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Cheltenham Festival Betting Offers 2020

bet365 opening account sports sign up offer for the Grand NationalFor most people the Grand National represents the pinnacle of horse jump racing, it is however the Cheltenham Festival that is the best meeting for punters. The bookmakers agree and this is why you will see far more exceptional betting offers for Cheltenham than for any other horse race and possibly any other event in the British sporting calendar.

The Cheltenham festival is held over 4 days and sees some very famous races in the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle, Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup.

Prior to the festival you will find some top ante-post early promotions with regular promotions released in the week running up to the event. Latest offers are released on a daily and even hourly basis. You will find the very latest short term deals listed at the top with more detailed descriptions of long running details below. Further down this page you can find information about the races including history and features to look out for.

Best Betting Sites for Cheltenham 2020

Bonus For New Customers Only, T&C’s Apply, 18+, BeGambleAware.org
Bonus (T&Cs Apply)
Details
Claim
Proper Bookie For Proper Punters
High Limits Fair Betting Site
Outstanding Rewards Scheme
T&Cs apply 18+
Valid for new UK customers who have registered from 27/08/2020. Deposit using code SNWEL100. Valid once per customer. Bonus expires after 90 days. 8x turnover at 1.6 minimum odds before withdrawal. Max contribution to turnover requirements per bet is £50. Multiple bets on the same market do not qualify.
Money Back Races Daily
The Biggest & Best Offers Anywhere
Paddy Power Rewards Club
T&Cs apply 18+
Risk Free 20: New customers only, limited to one per person. If you’ve previously had a Paddy Power account, you will not qualify for the offer. Place your FIRST bet on any Sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £/€20. Only deposits made using Cards or Paypal will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply. Paddy's Rewards Club: Get a £/€10 free bet when you place 5x bets of £/€10+. T&Cs apply.
NRNB All Championship Races
One Of The Best New Sportsbooks
Unique Markets & Opportunities
T&Cs apply 18+
18+, Welcome Bonus: New Players only, 1st Deposit, Min Deposit,: £10, max £10 free bet valid for 14 days, bets must be placed at odds of 1/1 or greater and be settled within 14 days of placement. System bets not eligible.
Insurance 1st bet up to £40
Excellent book & prices
15-to-go On ITV Races
T&Cs apply 18+
18+ begambleaware.org. New customer only. Min deposit £10. Money back as bonus if first bet loses. Wagering requirements: sportsbook 3x at min. odds of 1.40 (2/5), casino 35x. Unless forfeited the sportsbook bonus must be wagered before using the casino bonus. Bonus expires 7 days after opt-in. No deposit required for NI customers. Call 08081699314 to claim. Full T&Cs apply. #Ad
Good Offers & Price Enhancements
Faller Insurance up to £25
Hugely Experienced Operator
T&Cs apply 18+
New customers only. Min deposit £10 (UK debit cards only) Bet £10 at odds of evens (2.0) or greater. Multiple bets with cumulative odds of evens (2.0) count, each leg must have odds of 1/5 (1.2) to be eligible. Each way bets are eligible for this promotion. Upon qualifying bet settlement, 1 x £5.00 Free Bet will be credited to your account. Once the first £5.00 Free Bet has been used a further 3 x £5.00 Free Bets will be applied to your account. Free bet stake not returned after bet settlement. Valid for 7 days, each Free Bet must be used in its entirety.
400% in Free Bets
Win at 4/1+, Get £5 Free
Best For Specials Markets
T&Cs apply 18+
New customers only – £10 deposit using promo code "RACING" - First bet must be placed on any market - Minimum stake £10 at odds of 1/2 (1.5) - Free bets credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days - Free bet stakes not included in returns - Deposit balance is available for withdrawal at any time. General deposit method & withdrawal restrictions apply

Cheltenham Festival Betting Offers

New Customer

T&C’s Apply, 18+, BeGambleAware.org

All Customer

Ante Post Non Runner No Bet

Bookmaker NRNB Races Other Details Claim
paddy-power Paddy Power Every Race Every type of money back offer you can imagine plus rewards club
T&Cs apply 18+
bet365 Bet365 All Races BOG ante post & 1/4 odds for all each way bets, from January each year
T&Cs apply 18+
betvictor BetVictor All 28 Races Plus run for your money fair terms and enhanced places some races
T&Cs apply 18+
Unibet Unibet Every Race Cash money back offers, plus daily bet deals for all festival races
T&Cs apply 18+
betfred Betfred All Races Daily money back 2nd, extra places & best promotions for Lucky bets
T&Cs apply 18+

