Cheltenham Festival 2014
Welcome to Cheltenham Zone, your essential resource for the Cheltenham Festival. We have Cheltenham tips, previews, reviews and much more! Every year in March National Hunt racing fans head to Prestbury Park to enjoy the pinnacle of jumps racing; four days of relentless quality and an atmosphere that simply has no rivals. Every jockey, trainer and owner will be dreaming of a winner at the festival and writing their names in to the history book. Cheltenham Zone aims to provide you with previews and opinion on every race, giving you an alternative view on the festival. We also look at a large chunk of the National Hunt racing calendar as everything leads up to the big event.
The action kicks off on Tuesday 11th with Champions Day. There are three high class Grade 1 events, a Grade 2 and three ferociously competitive handicap races. The opening race – The Supreme Novices Hurdle – is synonymous with the famous ‘Cheltenham roar’ where racegoers cheer the start of the racing. It really is a reaction unrivalled in the racing universe. The Supreme Novices is the first Grade 1 action, featuring some of the best novice hurdlers about. This is then followed by the Arkle, another Grade 1 but this time for novice chasers. The feature race of the day is the Champion Hurdle where the top hurdlers in training battle it out to land one of the most coveted prizes of the season. The Champion Hurdle has a rich history, being won by such greats as Hatton’s Grace, Istabraq and more recently the dominant Irish raider Hurricane Fly. It is quite simply a sensational opening day of action at the Cheltenham Festival that will leave everybody eager for the following three days.
Following on from the electric atmosphere of Champions Day we have Ladies Day. As the title eludes to, this is an opportunity for the ladies to enjoy themselves. Plenty of drink will be consumed and the ladies will be sporting their best outfits, all vying for the prestigious honours of the Cheltenham Festival fashion awards. With the focus switching back to what matters most, the racing kicks off with the National Hunt Challenge Cup; a race bedded deep in Cheltenham’s long history. We are then treated to three back-to-back Grade 1 races, beginning with more smart novices in the Neptune Investment Hurdle. We then have the RSA Chase which can often highlight future Gold Cup stars. Finally, saving the best to last, we have the Queen Mother Champion Chase. This is the feature race of the day and the leading minimum-distance chase of the National Hunt season. Having been won recently by such greats as Moscow Flyer, Master Minded and Sizing Europe, the race has an incredible amount of prestige. Two typically competitive handicap races follow, whilst the action on Ladies Day concludes with the Champion Bumper, a race that is likely to throw up many stars of the future.
St Patrick’s Day
The third day of racing falls on the Thursday and is classed as St Patrick’s Day. There’s always a huge Irish presence at the festival so St Patrick’s Day is celebrated slightly early. Typically there’s a real Irish flavour to the day. A huge amount of drink will be consumed and the visitors from the Emerald Isle will be hoping for plenty of winners on yet another high class day of racing. In contrast to the other three days at the Cheltenham Festival there are only six races. The card features two Group 1 races, one Group 2 race and three handicap events. The action kicks off with the Jewson Novices Chase, a recent addition to the festival. A Grade 2 in name, this race has featured several top quality horses and could be classed as a Grade 1 in the future. The first Grade 1 action comes in the form of the Ryanair Chase. This race always features a host of high class horses over an intermediate distance, and the thrilling 2012 renewal was a highlight of the festival. The feature race of the day is the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. A race for the stayers division, this has been dominated by superstar Big Buck’s who has won the last renewals, ensuring he is forever remembered as a Cheltenham hero.
Gold Cup Day
The fourth and final day of action at the Cheltenham Festival comes on the Friday with Gold Cup Day. Whilst everybody has their own preference for the best day of the festival, Gold Cup day is considered the biggest day of the four. This is of course due to the showpiece event; the most prestigious race of the festival; the Cheltenham Gold Cup. There is a huge buzz around the course all day as racegoers gather to see the latest horse to join a glittering role of honour. Whilst the Gold Cup will be responsible for the headlines, there’s still plenty of top class action throughout the day: two Grade 1 races, two Grade 2 races, a handicap for conditional jockeys and a unique Foxhunter Chase for amateur jockeys. After the racing concludes everybody is left to reflect on four incredible days of racing. There’s still plenty of National Hunt action left to enjoy in the season after Cheltenham, however everybody will already be thinking about twelve months time and doing it all over again.