The Cheltenham Festival is a four day racing event held at Cheltenham Racecourse at Prestbury Park, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. It features 28 races, including the much anticipated Gold Cup.
It is estimated that more than 265,000 race fans attend the Cheltenham Festival every year.
This year, the festivities begin with Champion Day on March 16, Tuesday, with seven races highlighted by the Champion Hurdle. Day 2, known as Ladies Day (March 17, Wednesday) is highlighted by The Champion Chase.
Day 3, called St. Patrick's Day (March 18, Thursday) is highlighted by the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers' Hurdle. The festival reaches its climax on Day 4, known as Gold Cup Day (March 19, Friday) with the Gold Cup.
The history of the Cheltenham Festival can be traced from 1860 when the National Hunt Chase was first held at Market Harborough.
It was initially called the Grand National Hunt Meeting and was usually held at Warwick Racecourse, though other locations served as host.
By 1904 and 1905 Cheltenham served as host with a new course established at Prestbury Park.
From 1906 to 1910, the Festival returned to Warwick but further additions and major improvements made at Cheltenham by Messrs. Pratt and Company made the National Hunt Committee decide that the 1911 meeting was to return at Prestbury Park, Cheltenham where it remained to the present day.
The Supreme is the opener of the Festival, the race that usually begins with the famous roar from the thousands in attendance as the best young hurdlers race over two miles. Willie Mullins has won this a record six times and a seventh looks increasingly likely, as at the top of the market is Appreciate It, after a second in last year's Champion Bumper he has gone on to win three from three over hurdles, including the Chanelle Pharma over Christmas.
In what doesn't look an overly deep race, Appreciate It's closest rival in the market is Harry Fry's Metier, he bolted up by an impressive 12 lengths in the Tolworth and the Mastercraftman gelding only needed a shake of the reigns after leaping the last to put the race to bed. He currently represents Britain's strongest card in the race.
In what could be a race for EW claims, the likes of Ballyadam, Thedevilscoachman, Blue Lord, Dreal Dreal and Ganapathi at bigger prices may the ones to look at closely.
The opener on day two could end up being one of the races of the week. Gaillard Du Mesnil vs Bob Olinger vs Bravemansgame. The roll of honour for this race speaks for itself, Envoi Allen won it last year and whilst these three may not go on to emulate him they are by no means slouoches and all should go on to have wonderful careers. Mullins has Mesnil, Elliot has Bob Olinger and Paul Nicholls has Bravemansgame. Three top trainers with three of the top novice hurdlers, it should be a thrilling contest.
The Arkle looks to be another hot race. Shishkin has been a revelation over obstacles and was a huge favourite before the DRF took place, then Willie Mullins' Energumene put on a faultless display of jumping which saw last year's Supreme winner drift back to odds-against. Allmankind is also in the mix and his front-running assault on the fences will no doubt test the Henderson and Mullins runners like never before, this is no doubt one to look forward to.
Tiger Roll may not be the horse he once was but he holds a huge place in fans' hearts. Easysland dethroned him last year and he's the favourite to do it again this year in the Cross Country. Don't rule out Potters Corner however in the race that provides a bit of different entertainment to the usual races you see at Prestbury Park.
The Champion Bumper offers us an insight into the future stars of the jumps scene, this year looks a great renewal with Kilcruit the favourite after a visually-stunning performance at the Dublin Racing Festival. Gordon Elliot has Sir Gerhard who has looked just as fluent in his races and will offer most to think about. The rest of the field are double figure prices, but in a race which is ran at a frenetic pace it could be anyone's to land.
Envoi Allen has scared off all comers in the Marsh, the Cheveley Park Stud superstar is undefeated in his career and has looked simply sublime over the larger obstacles. He's an odds-on shot well worth backing. His jumping will no doubt be tested by Shan Blue, the Dan Skelton runner has looked imperious over fences and should at least offer some sort of a threat to Envoi.
The Brown Advisory (formerly the RSA) looks to be a procession with Monkfish taking apart everything thrown his way so far this season. Slick over fences, quick on the ground he has it all. This should see Rich Ricci land the spoils and set up a possible showdown in the Gold Cup next year.
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