KEY: Champion Hurdle (CH), Queen Mother Champion Chase (CC), Stayers Hurdle (SH), Ryanair Chase (RC), Cheltenham Gold Cup (GC), NonRunner No Bet (NRNB)

The table above details bookmakers offering non-runner money back on ante-post bets for this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Best Odds Guaranteed

The following bookmakers are giving Best Price Guarantees on Cheltenham festival races this year. This means if you back a horse and the industry starting price is higher than the price you were given you will automatically be paid out at the higher odds price.

Ladbrokes and William Hill offer Odds Boost in addition to BOG. Note that best price guarantee does not generally apply to ante-post bets, unless explicitly stated by the betting site.  To get BOG you will usually need to place your bets after around 9am on the day of the race.

Bookmaker BOG Races Streaming E/W Odds Odds Boost? Claim
bet365 Bet365 All Races YES, £0.50 Min Bet 1/4 No
T&Cs apply 18+
ladbrokes Ladbrokes All Races YES, £1 Min Bet 1/5 Yes, £50 Max Stake
T&Cs apply 18+
william-hill William Hill All Races YES, £1 Min Bet 1/5 Yes, £20 Max Stake
T&Cs apply 18+
betfred Betfred All Races YES, £1 Min Bet 1/5 No
T&Cs apply 18+
betway Betway All Races YES, £1 Min Bet 1/5 No
T&Cs apply 18+
betfair Betfair All Races YES, £0.5 Min Bet 1/5 No
T&Cs apply 18+

Cheltenham Free Bets and Bonuses

Win Win - £5 Free For 4/1+ Winners
888 sport win win

888 Sport are a great all round bookie, not only do they provide more markets globally than most other sites they also have some of the best long running offers in the business.

The win win promotion is another a great addition. If you place a £10+ bet (single or straight like acca) on any sports market with a price of 4/1 you will get a £5 free bet, awarded on bet settlement, if the wager wins.

All tokens are valid 7 days and customers can claim each token up to once each day of the week. This means in any given week you could claim up to £35 in free bets.

T&Cs Apply, 18+ Only, Begambleaware.org
3x Your Own Bet Boost Every Day
william hill bet boost logo

You can also boost your own odds prices on any of the horses you want up to three times each day. You automatically have three boosts available in your bet slip, this also applies to any horse racing until the end of April.

The offer can be used for win singles and the win part of each-way bets up to £20 (or £20 E/W), all winnings are awarded in cash. Claiming bet boost also does not restrict you from claiming other offers.

The boost is proportional the the initial odds but is roughly around 10%, if a race or horse is void you will not be awarded another boost. If you cash out this will be calculated at original odds not the boosted price.

T&Cs Apply, 18+ Only, Begambleaware.org
ITV 3/1+ Free Bet Offer

Back a 3/1+ winner in any live ITV or ITV4 race at this years Cheltenham festival (or any live ITV race all year round) and Betfair will match your stake up to £50 with a free bet the next day.

This offer can be claimed in every single live race, there is no minimum bet and any all winnings resulting from free bets are paid in cash.  When awarded the free token is valid for 48 hours for use on any sports.

T&Cs Apply, 18+ Only, Begambleaware.org

Money Back / Payout Specials

Run For Your Money – Fair Terms

Not so much an offer as a promise that means if your horse loses all chance before it has barely started you will get a cash refund from BetVictor where you wouldn’t with other bookies.

The idea is to give punters a better run for their money. If a horse refuses, whips around or fails to come out of the stalls then you will get your wager back without limit. Other betting sites in this scenario would declare your bet a loser as the race has already come under starters orders.

T&Cs Apply, 18+ Only, Begambleaware.org

Faller Insurance

Faller Insurance Up To £25
mansionbet faller insurance

One of the only faller insurance offers available this year with a stake value up to £25. Mansionbet's money back if your horse falls, unseats its jockey or is brought down is applicable to one jumps meeting every day in addition to the festival.

