The 28 races that make up the Cheltenham Festival are the most hotly contested of the entire racing calendar, with around 500 horses competing for over £6.12 million of win and place prize money which compares only with the Grand National in terms of prestige in the jump racing calendar.
Whatever the weather, spring arrives in Gloucestershire on the first Tuesday of the Festival. Helicopters clatter in over Cleeve Hill, the first of 200,000 pints of Guinness are sunk and spectators roar off the start of the first race at the Cheltenham Festival.
That now traditional roar is an outpouring of a range of emotions from the relief of the racing community that Cheltenham has finally come round again, to the exhilaration of the crowd at the thought of what lies ahead – four days of high drama, effort and excess that will test both wallets and livers.
The week climaxes with the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, while other highlights include Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle, Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday.
Champion Day (Tuesday, 12th March)
The opening day of the Festival is considered by many to be the season’s most captivating race day.
The action kicks off with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle, Arkle Trophy and Mares’ Hurdle complete the set of Grade Ones on Champions Day.
Ladies Day (Wednesday, 13th March)
The sport’s leading two milers will battle it out for victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on another spellbinding day of racing.
With the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, RSA Chase and Champion Bumper also in the mix, there are Grade Ones everywhere you look and the action comes thick and fast.
St Patrick’s Day (Thursday, 14th March)
The Stayers Hurdle, formerly known as the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, is the feature race on Thursday’s card and a whole host of top class stayers will be looking to join the race’s illustrious roll of honour.
The JLT Novices’ Chase, Ryanair Chase and Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle will also light up Prestbury Park and punters will be hoping they are ahead of the bookmakers.
Gold Cup Day (Friday, 15th March)
Friday plays host to the sport’s most prestigious contest and we look set to be treated to a vintage renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The likes of Denman, Kauto Star and Coneygree have won the race in recent years and a whole host of superstars will battle it out for Grade One glory on the final day of the meeting. The presence of the Triumph Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle on the card only adds to the excitement.