The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest meeting of the year in National Hunt racing. Here's an A-Z about everything you need to know about the Festival.
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A is for Arkle
Arkle is considered one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time. He was successful in three Cheltenham Gold Cups between 1964 and 1966. The 2m novice chase on day one is named after the horse and has been won by legendary chasers such as Moscow Flyer, Sprinter Sacre and Altior, all of whom went on to win the Champion Chase.
2021 saw leading Champion Chase contender Shishkin win by 12 lengths, with Edwardstone the favourite for this year’s renewal 2/1.
The Alan King-trained horse is one of the few favourites amongst the British contingent at this year’s Festival and has been in excellent form since being brought down at Warwick last November, winning his last four races by a combined 37.5 lengths.
B is for Best Mate
Best Mate is the last horse to have won three Cheltenham Gold Cups. He was loved by racing fans. There is now a statue of the horse at Cheltenham Racecourse.
C is for Champion Hurdle
Cleeve Hill forms part the magnificent natural amphitheatre that makes Cheltenham Racecourse so spectacular and one of the many reasons up to 67,000 spectators rush to Prestbury Park.
Racing was first held beneath the highest point of the Cotswolds in 1831 and today boasts three iconic tracks. The Old Course, the New Course and the Cross Country Course all play their part in the four-day Festival.
D is for Desert Orchid
No horse in history has captured the public’s imagination like Desert Orchid. Known simply as 'Dessie', the grey won the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
E is for Enda Bolger
Irish trainer Enda Bolger has a reputation for being the master of the Cross Country Chase, the most unique contest of the week. He has won the race five times since it was added to the schedule in 2005.
While Tiger Roll is favourite at 2/1, Bolger has chances in Prengarde (9/2), Midnight Maestro 9/1, Shady Operator (8/1) and Champagne Platinum (14/1).
F is for French horses
French-bred horses have dominated the Festival in recent years, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. Al Boum Photo, Buveur D’Air, Sprinter Sacre and Big Buck’s are just some of the legendary names to have started life on the continent, and this year, the likes of Jonbon, Blue Lord, Galopin Des Champs, Energumene, and Protektorat all have a shot the week’s big races.
Dual World Hurdle winner Baracouda is one of the most notable French-trained winners, whilst 2020 Cross Country victor Easysland is 6/1 to repeat that success this time around.
G is for Gold Cup
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is not just the Blue Riband event of the week, but the Blue Riband event of the National Hunt season.
Run over 3m 2f, it is a true test of a horse’s stamina and jumping ability.
While we’re unlikely to ever see the like of Golden Miller again, who won five straight Gold Cups in the 1930, in recent years we saw Best Mate win in 2002, 2003 and 2004, while Al Boum Photo is 10/1 for a third win this year.
Last year’s winner, Minello Indo, is 5/1, Galvin is 7/2, and last year’s runner-up A Plus Tard is 5/2 favourite.
H is for Honeysuckle
The Queen of jumps racing today is Honeysuckle. She is unbeaten in 14 starts and was successful in the 2021 Champion Hurdle. She is the odds-on favourite to defend her crown in the race this year.
Honeysuckle was victorious in the 2021 Champion Hurdle with jockey Rachael Blackmore. This time around Honeysuckle is priced at 1/2 as the mare looks for a 15th straight win.
I is for Istabraq
As a three-time Champion Hurdle winner, Isabraq is one of the greatest hurdlers of all time. He was trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien.
J is for JP McManus
The famous yellow and green hooped silks of JP McManus are synonymous with the Festival and National Hunt racing in general. In 2020, he enjoyed seven winners and he has dominated the Champion Hurdle in recent times, landing five of the last eight renewals.
Once again, the Irishman heads to the Cotswolds with a strong squad. Jonbon is 9/2 to get the week of to a perfect start in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Champ his best hope of a Championship race at 6/1 in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
K is for Kauto Star
Kauto Star became the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2009. After success in 2007, stablemate Denman took the Gold Cup by seven lengths the following year, before Kauto Star reclaimed his crown with a 13-length victory.
The two-time winner of the race is a favourite of many in the modern era.
L is for Lucrative prize money
Lucrative prize money is on offer across the four days at Cheltenham. Over £4,5000,000 will be available in 2022.
M is for Moscow Flyer
Moscow Flyer won the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2003 and 2004. He was a hugely talented 2m chaser who was very popular at Cheltenham.