The minimum bet to qualify is £5 (or £5 EW - offer only applies to win parts of each-ways bets). Refunds are given as a free bet withing 24 hours (usually) and is then valid for two days. Punters can claim up to once per race.

T&Cs Apply, 18+ Only, Begambleaware.org

Lucky 15/31/63 Promotions

Cheltenham Lucky 15 / 31 / 63 Offers
betfred lucky all correct bonus

If you are looking to place a Lucky or any full cover bet on the Championship this year then look no further than betfred.

First up get up to five times the regular odds if you back a only one winner, 3x the single winner price in a Lucky 15, 4x in a Luck 31 and 5x in a Lucky 63.

Secondly if you do pick an all correct lucky bet you will get a bonus on top of your winnings, in cash, 10% for a Yankee or Lucky 15, 20% for a Canadian or Lucky 31 and 25% for a Heinz or Lucky 63

T&Cs Apply, 18+ Only, Begambleaware.org

Cheltenham Race Card

cheltenham racecourse parade ring

Cheltenham is by far the most prestigious jump race meeting in the world with no less than 14 Grade 1 races and several other grade and feature races.

Over the four historic days there will be over £4.59M paid in prize money (over £1 million each day) and over 250,000 people will attend the course.

Day 1 – Champion Day – Tuesday 10th March 2020

Time Race Grade Distance Winner Prize
1:30 Supreme Novices Hurdle Grade 1 2m 87y £70,338
2:10 Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Grade 1 1m 7f 199y £98,764
2:50 Handicap Chase Grade 3 3m 1f £61,897
3:30 Unibet Champion Hurdle
Grade 1 2m 87y £264,610
4:10 Mares’ Hurdle Grade 1 2m 3f 200y £67,524
4:50 Novices’ Handicap Chase Listed 2m 4f 44y £39,389
5:30 National Hunt Chase Grade 2 3m 5f 201y £74,306

KEY: m – Miles, f – furlong(s), y – yards

Day 2 – Ladies Day – Wednesday 11th March 2020

Time Race Grade Distance Winner Prize
1:30 Novices Hurdle Grade 1 2m 5f 26y £70,338
2:10 RSA Steeple Chase Novices’ Grade 1 3m 80y £98,764
2:50 Coral Cup Grade 3 2m 5f 26y £56,270
3:30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase Grade 1 1m 7f 199y £225,080
4:10 Cross Country Chase Class 2 Chase 3m 6f 37y £40,235
4:50 Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Grade 3 2m 87y £45,016
5:30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper Grade 1 – Open Flat Race 2m 87y £42,203

KEY: m – Miles, f – furlong(s), y – yards

Day 3 – St Patrick’s – Thursday 12th March 2020

Time Race Grade Distance Winner Prize
1:30 Marsh Novices Chase Grade 1 2m 3f 198y £84,405
2:10 Pertemps Final Handicap Grade 3 2m 7f 213y £56,270
2:50 Ryanair Chase Grade 1 2m 4f 166y £196,945
3:30 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle Grade 1 2m 7f 213y £182,878
4:10 Stable Plate Handicap Grade 3 2m 4f 166y £61,897
4:50 Mares’ Novices Hurdle Grade 2 2m 179y £50,643
5:30 Challenge Cup Handicap Amateur 3m 2f £41,510

KEY: m – Miles, f – furlong(s), y – yards

Day 4 – Gold Cup Day –  Friday 13th March 2020

Time Race Grade Distance Winner Prize
1:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle Grade 1 2m 179y £73,505
2:10 County Handicap Hurdle Grade 3 2m 179y £56,270
2:50 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle Grade 1 2m 7f 213y £73,505
3:30 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Grade 1 3m 2f 70y £351,688
4:10 Foxhunter Challenge Cup Class 2 Chase 3m 2f 70y £26,685
4:50 Grand Annual Handicap Grade 3 2m 62y £61,897
5:30 Conditional Jockeys Handicap Class 2 Hurdle 2m 4f 56y £43,330

KEY: m – Miles, f – furlong(s), y – yards

Cheltenham Festival Feature Races

Champion Hurdle – Day One

Usually the first of the feature races at the festival scheduled to take place on the opening day. This grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race is run on the left handed old course covering a distance of 2 miles and 110 yards (3.319km). The race is open to horses of four years or older and has 8 hurdles to jump. The purse for this race is over £450k with the winner pocketing around £265k.

