This week sees one of the biggest and most exciting race meetings of the year as all the top national hunt racers will be in attendance at the four days of the Cheltenham Festival. Running this year from 12th to the 15th March, the event is also one of the most well attended sports events in the UK, attracting hundreds of thousands of punters across the four days.
The reason for that is that Cheltenham offers racegoers four days of top-quality racing, but perhaps with none of the stuffiness, pomp and circumstances that surround other big racedays of the year, such as Royal Ascot or Glorious Goodwood. Indeed, when it comes to the National Hunt season, perhaps only the Grand National meeting at Aintree is on a par with Cheltenham.
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Part of the Cheltenham Festival’s huge appeal to punters is the sheer number of quality races that are contested over the four days with at least one Group 1 race taking place most days (and on some there are several) and it all culminates on the final day (Friday) with the big one, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which this year features an all-star cast of horses hoping to add their name to the illustrious roll call of previous winners.
Outlined below is the schedule for the four days of racing, with all races each day scheduled to start a the same time and a total of 28 races being compete for across the four days.
Cheltenham Festival Schedule
Cheltenham Festival Day One – Champion Day
- 13.30 – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
- 14.10 – The Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase
- 14.50 – The Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase
- 15.30 – The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
- 16.10 – The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle Race
- 16.50 – The National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
- 17.30 – The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
Cheltenham Festival Day Two – Ladies Day
- 13.30 – The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
- 14.10 – The RSA Steeple Chase
- 14.50 – The Coral Cup Hurdle
- 15.30 – The Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase
- 16.10 – The Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
- 16.50 – The Boodles Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle
- 17.30 – The Weatherbys Champion Bumper
Cheltenham Festival Day Three – St. Patrick’s Thursday
- 13.30 – The JLT Novices Chase
- 14.10 – The Pertemps Network Final
- 14.50 – The Ryanair Steeple Chase
- 15.30 – The Sun Racing Stayers Hurdle
- 16.10 – The Brown Advisory and Merribelle Stable Plate
- 16.50 – The Trull House Stud Mares Novices Hurdle
- 17.30 – The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase
Cheltenham Festival Day Four – Gold Cup Day
- 13.30 – The JCB Triumph Hurdle
- 14.10 – The Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
- 14.50 – The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Chase
- 15.30 – The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
- 16.10 – The St James’s Place Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
- 16.50 – The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual
- 17.30 – The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
Where can I tune in to watch the action at Cheltenham?
If you are enjoying a bet on the races at Cheltenham this year and bet at bet365 with a wager of more than 0.50, then you can tune into the Live Streaming option for each race you bet on direct on the site. Alternatively, ITV Racing is showing live coverage of races from 1.30 to 4.30pm each day, although this does mean that only four of the seven races scheduled each day will be shown live.
Racing TV in the UK will be showing all races from Cheltenham live too, although this channel tends to only be available on satellite or in bookmaking shops.
Cheltenham Big Race Tips
Day 1 – Unibet Champion Hurdle – Buveur D’Air
After a shock defeat to Verdana Blue at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, which ended its 11-race winning streak, Buveur D’Air returned to winning ways at Sandown in February and after winning this race twice previously, I think it has the experience and class to fight off the likes of Apple’s Jade, Laurina, Melon and Sharjah to claim this one. Verdana Blue goes again but the horse hasn’t showed the form of late that saw it get the better of Buveur earlier in the season. This should be a very competitive race and could be decided by a nose, but I am backing Buveur to come out on top and claim the win.
Day 2 – Queen Mother Champion Chase – Altior
If the first day’s big race should be a cracker and have many potential winners, I feel on the second day it is about one horse establishing itself as a true Cheltenham legend. Altior has won the Queen Mother Champion Chase for the past three years and Nicky Henderson’s famous horse will be going for a fourth win here and in truth, it is the class act in the field by a considerable margin and will likely start the odds on winner. Willie Mullins will likely declare a couple of runners for the race and they may well be Altior’s biggest threat but in truth, this should be another win for the horse to cement its hugely popular status at Cheltenham.
Day 3 – Sun Racing Stayers Hurdle – Paisley Park
Paisley Park is the big shout in this race and it is hard to go against that given the form the horse has shown this season. Emma Lavelle’s ride will be ridden once again by Aidan Coleman and on the back of a stellar year, it is the class act in this field in recent form. That’s chiefly because its main opponents, such as the legend Faugheen, and the likes of Black Ops or Supasundae have all had more mixed seasons, finishing in the top three in races but not putting together consistent wins that you would expect from a true Cheltenham champion. On that basis alone, Paisley Park is the smart pick for this race.
Day 4 – Cheltenham Gold Cup – Presenting Percy
This should be a hugely exciting Gold Cup with Thistlecrack, Might Bite, Native River, Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy all reckoned to be in with a chance, although my pick for the title this year is Presenting Percy. The horse has enjoyed a stellar year and has the form and class to claim the first win of the Gold Cup by a favourite since Don Cossack won the race back in 2016. This should be a very tight race however with all the horses listed above in with a shout. For sentimental reasons, I’d love Thistlecrack to land the win it should have had in 2016 or 2017, but for injury, but I feel that time is against Colin Tizzard’s famous entry and that he may have to settle for a place.
Remember to get your bets on as the action kicks off at Cheltenham on Tuesday.