It is difficult to think of a horse racing festival that matches the sheer excitement of The Cheltenham Festival.
Featuring a glut of top jockeys, trainers and some of the world’s finest horses, this feast of racing is undoubtedly one of the golden weeks in the UK sports calendar.
The 2018 Cheltenham Festival will kick off Tuesday, 13 March and end with Gold Cup Day on Friday, 16 March. The course can expect to welcome over 200,000 racegoers from all over the world, with it believed that more than £500 million will be gambled throughout the week.
The Festival features 28 races, 13 of which are Grade 1 races. The four day festival is always action packed, attracting some of the world’ best jockeys, trainers and, of course, horses. Held at the Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire, it features some of the finest jumps (national hunt) races in the world, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and World Hurdle.
Don Cossack wins the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup under Bryan Cooper
The 2017 Cheltenham races will be remembered for some spectacular results and heart-pounding action. Day 1, Champion Hurdle Day, was a lucrative one for punters who like to back big-odds runners. The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle got the festival underway with a shock 25-1 victory for Gordon Elliott’s Labaik. The imperious Altior then took the Arkle Challenge with Nico De Boinville in the saddle. Many expect Altior to go on to even greater wins in the future. Next up, Un Temps Pour Tout took the Festival Handicap Chase for the second year in a row. The day’s feature race, the Champion Hurdle, was won in some style by Buveur D’Air. Trainer Gordon Elliott took both the Mares’ Hurdle and National Hunt Chase to make it three wins for the day. This was the first taste of what became a vintage festival for the Irish trainer. Champion Day ended with Tully East winning the Close Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Day 2, Ladies' Day, had its fair share of shock results. Willoughby Court opened the day with a fine win ahead of Neon Wolf in the Neptune Investment Management Hurdle. Nico De Boinville then rode Might Bite to victory in the Grade 1 RSA Chase. Another long-odds winner, Supasundae, made the punters happy with a win in the Handicap Hurdle. The shocks continued when Special Tiara romped home in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which left fans of the mighty Douvan wondering what might have been. Top amateur jockey Jamie Codd took both the Champion Bumper and Cross Country Chase to put a smile on trainer Gordon Elliott’s face. Richard Johnson also got in on the action, riding 33-1 shot Flying Tiger to a big win in the Fred Winter.
St Patrick’ Day at Cheltenham 2017 was something special for fans of Irish jockey Ruby Walsh. A disastrous run of results (by his imperious standards) on Day 1 and Day 2 had led many to believe Walsh’s dominance over the festival was coming to an end. However, Walsh tore up the script to land four winners on Day 3. These included all three Grade 1 races: JLT Novices’ Chase (Yorkhill), Ryanair Chase (Un De Sceaux) and World Hurdle (Nichols Canyon). There were also fine wins for Davy Russel on Presenting Percy in the Pertemps Final, and Bryan Cooper on Road to Respect in the Festival Group Plate. Georgina Russel kept value-loving punters happy with a 40-1 win on Domesday Book in the final race of the day, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.
The final day of Cheltenham 2017, Gold Cup Day, was one of the most thrilling in recent memory. The lead changed several times in the race, before Sizing John took command with two fences to go to win by 2 ¾ lengths over Minella Rocco. It was the first Gold Cup win for trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Robbie Power. The duo also took the last race of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, winning the Grand Annual Chase on Rock the World. Richard Johnson won the opening race, the JCB Triumph Hurdle, on Defi Du Seuil. There was also more joy for Irish trainer Willie Mullins. Paul Townend landed Mullins two wins on Arctic Fire (County Handicap Hurdle) and Penhill (Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle).