendar. Ladies will once again flock in their thousands to Cheltenham Racecourse for this extremely attractive day out as they compete for the coveted prize of ‘Best Dressed Lady’.
To win the competition coined under the hashtag #COLOURMEMARCH, all you are required to do is add a splash of colour to your outfit and be spotted by a Cheltenham Racecourse official, or enter yourself via a marquee located above the Parade Ring at The Festival. But the finery and luxury of this spectacular social event belies the fact that it merely provides the backdrop for world class, high octane action on the racetrack.
The sporting highlight of the day is certainly the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the ultimate test for two-mile steeplechasers. The list of winners include Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre and Badsworth Boy, some of the greatest racers in the history of the division.
Altior is the current title holder with dual back-to-back victories in the feature race of Ladies day. He’ll tee up with Nico de Boinville once more in a bid to achieve the hat-trick, which would also land the Nicky Henderson-trained gelding a Cheltenham victory for the fifth successive year!
Last year, Altior broke Big Buck’s jumps record by winning 19 consecutive jump races between October, 2015 and April, 2019 before his winning streak was ended by Cyrname in the Grade Two Chase at Ascot last November. He’s attempting to bounceback this season and if he is successful he’ll also become only the second horse to have won the Queen Mother Champion Chase three times.
The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle is another popular race at Cheltenham on the second day of the Festival. Having been won by the likes of Faugheen, Simonsig and the late Willoughby Court, it is certainly a contest that oozes quality.
St. Patrick’s Thursday: The Stayers’ Hurdle Headlines the Cards
Expect the Guinness to be in full flow on St Patricks Day, with racegoers celebrating in style at the Cheltenham Festival on day three. A fabulous atmosphere coupled with some of the event’s most coveted races makes this fixture a firm favourite among avid racing enthusiasts.
Last year was particularly inspiring as we saw a number of firsts for our women in sport. Bryony Frost made history in the Ryanair Chase, becoming the first female jockey to win a Grade One hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. She guided Frodon to glory in what can only be labelled an extraordinary day and one of the most significant in recent racing history.
The pulsating race, which was introduced to the Festival in 2005, has also been won by popular competitors including Cue Card, Albertas Run and Imperial Commander.
Another highlight race is The Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle, which represents a true test of stamina for three-mile hurdlers. Three-time and four-time winners, Inglis Drever and Big Bucks, are the contest’s most famed competitors whilst the imperious Thistlecrack also made history in 2016 by romping to victory in breath-taking fashion.
Paisley Park romped to victory in last year Stayers’ Hurdle, to land his blind owner, Andrew Gemmell his first Cheltenham Festival win. He’ll return to the grounds in 2020 to defend his title and the young horse has been reported as “raring to go” by trainer, Emma Lavelle.
He’s the hot favourite with all the betting firms ahead of the race this year and has shown time and time again, that he’s a power house in the long distance hurdling division. Will you be betting on Paisley Park?
Other notable contest include the JLT Novices’ Chase and The Pertemps Final.
Enjoy the Blue Riband Race of the Week – Gold Cup Chase
Last but certainly not least is Cheltenham Gold Cup Day. The fabulous final day features the renowned Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, which is arguably the premier race of the week. It is in this gruelling three and a quarter mile test where much of the sport’s icons have paved their legacy, with Arkle, Best Mate, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star among the list of esteemed winners.
This year, Al Boum Photo returns to Cheltenham looking to become the first horse since Best Mate to retain the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He headlines a talented field of 31 entries, which include Punchestown Gold Cup Winner Kemboy, Savills Christmas Chase Winner, Delta Work, RSA Chase second Santini and the consecutive King George winner Clan Des Obeaux.
Last year, Al Boum Photo provided Willie Mullins with his first success in the Gold Cup race. Can he achieve back-to-back glory in 2020?
History would say it’s unlikely but the defending champion is a strong stayer, either way the 2020 Gold Cup is sure to excite!
Adding to the feast of festival action on the final day is the exciting Triumph Hurdle. Termed as the biggest race of the entire jumps season for juveniles, this contest succeeds in attracting a wonderful selection of high-class runners. Other races at Cheltenham Festival of note include The Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, the Martin Pipe Hurdle and The Grand Annual Chase.
Eventmasters are thrilled to provide official Cheltenham Festival hospitality packages for 2021.