2017 Cheltenham Festival
Cheltenham Festival all the Races
- The Cheltenham Festival is one of the oldest and most prestigious events in the British National Hunt racing calendar. This year Cheltenham Festival starts on the 14th of March.
- The event dates back to the end of the 19th century, though most of its best-loved events are only a few decades old.
- The four day event takes place in Cheltenham each March, attracting around 200,000 people. This year, 2017, 14th -17th March inclusive.
- Traditionally, Ladies Day is held on the Wednesday and the Gold Cup on the Friday.Other key races include the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the World Hurdle race.
- Tickets, including hospitality packages, are almost always available up until the start of each day’s racing.
- Huge amounts of money change hands as people rush to bet on a horse they like the look of. In 2009 £37.6 million was paid in winnings during the festival.
- The racecourse benefits from excellent transport links with the region and the country, while it’s also well-connected for international travelers.
- Regular train and coach services run to Cheltenham; coaches go directly to the racecourse, while there is a shuttle service from the station to the course.
The Cheltenham Festival is one of the oldest and most prestigious events in the British National Hunt racing calendar, it is second only to the Grand National when it comes to capturing the public imagination. Indeed, each year, the event attracts hundreds of thousands of people, with millions of pounds spent with bookies and sites.
As well as being a serious sporting event, Cheltenham is also widely regarded as being the most fun of all the annual horse racing festivals in the UK, thanks in no small part to its distinctly Irish flavour (it is usually held to coincide with St Patrick’s Day) as well as its colourful Ladies Day. However, despite its fame and popularity in the UK, Cheltenham still fails to attract many of the top international horses and trainers, with most of the talent on show being drawn from the UK and Ireland.
Champion Day 14th March
13.30 The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race
14.10 The Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase
14.50 The Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Steeple Chase
15.30 The Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
16.10 The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle Race
16.50 The National Hunt Steeple Chase
17.30 The CHAPS Restaurants Barbados Novices' Handicap Chase
Ladies Day 15th
13.30 The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle Race
14.10 The RSA Steeple Chase
14.50 The Coral Cup Hurdle (A Handicap Hurdle Race)
15.30 The Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase
16.10 The Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase
16.50 The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race
17.30 The Weatherbys Champion Bumper
St Patrick’s Thursday 16th
13.30 The JLT Novices’ Chase
14.10 The Pertemps Network Final (A Handicap Hurdle Race)
14.50 The Ryanair Steeple Chase
15.30 The Ryanair World Hurdle Race
16.10 The Brown Advisory &; Merriebelle Stable Plate
16.50 The Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle
17.30 The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase
Gold Cup Day Friday 17th
13.30 The JCB Triumph Hurdle
14.10 The Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle Race
14.50 The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Race
15.30 The Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase
16.10 The St James’s Place Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
16.50 The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Race
17.30 The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
Most of the races are on C4 or can you watch them via live streaming in your bet365 account.
History of the Cheltenham Festival
The origins of the Cheltenham Festival can be traced back to the end of the 19th century, when steeplechases were held in this part of England as part of the wider National Hunt event. However, Cheltenham as it is known today was not held until 1905. This was the year when the first race was held at the specially-constructed Prestbury Park course, with the first ‘Festival’ being held two years later.
The now world-famous Cheltenham Gold Cup was established in 1924, with the Champion Hurdle introduced in 1927, the Queen Mother Champion Chase first held in 1959 and then the Stayers Hurdle race introduced in 1972.
More recent developments include the introduction of a fourth day of racing in 2005.
As of 2017, 28 separate races are held over the four days of the Cheltenham Festival, with the races running from 1.30pm until around 5.30pm.
Feature on some classic races
The four key races are split over the four days. In order, these are:
- The Champion Hurdle: Always held on the opening day of Cheltenham, the Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious hurdling event in the whole of the National Hunt calendar. Run over a course of just over two miles, the event is open to horses over the age of four, with notable past winners including Lanzarote, Persian War and National Spirit.
- The Queen Mother Champion Chase: Also run over a course of just over two miles, the Queen Mother Champion Chase consist of 12 hurdles. It is the top minimum-distance chase event in the entire National Hunt calendar and is open to horses aged five or over.
- The World Hurdle: The UK’s leading long-distance hurdling event, the World Hurdle is run over three miles and 12 jumps. Since 1993 it has been held on the third day of Cheltenham and is open to horses aged four or over.
