2020 Cheltenham Festival: The Best of British National Hunt Racing

| March 1, 2020
2020 Cheltenham Festival
The Cheltenham Festival in Gloucestershire is one of the highlights of the British racing season.

The National Hunt racing scene has always been popular throughout the UK and Ireland, although few events capture the imagination quite like the annual Cheltenham Festival, held at Prestbury Park in Gloucestershire. Boasting a rich history and consistently growing popularity, this event has generated increased worldwide fame over the last few decades.

The 2020 Cheltenham Festival will be held this year between Tuesday 10th March and Friday 13th March, with 28 races scheduled over this four-day celebration of everything that’s great about British horse racing. Thousands of eager racegoers will descend on Cheltenham Racecourse to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the variety of entertainment on offer, which all revolves around the 7 top-class races taking place each day.

Given the high level of prestige which surrounds this racing extravaganza, the very best National Hunt horses, jockeys and trainers are always present. This makes all the races highly competitive and while the most famous runners typically attract the greatest attention, surprise winners can often emerge. For this reason, racing fans will turn to the latest Cheltenham Festival tips, looking for good value options to back over the four days.

Cheltenham Festival History

The origins of the Cheltenham Festival actually date back to 1860 and the first running of the National Hunt Chase, a premium race first held at Market Harborough. The early ‘Festival’ was subsequently held at other venues around the United Kingdom and for a number of years in Warwick, before a new racecourse was built at Prestbury Park in Cheltenham. Since 1911, this has been the permanent home of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Stayers’ Hurdle was included from 1912 and to this day, remains the oldest race which is still being run during the Cheltenham Festival. Now considered to be the flagship race at the Festival, the Cheltenham Gold Cup was first run 12th March 1924 and archive footage of that day has been lovingly preserved by British Pathe. The Gold Cup was initially regarded as a warm-up for the Grand National at Aintree a month later, although both now hold similar prestige.

Cheltenham Festival Legends

It’s fair to say that many of the most famous horses have made their names at the Cheltenham Festival over the years, particularly those running in the marquee Gold Cup race. The suitably named Golden Miller won this race on five consecutive occasions between 1932 and 1936, which is a record that still stands to this day. Remarkably, that record could have been greater were it not for cancelled races in 1931 and 1937.

The nearest to match that feat were Cottage Rake, who won the Gold Cup three times in a row between 1948 and 1950, then legendary Irish horse Arkle with three straight wins between 1964 and 1966. In the modern era, Best Mate won his triple of victories between 2002 and 2004, while Kauto Star came agonisingly close to three successive triumphs, winning in 2007 and 2009, but finishing second behind Denman in 2008.

Cheltenham Festival 2020 Schedule

Since the Cheltenham Festival has been held over four days and the number of races has risen to 28 in total, each day of racing action has adopted a particular theme which typically surrounds the main feature races. The opening day usually attracts some of the biggest crowds, with grandstands and trackside areas packed to bursting, while plenty of celebrities and even royals are often in attendance.

The first day of racing on the Tuesday is referred to as Champions Day, given the feature race is the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy, however, there are also three other Grade 1 races that attract great attention. These include the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Mares’ Hurdle.

The second day of Festival fun is now known as Ladies Day, with the main feature race being the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Horses and Jockeys aren’t the only winners, because there are actually prizes awarded to the best-dressed ladies too. Thursday and the third day of the Festival are now dedicated to the Irish contingent, named St Patricks Day and boasting the Ryanair Chase as the feature race of the day, along with the Paddy Power Stayer’s Hurdle.

The final and fourth day is known as Gold Cup Day for obvious reasons, with the annual running of marquee race itself. Last year, iconic Irish trainer Willie Mullins was celebrating his first ever Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph, with 12/1 outsider Al Boum Photo romping past the finishing post in first with Paul Townend in the saddle. This year the trio of horse, jockey and trainer will be aiming to repeat that victory, albeit starting as favourites this time around.

Cheltenham Festival Entertainment

As the popularity of the Festival has grown over the years, so have the magnificent facilities at Cheltenham Racecourse. Definitely worth adding to any bucket list of great sporting events to attend, the Cheltenham Festival venue has been further enhanced in recent years. Along with upgrades to the racecourse itself, there’s increased capacity for spectators and improved hospitality areas, providing excellent catering and entertainment.

This makes the Cheltenham Festival a must-visit for any fan of equestrian events, at least once in your lifetime. Even if you can’t get there in person, due to the challenging nature of the races and quality of competitors, this event always makes for compelling viewing via TV or online streaming, especially if you’re backing any of the runners. 2020 will be no different, with the Festival this year set to be as exciting and entertaining as ever.

Category: International

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