N is for National Hunt Chase
With a 162-year history, the National Hunt Chase has been run more times than any other at the Cheltenham Festival and was first won in 1960 by Bridegroom. Moved permanently to Cheltenham in 1911, it was the second most prestigious jumps race in the calendar after the Grand National until the 1930s.
At 3m5f, only the Cross Country Chase is contested over further; combined with 23 fences, the field of novices face the ultimate test.
Stattler is 5/2 favourite, but it will be interesting to see who three-time winning jockey Jamie Codd will ride.
O is for Outsiders
Outsiders can often prevail at the Cheltenham Festival. In 2021, Jeff Kidder prevailed in the Novices' Handicap Hurdle at odds of 80/1.
P is for Prestbury Cup
The Cheltenham Festival has been dominated by Ireland in recent years, with them taking the Prestbury Cup in five of the last six years, winning last year’s 23-5, and a similar score result can be expected this time around.
After wins for Great Britain in 2014 and 2015, they’ve not won the cup since, and at 10/1 this year, you can expect the wait for a British Prestbury Cup to last another year at least.
Q is for Quevega
Between 2009 and 2014, Quevega ran in 14 races, and six of them were Mares’ Hurdle wins.
Favourite for all six, there was simply no stopping Quevega, ridden by Ruby Walsh to victory each year, breaking Golden Miller’s record of five consecutive wins in the Gold Cup.
R is for Records
Records are there to be broken in sport, and at Cheltenham, it’s no different.
Willie Mullins holds the record for most winners trained at the Festival and is just two short of 80. With the likes of Facile Vega, Galopin Des Champs and Gaelic Warrior, he could surpass that by day one.
Another trainer firmly cemented in history is Nicky Henderson. He has solid chance of taking the outright record in the Champion Chases with Shishkin 1/2 to make it winner number seven, whilst Epatante provides only an outside chance of him extending his record of eight Champion Hurdle victories at 10/1.
As for jockey records, Paul Townend seems best-equipped to tackle Ruby Walsh’s record of seven winners at one Festival, but even with his vast book of rides it looks a very tough ask.
S is for Stayers' Hurdle
The Stayers' Hurdle is one of the four Championship races at the meeting. It is the highlight on day three of the Festival. Last year's winner Flooring Porter is the current 5/2 favourite while 2019 Ballymore winner Thyme Hill is 7/2.
Though not quite at his 2019 peak which saw him win the Stayers', Paisley Park can't be ruled out at 15/2 after a remarkable Cleeve Hurdle win in January.
T is for Tiger Roll
Tiger Roll has been victorious five times at the Festival, including three wins in the Cross Country Chase.
His remarkable journey at the Festival began in 2014, winning the Triumph Hurdle before being well beaten in the World Hurdle the following year. Skipping Cheltenham in 2016, he returned to win the National Hunt Challenge Cup in 2017 before again being well beaten the following year, this time in the Cross Country.
Tiger Roll would then win the Cross Country in three of the next four years, and is going for a fourth success, priced at 9/4.
U is for Uphill finish
The uphill finish at Cheltenham often catches horses out at the end of their races. It has a big impact on the results across the week.
V is for Vautour
Time-time Festival winner Vautour blew his rivals away when he won the 2015 JLT Novices’ Chase. He has been one of Willie Mullins' most talented horses.
W is for Willie Mullins
No trainer has had more Cheltenham Festival winners than the master Willie Mullins. He has been successful 78 times at the meeting, winning leading trainer eight times, including the last three Festivals.
Once again he will bring plenty of fire power to Prestbury Park, with leading hopes in Dysart Dynamo, Ferny Hollow, Allaho and plenty more.
X is for X-Country
Run over the cross-country course over 3m 6f, the race was added to the Festival in 2005, with Enda Bolger training four of the first five winners.
Garde Champetre and Balthazar King both won the race twice, with the legendary Tiger Roll taking the 2018, 2019 and 2021 renewals.
Tiger Roll is favourite for a fourth Cross Country win at 2/1, Prengarde is 7/2, and last year’s runner-up Easysland is 5/1.
Y is for Yearly pilgrimage to Cheltenham
The yearly pilgrimage to Cheltenham is made by thousands of horse racing fans from the UK and Ireland each March.
Z is for Zarkandar
One of the most impressive winners of Triumph Hurdle in recent years was Zarkandar, who landed the juvenile race in 2011.