- The Cheltenham Gold Cup: One of the best-loved races in the world and second-only to the Grand National when it comes to British races offering the biggest prize money, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is always held on the last day of the Festival. Run over three miles and 22 fences, past winners include the horses Golden Miller, Mill House and Kauto Star, with the latter being the only horse to regain the trophy.
There are, of course, plenty of other races. Of these, a further eight races are classified as grade 1 (these are races where no handicaps are applied for previous wins and horses carry weight according to their age and sex. These types of races are only for the best performing horses and riders. Indeed, there only 30 grade one races on the jump calendar, and 12 of them take place at the Cheltenham Festival). As well as those listed above, you can also expect to see thrilling action in the following events.
Other Grade 1 Races
- The Supreme Novices Hurdle: This hurdle race uses the same course as the championship race and is perhaps most notable for providing a great place to see future greats at the start of their careers and for its role as the festivals curtain raising event. The start is met by the Cheltenham Roar – a huge cheer from the crowd that traditionally ushers in the action.
- Arkle Challenge Trophy Cup: This also takes place on the Tuesday. It’s a ‘chase’ and uses fences (which, at a minimum of 4.5 feet, are usually around a foot taller than hurdles). The course is two miles long. It’s for novice chasers of at least five years of age.
- The National Hunt Chase: This is the first of four grade 1 races that take place on Ladies Day. It’s for novices and, at four miles long, it’s the longest race of the festival.
- The Neptune Investments Novice’s Hurdle: It’s a 2 mile, ten hurdle course for novices. This race is open to horses of four years and over.
- The RSA Chase: Though not as long as the National Hunt Chase, this is still a trying prospect consisting of 19 fences in total.
- The Champion Bumper: This is the most prestigious flat race held in Britain and, many of the young horses who triumph here go on to have fine careers racing over obstacles too. It’s the only grade 1 ‘bumper’ of the entire meeting.
- The Ryanair Chase: The St Patricks day orientated Thursday see’s the world hurdle, but in the Ryanair hurdle it also has another top notch event. It was granted grade 1 status in 2008 having been introduced to the festival in 2005 (it’s one of the races that were introduced when the switch to a four day format was made.)
- The Triumph Hurdle: The final day of the festival in usually a sell out and the Triumph Hurdle is a fine way to open proceedings. It’s is the premier event in the racing calendar to be run by juveniles exclusively.
- The Spa Novice’s Hurdle: Another race to recently get an upgrade in status, the Spa Novice’s Hurdle became grade 1 in 2008.
Cheltenham Traditions and Trivia
There is no dress code at the course, so you do not need to worry about being turned away on the basis of attire. That said it is something of a tradition to make a bit of an effort. As the moniker suggests, Ladies Day is when the women usually elect to pull out all the stops, with fanciful headwear being a particularly prominent feature.
Due to the number of Irish jockey’s that take place and the fact that the event coincides with St Patricks day, it’s usually popular with Irish fans. Indeed, about 10,000 come over for the festival. With this heavy Irish influence on the event it should be little surprise that Guiness is usually looked at as the tipple of choice for festival goers. It’s reckoned over 200,000 pints of the stuff are consumed every year.
Due to the fun, open atmosphere of the festival, it is well loved by both racing fans and those who have only a limited interest in the sport. One thing they both have in common is that, with varying degrees of success, they will be putting a little money down on the action. Hundreds of millions are wagered each year over the course of the four days and, despite the famous adage, the house doesn’t always win. Indeed, last year the favourites had the bookies running for cover.
Round off you knowledge of Cheltenham Festival with these interesting facts.
- The word ‘festival’ is a trademark which the race course holds the copyright to.
- Since World War II the festival has only ever been cancelled once. This occurred in 2001 and was down the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
- The coach operator Tellings-Golden Miller is so named because the company was saved from bankruptcy by a winning bet on Golden Miller, the only horse that has ever won the Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same year. Golden Miller is the most successful horse in Gold Cup runner in history, winning it five times in a row in the 50’s.
- The Gold Cup is normally one by horses with short odds due to the lack of handicap. The biggest ever outsider to win was Norton’s Coin at 100-1.
- Ruby Walsh is the most successful jockey in the history of the Cheltenham Festival. Though others may have better records in individual races, no one can match him taking the meeting as a whole. He’s won 36 races at Cheltenham in his career including 2 Gold Cups, 3 Champion Chases and the Champion Hurdle too. He’s been the meetings top jockey (the one to win the most races during the meeting) on six different occasions and in 2009 he won 7 different races – a stunning feat.
