Race meetings don’t get much bigger or more exciting than the Cheltenham Festival. It’s an intensive four days of horse racing that sees the very best nags from the UK and Ireland converge on the picturesque Gloucestershire city of Cheltenham to race it out for prize money, glory and ‘well done’ carrots.
Cheltenham is the focal point of the world of horse racing for this week and it’s well equipped to handle it. Not only does the Cotswolds call any number of world-class trainers home, (including Tom George, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Jonjo O’Neill and Richard Phillip), Cheltenham Racecourse is one of the best in the world. Just ask any of the 70,000 spectators you can find in there at any point during the festival.
Cheltenham is second only to The Grand National in terms of prize money and prestige. But whereas April’s big Aintree meet really captures the public’s imagination, this festival here is the true racing aficionado’s choice.
Here’s our guide to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival…
Where does it take place?
Cheltenham Festival, naturally, takes place in the regency spa town of Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire. It’s found on the edge of the Cotswolds in a little place called Prestbury Park. There are plenty of roads leading into the city for anyone attending by car. And there are equally good public transport links.
The general directions? Head to Wales but stop before you get there. So, you may want to take your SatNav – our direction-giving skills aren’t all that great, as you can probably tell.
When is it on?
Things gear up to the festival from the previous weekend, with things being set up a few days before that. The first race isn’t until 1.30pm on Tuesday 13th March, though.
There are then a full four days of race meetings, with the evening of Friday 16th March being reserved mostly for celebrating (or commiserating, depending on how well people did…).
How do I get tickets for the Cheltenham Festival?
If you want to experience the action up close, you can – of course – go to the festival and take it all in first hand. It may be a little late now to plan a trip, but if you’re super keen, there are still some tickets available. They don’t come cheap, though. So do be prepared to have to shell out if you really want to feast on the festival.
You can get bog standard entrance tickets for a reasonable price. But, if you’re feeling flush, sexier – more expensive – VIP passes are available too.
What TV channel is the Cheltenham Festival on?
Traditionally, Channel Four have dominated televised horse racing. Cable TV stations then got in on the action. The BBC also shows a fair amount of races, but it’s ITV that have really stepped up of late. Under the banner of ‘ITV Racing’, the action for Cheltenham can be seen on ITV1 and ITV4.
Since winning the rights to televise racing on terrestrial TV, ITV have won over quite a few new viewers, partly down to the laconic charm of former Sky Sports presenter Ed Chamberlain. It doesn’t hurt that all the big names from the racing world pop in for interviews and the coverage is as comprehensive as it is entertaining.
If you don’t plan on heading on over to Cheltenham and the idea of watching it at home in your pants doesn’t appeal, then why not head down to your nearest Rileys for all the racing action? We’ll be showing all the big races from across the week.
What’s the schedule for the four days?
There are seven races a day for the four days, starting at half one and wrapping up by six o’clock. The whole thing gears up for The Big One, though. 3.30pm on Friday sees one of the jump racing calendar’s biggest races, The Gold Cup. The atmosphere will be wild for this one. But there’s plenty of other GG action for you enjoy around that race.
Here’s a run down of the races happening at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival:
Day One: Champion Day – Tuesday
1.30pm – The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race
2.10pm – The Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase
2.50pm – The Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase
3.30pm – The UniBet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
4.10pm – The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle Race
4.50pm – The National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
5.30pm – The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase
Day Two: Ladies Day – Wednesday
1.30pm – The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Race
2.10pm – The RSA Steeple Chase
2.50pm – The Coral Cup Hurdle
3.30pm – The Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase
4.10pm – The Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase
4.50pm – The Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race
5.30pm – The Weatherbys Champion Bumper
Day Three: St. Patrick’s Thursday
1.30pm – The JLT Novices’ Chase
2.10pm – The Pertemps Network Final
2.50pm – The Ryanair Steeple Chase
3.30pm – The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle
4.10pm – The Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate
4.50pm – The Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle
5.30pm – The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase
Day Four: Gold Cup Day – Friday
1.30pm – The JCB Triumph Hurdle
2.10pm – The Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle Race
2.50pm – The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Race
3.30pm – The Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase
4.10pm – The St. James’s Place Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
4.50pm – The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Race
5.30pm – The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
Okay, so who’s going to win The Gold Cup…?
If you’re a gamblin’ man or woman, you’ll no doubt have your own system to determining racing winners. Whether it be to study the form or just pick the horse with the funniest name, if it works for you – go for it.
But if you’re at a bit of a loss and want a little ‘expert’ advice, then why not let us guide you to that elusive big win, eh? We’re not going to pick a winner for all 28 races for you (you can do some of the leg work for yourself), but we’re up for tipping you off a little when it comes to the big ‘un…
Last year’s winner Sizing John will probably start as favourite for The Gold Cup at around 6/1. But for a slightly bigger price on the day, for short odds we reckon you could do worse than lumping on Native River. He finished third in last year’s gold Cup but has improved since then. He’ll be fresh, the conditions should suit and he’s a horse that just never knows when to quit. Anything around 7/1 is value.
Fancy a longer shot, though? For each-way fans, we’re going big. Coney Island can be snapped up with some bookies at 33/1 and that’s a big price for a horse that’s impressed so much in novice chases in his short career. A few quid each-way there could pay dividends here, with most bookmakers offering a quarter of the odds for a top three finish.
So there you go. A frolic-filled four days of festival fun. If you’re going – enjoy yourself! If you’re watching on TV, at home or with us – enjoy that instead. And if you’re having a flutter – do so sensibly, of course.
If you do fancy heading down to a Rileys for a few of the races, why not treat yourself to a few pints of the black stuff? We’ll be running a special Guinness and Tullamore Dew promotion for the whole week that Cheltenham’s on to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day…