‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ is back. With £4,590,000 in prize money up for grabs over the four days, The Cheltenham Festival is one of the world’s most anticipated and watched horse racing events. More than a quarter of a million punters are expected through the gates of the 2019 festival, with countless millions tuning in on television, online and over the radio for the 28 exciting races.
The Big One sees Native River defending his crown. Can he retain the Gold Cup? We’ll have to wait and see. Thursday’s showpiece race gets everyone talking, but with Ladies’ Day, St. Patrick’s Day and a cornucopia of spectacular hurdle and chase races lined up, there’s a huge amount to look forward.
There’s the atmosphere, the prestige, the anticipation, the ambiance and the majesty of the horses to embrace. But, of course, The Cheltenham Festival is all about the racing. The winners, the losers, the excitement and – naturally – the flutters.
Let’s take a quick look ahead to what’s in store, shall we? Where you can watch it, what times the races are on, how to get tickets and who might be able to win you a few quid.
Bur first, a quick word on what we’ve got to look forward to from legendary Irish trainer Willie Mullins…
Where does the festival take place?
We’ll give you one guess… That’s right – Cheltenham! The festival can be found in the pretty spa town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. Perched atop the Cotswolds, near the English/Welsh border, its around 100 miles west of London, a 2.5hr car or train ride.
You’ll need to head specifically to Prestbury Park to see the GGs in action.
When is the Cheltenham Festival on?
The event lasts for four days and kicks off on Tuesday March the 12th. The first race is at 1.30pm. There are then a further 26 races until the final one, The Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase Challenge Cup, which starts at 5.30pm on Friday the 15th.
Of course, there are a few days of setting up beforehand. Anyone planning on actually attending the event is advised to get over to Gloucestershire a few days before, to avoid the traffic. Similarly, if you’ve got the time and want to swerve the post-festival jams, it’s a good idea to stick around and enjoy the regency town for the weekend before setting off for home.
How do I get hold of tickets for the Cheltenham Festival?
There are still tickets available to buy online if you fancy actually attending the festival in person. And they start from a quite surprisingly affordable £37 for the day. Click here for tickets.
What TV channel is the Cheltenham Festival on?
If you don’t fancy making the trip, you can of course watch it on the telly. Racing UK will be showing some of the races, with ITV Racing also doing so. You can either watch the action at home on your own, while shouting manically with odd strangers in a bookies or sat down in comfort with pals, drinks and a burger down Rileys. It’s up to you.
What’s the schedule for the festival?
Four days. 28 races… They come thick and fast, so pay attention!
Day One: Champion Day – Tuesday 12th
1.30pm – The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
2.10pm – The Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase
2.50pm – The Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase
3.30pm – The Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
4.10pm – The 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 13th
1.30pm – The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Race
2.10pm – The RSA Steeple Chase
2.50pm – The Coral Cup Hurdle
3.30pm – The Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase
4.10pm – The Cross Country Steeple Chase
4.50pm – The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race
5.30pm – The Champion Bumper
Day Three: St. Patrick’s Day Thursday 14th
1.30pm – The JLT Novices’ Chase
2.10pm – The Pertemps Final
2.50pm – The Ryanair Steeple Chase
3.30pm – The Stayers’ Hurdle
4.10pm – The Plate Handicap Chase
4.50pm – The Mares Novices’ Hurdle
5.30pm – The Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase
Day Four: Gold Cup Day – Friday 15th
1.30pm – The Triumph Hurdle
2.10pm – The County Handicap Hurdle Race
2.50pm – The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Race
3.30pm – The Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase
4.10pm – The Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
4.50pm – The Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Race
5.30pm – The Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
Right then, so who’s going to win The Gold Cup…?
So we know that there are nearly 30 hurdle and chase races lined up for the four days. But the real focus is always on the big ‘un… The Gold Cup. Sponsored by Irish cider magnates Magners this year, it’s set – as always – to be a stonker. But who might well win it???
Not to blow our own trumpets here (of course), but we picked out Native River as the Gold Cup winner last year here at the Rileys blog. So you could do worse than have a sly fiver on our pick here…
Presenting Percy, from Pat Kelly’s stable, is leading the betting and quite rightly so. But at 7/2, you’ll probably want to keep looking for a little more value. Last year’s champion Native River is available at 5/1, but that seems a little too short too. For those kinds of prices you’re better off siding with Clan des Obeaux, who’s had a rather good year indeed.
We like a little value in our bets, we don’t know about you… As such, we’re siding with Thistlecrack here. He finished second in the King George and has a very good record at Cheltenham. Find him at 16/1 and the beers could be on you.
Like a big each-way shout? 40-1 is huge for Invitation Only.
You can follow all the winners down at your nearest Rileys all week. While you’re down seeing who tastes glory at the festival, why not taste some of The Black Stuff?
It is St. Patrick’s Day week, after all. Plus, we’ve got an even better excuse for you – we’re selling two pints of Guinness for £6 from the 11th March to the 17th…