The 2017 Cheltenham Festival
The 2017 Cheltenham Festival will take place from Tuesday March 14th to Friday March 17th. As with every other year, the Wednesday will be Ladies Day, when female race-goers are encouraged to dress up. Thursday will be St Patrick’s day (as far as the festival is concerned anyway), while the Friday will be Gold Cup day.
The organisers estimate that around 220,000 people will visit Cheltenham over the four days of the Festival. Tickets, including hospitality packages, will be available up until the start of each day’s racing.
Getting to Cheltenham
The Cheltenham Festival races are held at the Cheltenham racecourse, situated on the outskirts of the historic town of Cheltenham Spa, in the south-west of England. The racecourse benefits from excellent transport links with the region and the country, while it’s also well-connected for international travelers.
By Car: The Cheltenham racecourse is easily reached by road, being just a short distance from the M5 and the M40 motorways. The course itself is reached by either the A435 or A4019, with signposts prominently displayed in the surrounding area, particularly during the Festival.
Direct Train Services: run to Cheltenham Spa from Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and London. All direct, long-distance services are operated by Cross Country Trains. Additionally, local trains connect Cheltenham Spa station with a number of points across the south-west of England and south Wales, though several changes may be necessary.
Coaches also run to Cheltenham from across the UK. National Express Coaches, for example, operates services direct to the racecourse from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Southampton and Wolverhampton. Additionally, several smaller operators also run special coach services from major towns and cities for the duration of the Cheltenham Festival.
From Ireland: The easiest way to get to Cheltenham from Ireland is by flying into Birmingham international Airport, which is around one hour from the racecourse. Direct flights to Birmingham are available from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Belfast. Additionally, helicopters are allowed to land at the Cheltenham racecourse, though only with prior permission.
Where to Stay
The town of Cheltenham Spa is well-equipped for welcoming tens of thousands of racing enthusiasts during the annual Festival and there are accommodation options to suit every budget. Within the town itself, there are dozens of hotels, guest houses and B&Bs to choose from, ranging from the upmarket Montpellier Chapter to simple rooms above town pubs. However, whatever the price, accommodation for the duration of the Festival gets booked up early without fail. So, if you do want to stay in Cheltenham whilst the Festival is on, make sure you book well in advance.
Alternatively, if you leave it too late ,or, if you just want a cheaper option or the chance to get more out of a short break then it may also be a good idea to stay elsewhere and travel to and from Prestbury Park for the racing. Birmingham, which is just one hour away by train, may be the best bet for last-minute and affordable accommodation, while staying in nearby Bath, Gloucester or Bristol can allow you to stay nearby but enjoy another destination.
Getting to the Racecourse
The Cheltenham Festival racecourse is situated at Prestbury Park, just a short distance from the Cheltenham Spa town centre. For the duration of the festival, a number of shuttle services take race fans to and from the course. For instance, regular shuttle buses leave from the train station from two hours before the racing starts and then offer a return service to the town when the day’s racing is over. Alternatively, you can get a taxi to the racecourse, though during the Festival, there may be lengthy queues at the taxi rank, both in town and at the train station.
Additionally, you can also get to the racecourse by bike. There are secure bicycle parks next to both the Centaur and Best Mate enclosure entrances, though spaces are limited, so arrive early if you want to enjoy this extra security.
Other Nearby Attractions
As well as the Cheltenham Festival itself, this part of England also boasts a number of other attractions that tempt many visitors to stick around once the final race has been run. Cheltenham Spa itself is famed for its impressive Regency architecture – with the Promenade the best example of this – while nearby Bath has its rich Roman history to tempt tourists. A little further afield, Stratford upon Avon attracts Shakespeare fans, while, to many people, the Cotswolds are the best place in the country to enjoy traditional picture-postcard images of quaint rural England.
- To learn more about the event, visit the Cheltenham Festival.
- Fancy a flutter but unsure of how to actually go about placing a bet? Our guide to betting on a horse will explain everything, from the lingo to the maths behind the odds.
- If you've never been before, take a look at these Cheltenham do's and don'ts.
- For more information on, including local accommodation options, visit the Cheltenham official tourist website.
- We have guides on all the major racing festivals including Royal Ascot, the Grand National, Ebor, and Glorious Goodwood.