The first Champion Huddle race was held in 1927, won by Blaris who was awarded the decent sum (for the time) of £365. Apart from a cancellation for frost in 1932 and two stoppages during the second world war (1942 and 1943) the race has been run every year since. In 2001 the race was not run due the foot and mouth crisis although a substitute race was run at Sandown.

Several horses have won the race three times:

  • Hatton’s Grace – 1949 / 1950 / 1951
  • Sir Ken – 1952 / 1953 / 1954
  • Persian War – 1968 / 1969 / 1970
  • See You Then – 1985 / 1986 / 1987
  • Istabraq – 1998 / 1999 / 2000

The most successful jockeys to win the race are Tim Molony, who rode the Sir Ken on all three winning occasions as well as Hatton’s Grace in 1951, Ruby Walsh, winning twice on Hurican Fly in 2011 and 2013 and then Faugheen in 2015 and Annie Power in 2016 and Barry Geragthy winning with Punjabi in 2010, Jezki in 2014, two-time winner Buveur d’Air in 2018 and Epatante in 2020.

The leading trainer is Nicky Henderson with 8 wins, 1985, 1986, 1987, 2009, 2010, 2017, 2018 & 2020 and the leading owner is J P McManus who’s horses have won the race no less than 9 times; 1998, 1999, 2000, 2010, 2014, 2017,  2018, 2019 & 2020.

Queen Mother Champion Chase – Day Two

queen mother champion chase race board

The Champion Chase is another National Hunt grade 1 race but this time it’s a steeplechase not a hurdle with 12 fences to jump. This race is also run left handed on the old course over a distance of around 2 miles (3.219km). The race is open to horses of 5 years and older. The prize pot is over £400k with over £225k for the winner. The chase is the feature race of the second day at the festival.

The chase was first held in 1959, originally named the National Hunt Two Mile Champion Chase. The race was renamed in 1980 in celebration of the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday, she was avid lover and owner of horses with a passion of jump racing in particular. The Queen Mother in fact was the owner of Game Spirit that finished second in 1976.

The most successful horse in the race with three wins in a row is Badsworth Boy (1983, 84 and 85) and the most successful jockeys, with 5 wins each, are Pat Taaffe and Barry Geraghty.

The leading trainers with 6 wins each are Tom Dreaper, who last won the race in 1970,  Nicky Henderson, who last won with Altior in 2019 and Paul Nicholls who last won with Politologue in 2020.

The three leading owners with three victories each are George Ansley, John Hales and Doug Armitage.  The latter was the owner of Badsworth Boy.

The race has only been moved once, in 2001, due to foot and mouth disease and was held at Sandown instead.

Ryanair Chase (Festival Trophy) – Day Three

ryanair chase winners boardThe Ryanair chase is not one of the classic Championship races, and was only added to the festival when the event was expanded to four days in 2005.  It has however quickly achieved a prominence and is often grouped with the main Championship races, especially where betting is concerned, which is one of the main reasons you may be reading this page.

With even more prize money available for this Grade 1 Chase (purse ~£350,000 with ~£200,000 for the winner) than the feature race of the say, the Stayer’s Hurdle, you can see why the race has quickly risen to become one of the biggest races on the calendar.

St Partick’s day at Cheltenham is often seen as the ‘extra day’, but no other day has two feature races.  This is even more exciting considering they are run one after another too.

The registered race name is the Festival Trophy, it was sponsored in its first year by the Daily Telegraph but since has been continuously sponsored by Ryanair since 2006, hence why it is better known by its sponsored name.  The fact Michael O’Leary is CEO of Ryanair also means this two mile five furlong chase over 17 fences on the new course is highly likely to stick with that name well into the future.

Initially a grade 2 race it was upgraded to grade 1 in 2008.  Being a young race there has not been too much time for records to accumulate, but already one horse has won it twice, Albertas Run in 2010 and 2011.  Ruby Walsh has ridden the winner an impressive 4 times (2005, 2007, 2016 and 2017), all on different horses, and Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins are the leading trainers with 3 wins each.

