For sports fans up and down the country, the month of March is saved for the Cheltenham Festival and although the Grand National might be the most famous horse race on the planet, the Festival at Cheltenham is often regarded as the World Cup of National Hunt racing.
Fans normally flock to the venue in their thousands, with a 70,000 capacity crowd regularly selling out Gold Cup day as spectators from across the UK and Ireland make the annual pilgrimage to Prestbury Park for four days of sporting drama.
However, if you’re the kind of person that thinks reins are something that come out the sky or that jockeys are somebody who spin discs in a nightclub, then we are here to help.
From talking you through what happens on each day of the meeting to where you can tune into the action from home, here is our guide to the Cheltenham Festival 2021, including some helping hints on how to have a flutter.
Although the schedule has been modified over the years, in recent times there have been four days of action at the Cheltenham Festival, with this year’s renewal set to take place from Tuesday 16th March until Friday 19th March.
Across the four days, racing fans are treated to no less than 28 races, which create a seven race card each day. Each race is slightly different in quality, but just as much entertainment, with everything from Grade One affairs to the ultra-competitive handicaps all happening throughout the week.
- Tuesday March 12 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Arkle Chase, Champion Hurdle, Mares’ Hurdle
- Wednesday March 13 – RSA Chase, Champion Chase
- Thursday March 14 – Ryanair Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle
- Friday March 15 – Triumph Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup
As you might have already noticed in our introduction, the racecourse is often referred to as Prestbury Park and sits just on the outside of Cheltenham Town centre, under the famous Cleeve Hill.
Throughout the meeting, the action goes to each corner of the racetrack with three courses used in total. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the horses race on the new course, which is said to offer a speed challenge with a much shorter run-in at the end of races.
Wednesday also plays host to the Cross Country race, which has recently been dominated by the Grand National-winning Tiger Roll. This race uses a course in the middle of Prestbury Park, and includes slightly different obstacles such as the Aintree fence, cheese wedges and the banks.
By Thursday and Friday, the action moves over to the new course ahead of the Gold Cup, which takes in the stiff test of the full Cheltenham Hill, which makes it a real stamina challenge to the winning line.
Betting on the Cheltenham Festival
Horse racing and betting have always gone hand-in-hand and the Cheltenham Festival is a key player in that with millions being gambled on the 28 races each year.
For punters, there are plenty of different sports bookmakers to choose from For punters, there are plenty of different sports bookmakers to choose from to place your bet, with many betting firms now holding an online presence with best odds available and promotions on many of the top races, including the Gold Cup.
Many of the Cheltenham tipsters, including those in the freebets.com cheltenham guide, think that this year’s Gold Cup could go the way of the 7/2 favourite, Al Boum Photo.
He was a similar price in the betting last season, when he won the Gold Cup for a second time, and will be aiming to become the first horse since Best Mate if he can win the race for a third time in succession this March.
His main rivals start with Minella Indo, who is 7/1 second favourite with most of the bookies. He is already a winner at the Cheltenham Festival in the past, and is expected to go close for Irish trainer, Henry de Bromhead.
Over in Britain, trainer Nicky Henderson looks to hold the best chance with Santini, who was 2nd in the race last year, and is 8/1 in the current ante-post betting.