Each day of the Cheltenham Festival contains a Championship race, the pinnacle of each racing discipline within the National Hunt calendar. Outside of these, all four days are packed with other major Grade 1 races containing the best horses, jockeys and trainers too, and all are widely popular within the Cheltenham races betting community.
The race card with times is revealed months before the event just like the tickets for the festival. This year’s Cheltenham Festival 2023 dates are March 14-17, with a total of 28 races to be run.
|13:30||Turners Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)|
|14:10||Network Final (A Handicap Hurdle Race) (Listed)|
|14:50||Steeple Chase (Grade 1)|
|15:30||Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1)|
|16:10||The Cheltenham Plate (A Handicap Steeple Chase) (Grade 3)|
|16:50||The Mares Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)|
|17:30||Kim Muir Challenge Cup|
- Festival Day 1
- Festival Day 2
- Festival Day 3
13:30 Turners Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
14:10 Network Final (A Handicap Hurdle Race) (Listed)
14:50 Steeple Chase (Grade 1)
15:30 Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
16:10 The Cheltenham Plate (A Handicap Steeple Chase) (Grade 3)
16:50 The Mares Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)
17:30 Kim Muir Challenge Cup
- Festival Day 4
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Called the Unibet Champion Hurdle for sponsorship reasons, this race takes place on the first day of the festival, and is the longest running sponsorship of a Championship race at the Cheltenham Festival. It is a Grade I National Hunt hurdle open to horses aged 4 and over. The Unibet Champion Hurdle is raced on the Old Course and has a distance of 2 miles, ½ furlong or 3,298 metres. Horses battle for the prestigious trophy on an exciting racecourse with a total of 8 hurdles, making it a challenging race right from the start.
The Unibet Champion hurdle is the culmination of the critically acclaimed Unibet Road to Cheltenham series, a set of 6 two mile hurdle races throughout the season that also includes – among others – the G1 Unibet Morgiana hurdle, G2 Unibet International hurdle and the G3 Unibet Greatwood hurdle. You’ll find numerous Cheltenham betting offers focused on this race in particular with great odds on the runners in tow. Inaugurated in 1927, the prize money for the first Champion Hurdle was only £365. It jumped to a purse of £442,665 in 2022, with £253,215 for the winner, and this year has increased again to a prize fund of £450,000….the second highest prize of the entire Cheltenham Festival.
Ruby Walsh is one of the most successful jockeys at the Unibet Champions Hurdle with 4 wins, just like Barry Geraghty and Tim Molony. Five horses have managed to win it 3 times in a row. The last one to do such a feat was Istabraq in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Nicky Henderson is the leading trainer with 8 wins, while the leading owner is J. P. McManus.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase has a close connection to the Queen Mother as the name suggests. Originally added to the Cheltenham race card in 1959 under a different name, it took today’s title in 1980 on the 80th birthday of the Queen Mother. It is named after her in recognition of her support to jump racing. The Queen is a successful owner of several Champion Chase runners, including Game Spirit who was a runner up in 1976. This event is always held on the second day of the festival and is the premier minimum distance (2 mile) Chase race on the National Hunt calendar.
The leading horse in this part of the Cheltenham Festival event is Badsworth Boy with 3 wins in a row (1983, 1984, 1985). Pat Taaffe and Barry Geraghty are the leading jockeys, while Tom Dreaper, Paul Nichols, and Nicky Henderson are the most successful trainers with 6 wins.
George Ansley is the leading owner together with Doug Armitage and John Hales with 3 wins each.
In terms of prize money, the Queen Mother Champions Chase had a pool of £392,120 in 2022. Winning horse Energumene won £226,672 for connections.
The Gold Cup is one of the biggest horse races in the world. It’s the climax of the Cheltenham Festival and the most valuable event of the week. It is held on the closing day, Friday, and run over a distance of 3 miles and 2 furlongs. There are 22 fences to be jumped on this course which has been graced by the presence of legendary winners such as Golden Miller and Arkle.
A steeplechase open to horses aged 5 and over, the Gold Cup is the most prestigious National Hunt race on the calendar. Also known as the Blue Riband of jump racing, it draws the biggest crowd and has the largest prize pool of any non-handicap race. In 2022 the total prize pot was £614,814, with connections of winning horse A Plus Tard taking home £351,688.
The race has been won a record 5 times in a row by Golden Miller in the mid-1930s, a feat that has never been repeated. Pat Taaffe is the most successful jockey with 4 wins, 3 of them coming on the famous Arkle. Tom Dreaper is the sole trainer with 5 wins, while the most successful owner is Dorothy Paget with 7 winning horses.
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