Stayers’ Hurdle – Day Three

cheltenham racecourse horses running

The Stayers’ Hurdle is the feature race of day 3 at Cheltenham and is another grade 1 jump race. The race is open to horses of 4 years and older and is again left handed but this time is run on the new course at the track. Run over a distance of 3 miles (4.828km) it represents the leading long distance hurdle race at the festival. The prize pot is around £320k with over £183k to the winner.

First contested in 1912 this is one of the oldest races at the meeting and pre-dates the Queen Mother’s chase by nearly half a century. The initial incarnation was held at Prestnury Park with £100 of prize money for the winner (doubled to £200 in 1913). It was termed ‘Stayers Selling Hurdle’ at the time to reflect the type of race as a ‘Weight for Age Selling’ type event with the winner sold for £50 after the race.

The hurdle race was cancelled twice in 1928 and during WWII (1939-45) and in 1946 it was replaced by the Spa Hurdle. The Spa Hurdle race was run in 1923 and 1942 over a distance of 2 miles. Between 1946 and 1967 the Spa Hurdle was contested over 3 miles and returned in 1972 renamed the Stayers’ Hurdle. The race was usually held on day one or day two but was moved permanently in 1993 to become the feature race of day three.

The title World Hurdle was brought in in 2005 when Ladbrokes began sponsoring the race, in 2017 Sun Bets took over sponsorship and the race name has since reverted back to the Stayers’ Hurdle.  In 2020 it was sponsored by Paddy Power.

In its modern form (since 1972) the most successful winner is Big Bucks who won the race on four consecutive occasions (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012). The leading jockey is Ruby Walsh who won the race 5 times, 4 times on Big Bucks and once on Nichols Canyon in 2017.

Paul Nicholls is the leading trainer and the Stewart family are the leading owners, again with 4 wins each, on, you guessed it, Big Bucks.

Cheltenham Gold Cup – Day Four

The Gold Cup is pinnacle race at the Cheltenham festival held on the fourth and final day. The grade 1 national hunt steeplechase is run over 3 miles 2 ½ furlongs (5.331km) with 22 fences to jump. This is again left handed and run on the new course at Cheltenham. The race is open to 5 year olds and older and commands a prize fund of over £615k with around £352k to the winner. As the most valuable non-handicap chase in Great Britain the Gold Cup has seem some prestigious winners including the likes of Arkle and Kauto Star. In 2015 the race was won by the first ever novice, Coneygree.

The Gold Cup in the form we know it was first run in 1924 however there was a flat race named the Cheltenham Gold Cup that took place from 1819. This was held over 3 miles on Cleeve Hill that now looks over the current course. The first prize was 100 guineas to the winner.

The first jump race Gold Cup in 1924 was run on the old course and offered £865 to the winner. At this time two other races overshadowed the Cup with National Hunt Chase and the County Handicap Hurdle both giving prize funds in excess of £1000.

Despite being abandoned in 1931 for frost and 1937 for flooding it was actually the intervening years (1932-36) that saw the record race winner emerge in Golden Miller who won the race in all five years, the record still stands today. The horse also won the Grand National in 1934. The Gold Cup did not run on two occasions during the second world war (1943 and 1944).

In 1959, the same year the Champion Chase began, the Gold Cup was moved to the new course at Cheltenham racecourse where it has stayed ever since. The 1960’s saw the race dominated by Arkle, winning three times, in his final victory the horse was priced at 1/10!

cheltenham racecourse horses running on the bend

In 1983 trainer, Michael Dickinson, made history becoming the first trainer to be responsible for the top 5 finishers in the race. In 1986 Dawn Run became the only horse to have won the Gold Cup after also winning the Champion Hurdle but perhaps the most popular horse to win the race was Desert Orchid who won in 1989. In 1990 Norton’s Coin won the Gold Cup at odds of 100/1.

The only time the race has been cancelled in the modern era was in 2001 due to the foot and mouth outbreak. The Gold Trophy Chase replaced the race that year at Sandown. Kauto Star won the race in 2007 and became the first horse to regain the title in 2009, ridden on both occasions by Ruby Walsh. Kuato Star was seen as the greatest horse to win the race since Arkle in the 60’s.

