The Cheltenham Festival lasts for four magical days and each instalment of action plays its part in the most sensational meeting on the British horse racing calendar.
The extravaganza in the Cotswolds is the pinnacle of jump racing all over the world and with the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and World Hurdle all taking centre stage at various times throughout the week, it is no surprise that racing fanatics flock to Gloucestershire to see the action live.
Each day revolves around a feature race and the first of those is the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, the opening day of the meeting. The two-mile showpiece is as electric as the ‘Cheltenham roar’ which accompanies the start of the first contest of the week and Annie Power is set to go off favourite to take the crown while her injured stable companion Faugheen misses out due to injury. But her trainer Willie Mullins also has Nichols Canyon as a leading contender, while a whole host of other horses will be bidding for glory on Tuesday 15th March including Identity Thief, The New One and My Tent Or Yours, although they will have to be in formidable form to lower the colours of Annie Power.
Wednesday’s racing is all about the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Ladies’ Day is all about passion on the course and fashion in the stands. The sight of the best two-mile chasers going head-to-head in the Champion Chase is the highlight of the Festival for many racegoers and this year’s race should not disappoint. With reigning champion Dodging Bullets and former winners Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy taking on the brilliant young pretender Un De Sceaux, it should be a race to savour.
But while speed, accurate jumping and a touch of class are essential to win Wednesday’s feature, it’s all about grit, guts and determination on the Thursday when the best staying hurdlers in training battle it out in the Ryanair World Hurdle. Festival fanatics will need no reminding that trainer Paul Nicholls dominated this race with four-time hero Big Buck’s and he is set to field a strong team again this year with Saphir Du Rheu and Aux Ptits Soins taking on the hot favourite Thistlecrack from Colin Tizzard’s yard.
However, it is very much a case of saving the best until last at Prestbury Park and there is no greater race than the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the ‘Blue Riband’ of British jump racing. Some of the world’s most famous horses have become a part of Cheltenham’s prestigious history in the Gold Cup and from the likes of Best Mate to Kauto Star and from Desert Orchid to Denman, the list of greats to win the race continues to grow with every incredible Festival that takes place. This year, the Irish have a very strong contingent with Don Cossack, Don Poli, Vautour and Djakadam taking on Cue Card, the best of the home defenders who is aiming to land a £1million bonus having already won the Betfair Chase and the King George VI Chase this season.