Them four days in March are what every National Hunt fan dreams about. Four days, 28 races Writes Jay Dutton
Tuesday ,the opening day, which features the Champion Hurdle, Wednesday’s feature event is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Thursday’s main event is the former world hurdle, now known as the Stayers hurdle. Friday is the final day of the festival and in many people’s opinion the most important race in the calendar year, the blue ribband event, The Gold Cup.
The Cheltenham festival however seems to go way beyond the racing public, along with the grand national it is the only other racing event that really seems to capture the public’s imagination. I can guarantee I will get a text from my friends and family sometimes even people I rarely speak to, asking for tips or what I think about certain horses, however I will never get a text in the middle of summer from these people asking me what I think about the Lowther Stakes at York. It is also one of only few racing events to make it onto the likes of ITV and BBC news.
I can remember when Sizing John had won the Gold Cup, the next day they had a question about it on Ant and Dec’s famous Saturday night takeaway show regarding the colour of the jockeys silks.
It is also projected that during the four days it brings in close to £100million to the Gloucestershire economy. The event also brings in more than £20million through ticket sales, hospitality and sponsorship deals. Prize money on offer is £4.5million which is more than any other jumps racing festival. Big money is gambled during the week, big money is won, and big money is lost.
The real reason why the festival is so good is because we get to see the best horses take each-other on and see who really the best on the greatest stage of all is. More often than not it turns out to be the best of Ireland vs the Best of Britain. The clash that has seen so many great head to heads over the years. This is the place legends are made and a place that has had so many dramatic stories over the years. None more so than the impossible dream coming true when Sprinter Sacre regained his Champion Chase defeating Un de sceux. There are many horses I could go on to name who have created history at the festival, but we would be here all day. Jockeys as well Ruby Walsh who is often seen as the master around Prestbury park having rode more winners than any other jockey.
Everyone will have their own reasons for enjoying the festival but for me personally it’s something I have watched from a young age. As I have got older and understand the sport a lot more, it is great watching all the championship races, but it has always been about the novices for me due to the fact I enjoy watching their progression through their time of racing, for example, Altior is a prime example I have watched him through his bumpers, through his novice hurdles and then going on to win the Grade 1 Supreme novice hurdle. Then he took the next step in his career going novice chasing and cleaned up in that division before again landing the Grade one Arkle trophy at the Cheltenham festival.
I do often enjoy betting Ante post and as anyone who does this will tell you having a fancy price about a horse that’s a short enough price favourite on the day is a great feeling. As we all know the risks attached with Ante-Post betting but when it comes off its well worth the wait. I also find novice races the easiest to do this for, from a personal point of view.