Cheltenham Festival

Originally a two-day festival, but extended to three days in 1923 and four in 2005, the Cheltenham Festival is the meeting around which the entire National Hunt season revolves for many involved in the sport. Hordes of spectators from both sides of the Irish Sea make an annual pilgrimage to Prestbury Park in mid-March to take in the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, among 28 races of the highest quality.

Champion Hurdle

The Champion Hurdle, run over 2 miles and 110 yards on the Old Course at Prestbury Park, is the feature race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, also known as “Champion Day”. The race was inaugurated in 1927 and, with winning prize money of £266,383.62 (2018), is the most prestigious and valuable hurdle race in the National Hunt calendar.

Queen Mother Champion Chase

Inaugurated as the National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase in 1959, the Queen Mother Champion Chase was renamed in 1980 in honour of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who turned 80 that year. The highlight of day two, a.k.a. “Ladies Day”, the race is run over 2 miles on the Old Course and typically attracts a small, but select, field of runners.

Stayers’ Hurdle

Run in its current guise for the first time in 1972, the Stayers’ Hurdle has been run under various titles – including as the Ladbrokes World Hurdle between 2005 and 2015 – for sponsorship purposes over the years. Nevertheless, the Stayers’ Hurdle, which is run over 3 miles on the New Course, remains the premier long-distance hurdle race of the season. Indeed, the feature race on day three, a.k.a. “St. Patrick’s Thursday”, has grown in stature in recent years, thanks in large part to Big Buck’s, who recorded four consecutive victories in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

Day four, or “Cheltenham Gold Cup Day”, is arguably the most eagerly-awaited day of the National Hunt season, with the very best steeplechasers from northern Europe seeking to add their names to the roll of honour for the “Blue Riband” event. Run over 3 miles 2½ furlongs, and 22 fences, on the New Course every year since 1959 – except 2001, when the whole of the Cheltenham Festival was cancelled – the list of winners includes legendary names such as Arkle, Best Mate and Kauto Star.

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