Golden Miller as we have said is the record winner with 5 victories. The top jockey is Pat Taaffe with 4 wins (1964, 1965 and 1966 on Arkle and 1968 on Fort Leney) and the leading trainer Tom Dreaper with 5 wins including the 3 wins for Arkle. Dorothy Paget is the leading owner with 7 wins including the 5 cups won by Golden Miller.

Cheltenham Racecourse

cheltenham racecourse welcome sign

Think of Cheltenham Racecourse and the Festival will immediately spring into your mind. It’s an entirely understandable reaction, given the 4 days of racing feature some incredible races including the Gold Cup. Yet how much do you know about the course itself?

Here we will take a look at the turf at Prestbury Park and explore all of the key things that you need to know. Are you aware, for example, that there are actually 3 courses on the site, all of which are used during the Festival?

We will also take a look at things off the course, such as the various stands and their capacities.

The Old Course

cheltenham old courseLet’s start by having a look at the Old Course, which is what the racing takes place on during the first 2 days of the Festival, Champion Day and Ladies Day, as well as other events throughout the year:

  • Shape: Oval
  • Length: 1 mile, 4 furlongs
  • Run-in: 350 yards
  • Hurdles: 6
  • Fences: 9
  • Side: Left-handed
  • Jumps: 1 water, 2 open ditch

The water jump comes at the 3rd fence, with the open ditches coming at the 4th and 6th. It is an undulating course but tends to allow jockeys to get their steeds up to a decent gallop depending on the going.

Big Races On The Old Course

As mentioned, the Old Course comes into play during the Festival and other events throughout the year, with the following being the biggest races that take place on it:

  • Arkle Challenge Trophy
  • Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
  • Queen Mother Champion Chase
  • Prestbury Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle
  • November Novices’ Chase

The New Course

cheltenham new courseOut with the Old and in with the New, this is where the last 2 days of the Festival take place, St Partick’s Thursday and Gold Cup Day.

It is also the course that is used for the Festival Trials Day, the International and the New Year’s Day Meeting, so it sees plenty of action during the season:

  • Shape: Oval
  • Length: 1 mile, 5 furlongs
  • Run-in: 220 yards
  • Hurdles: 6
  • Fences: 13
  • Side: Left-handed
  • Jumps: 1 water, 2 open ditch

The water jump on the New Course is on the 2nd, whilst the open ditches are at the 3rd and 5th. There’s a reason that both jockeys and trainers consider victories on the Cheltenham New Course to be amongst the finest in their careers, with its undulating surface married to a run-in that sees horses heading down the straight at some speed.

Big Races On The New Course

It goes without saying that the biggest race on the New Course is the Gold Cup, which takes place every year during the Festival. It’s not the only one to watch, though, with the following also being worthy of your time and attention:

  • Cotswold Chase
  • Classic Novices’ Hurdle
  • Stayers’ Hurdle
  • Ryanair Chase
  • International Hurdle

The Cross-Country Course

cheltenham cross country course

A quick mention for the Cross-Country Course at this point, which is home to the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase during the Festival.

It is a weaving, winding course that takes horses all over Prestbury Park and incorporates any number of natural obstacles, such as banks, timber rails, water and ditches.

The Stands

cheltenham stands

As with any racecourse, the stands are among the most important things as far as spectators are concerned.

At Cheltenham there are any number of areas you can but tickets for, especially during the Festival when temporary enclosures are built to house the swelling numbers. Here’s a look at the key areas:

  • The Princess Royal Stand – 6,500 capacity
  • Best Mate Enclosure
  • Tattersalls Enclosure
  • Club Enclosure
  • The Centaur – 2,000 seated, 4,000 standing
  • Big Buck’s Champagne Bar

Cheltenham Festival History

cheltenham winning postThe Cheltenham Festival is one of the most famous race meetings in the world of horse racing, up there with the Grand National and Royal Ascot in terms of name recognition alone. If you were to ask someone that has no interest whatsoever in racing to name a race and a meeting, there’s a very real chance that they’d come up with the Gold Cup and the Cheltenham Festival.

Yet how much do we actually know about the Festival’s history? When did it begin? Why did it catch on? Has it changed much over the years? They’re the questions that we’ll look to answer here.

