Each year, the Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest sporting events in the UK and Ireland, with horse racing fans travelling miles to pile into the Prestbury Park concourses. The excitement brought by this unique meeting is felt by the most avid racing fans and the most casual alike, and it’s everyone’s dream to pick one of the winners in the Cheltenham Festival odds.
Of course, this year, things will be a lot different. That vibrant buzz will be missing from the Cheltenham stands, and the famous roar will not be heard, due to the fact that the Festival will be played out behind closed doors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But that does not take away from the fact that there are some terrific races slated to take place, none more so than the feature race of each of the Festival’s four days. These are the races that every jockey, trainer and owner want to win, and that each punter wants to correctly predict. Read on, as we run through the four biggest races of Cheltenham, and assess how things are shaping up ahead of the 2021 Festival.
Day One: Champion Hurdle
The Champion Hurdle is the curtain raiser for the Cheltenham Festival as far as the highest profile races are concerned. Run over a distance of two miles and half a furlong, many horses that have won the Champion Hurdle have gone on to do great things in National Hunt racing.
Last year, Epatante emerged victorious, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty. The Irish jockey has since retired, but Epatante is still among the favourites to win this year’s Champion Hurdle, with Aidan Coleman likely to be the man in the saddle. Other top contenders include Honeysuckle, Silver Streak and Concertista.
Day Two: Queen Mother Champion Chase
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is another race that everyone wants to win, and it is run over a distance of three miles. It’s a race of immense history and tradition, and was given the title of Queen Mother Champion Chase to celebrate the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday in 1980.
Up until last year, Altior had won two successive editions on the race, but the Nicky-Henderson trained horse was forced to pull out last year due to injury. In the end it was Politologue who earned the win for trainer Paul Nicholls. This year, Altior is set to return to the race, but he’ll face stiff competition from the likes of Chacun Pour Soi, Nube Negre, and of course the defending champ Politologue.
Day Three: Stayers’ Hurdle
Along with the Ryanair Chase, a race which grows in stature every year, the Stayers’ Hurdle is the most prestigious event on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, run over a distance of three miles.
Last year, the victor was Lisnagar Oscar, trained by Rebecca Curtis and ridden by Adam Wedge. This year, favourites for the race include Paisley Park, Thyme Hill and Roksana.
Day Four: Gold Cup
The Gold Cup is the showpiece race of the Cheltenham Festival, and it’s every jockey and trainer’s dream to post a winner in the race. Run over fences at a distance of three miles and two and a half furlongs, the race is the most highly anticipated of the Festival, with punters everywhere eagerly perusing the Gold Cup tips.
Last year, Al Boum Photo, trained by Willie Mullins, claimed his second Gold Cup triumph on the spin after holding off the Nicky Henderson-trained Santini to win the race by a neck. It’s no surprise that Al Boum Photo is the favourite for this year’s race as he looks to make it three in a row, but runners such as A Plus Tard, Royal Pagaille and Champ will be doing everything they can to spoil the party.