In The Beginning

cheltenham the home of jump racing

1815 was the year that saw the first racing take place in Cheltenham, happening in the Nottingham Hill area rather than Cleeve Hill. It wasn’t a popular occurrence back then, with a 3 year gap before racing returned.

This was something of a prototype for what was to come, with 5 races occurring and enough people finding it interesting to make it worth while doing it again the following year.

The following year saw the racing return to an area that had had a grandstand built to accommodate the attendees, giving it an air of respectability. The crowds began to grow in the years that followed so that by 1829 around 50,000 people were turning up.

That was not pleasing to the local Anglican Rector who encouraged his parishioners to disrupt proceedings in the future. By 1843 the disruption combined with the decision to move the racing to a different, less suitable area meant that it had stopped completely.

The Festival Itself

cheltenham racecourse early picture

It wasn’t until Mr W.A Baring Bingham bought Prestbury Park for use as a stud farm in 1881 that racing was put back on the schedule for the local area. Even then it took another 17 years for races to be run in anger, but it was successful enough to encourage him to broaden his horizons. In 1902 he hosted a 2 day meeting named the National Hunt Festival, which was the forefather of the Cheltenham Festival.

The National Hunt Meeting had been searching for a permanent home after being run for the first time in 1860 at Market Harborough, being moved to Cheltenham full-time from 1911.

That was when the Festival truly began to grow, with a 3rd day being added in 1923 and the Gold Cup taking place for the first time the following year. Golden Miller wining 5 consecutive Gold Cups in the 1930s saw the previously modest Festival of racing rocket into the big time.

Changes Over The Years

cheltenham racecouse standsWhile the principle of top-class racing at Cheltenham has remained the same since the first race was run on the ground in 1815, the Festival has obviously undergone a number of big changes over the years.

One of the biggest things happened in the 1960s when Racecourse Holdings Trust bought the course and spent large amounts of money revitalising the venue itself, with the BBC deciding to start broadcasting racing from the Festival as a result.

The reason, perhaps, that the Festival has consistently had a place in the public’s consciousness is that there have been so many spectacular moments during its history.

From Arkle winning three consecutive Gold Cups in 1964 to 1966 through to Istabraq doing the same thing in the Champion Hurdle in the 1990s, there have been so many standout moments that capture the imagination. Most thrilling of all is that there are plenty still to come.

Trivia, Stats & Facts

best mate statue at cheltenham racecourseOne of the most beloved events in the horse racing calendar, there’s plenty of interesting stuff to tell you about the Cheltenham Festival.

Did you know, for example, that the meeting is believed to be worth more than £1 million to the local economy?  Or that 25,000 beef burgers and hotdogs will be consumed this year?

Or that Kauto Star is the only horse to have won the Gold Cup more than once without doing so on consecutive occasions?

How about the fact that over 20,000 people will travel from Dublin to watch the racing?  Or that 24 marquees are needed to house festival goers?

Who remembers the Festival was cancelled in 2001 for the foot and mouth disease epidemic?

Read on to find out more.

Facts About The Races

bookmakers at cheltenham racecourseLet’s start by having a look at some facts revolving around a few of the individual races. In the Gold Cup, for example, Best Mate and Arkle have won it 3 times apiece but still don’t rival Golden Miller’s 5 wins, achieved during the 1930s.

Sticking with the Gold Cup for a second, one of the longest-odds horses to win the premier race was Norton’s Coin, who romped home as a 100/1 outside back in 2010. Even more noteworthy is the fact that he defeated much-loved Desert Orchid to do it.

In 2009 Queen Quevega won the Mares’ Hurdle. In and of itself there’s not that much to get excited about there, but when you find out she went on to win it 5 more times and a set a record for the most consecutive Festival victories, it’s a little more impressive.

Other Festival Facts

  • Around £600 million is bet on the horse races each year, with that figure going up with every passing Festival.
  • St. Patrick’s Day is one of the main days of the Festival, which might help to explain why around 300,000 pints of Guinness are drunk during the 4 days.
  • Buying all of those Guinness pints isn’t cheap, which is probably why £2.3 million was withdrawn from cash machines during the 2016 running of the Festival.
  • More than 100,000 people pass through the doors of the local train station, Cheltenham Spa, during the 4 days of the Festival.
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