The Cheltenham Festival is undoubtedly the pinnacle week of the UK jump racing calendar. Every year, for four days in March, racing fans from all over the world congregate in the racecourse in Gloucestershire to take in some incredible racing and witness sporting history in the making. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the most prestigious horse races in the world.
But with seven races on each of those four days it is easy to feel slightly overwhelmed – as soon as one race is finished the next one is upon you. So we thought it would be a good idea to compile a complete complete guide to each day of the Cheltenham Festival for 2023, and highlight the feature races and how to get Cheltenham Festival tickets. From the first race to the last, you’ll be prepared and ready to dazzle your guests when they come to you with questions like “what’s the feature race today?” and “what’s the final race?”. And we’ve added some winning trends as well to help you select a few winners.
Tuesday 14th March 2023- Champion Day
The first day of the Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday, is also known as Champion Day as the main event is the Champion Hurdle. The first taste of the famous Cheltenham Roar as the first race gets underway – it’s a special experience. The Tuesday is always a great option to go to the Cheltenham Festival – the atmosphere is great and the crowd is packed with true racing fans.
Race 1: Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
This Grade 1 Novice Hurdle (a novice hurdle is a race for horses that have not won a race over hurdles that season) is just over two miles long, with eight hurdles on the Old Course at Cheltenham. Some incredibly talented horses have won this race over the years, including Altior and Douvan.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Winning Trend: Most winners are aged five or six, and have usually won a race within a month or two of the race
Race 2: Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase
The Arkle is another Grade 1 race, again just over two miles, but this time over 13 fences. It is aimed at some of the speedier novice chasers, and many winners of this race go on to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase. You need to be an excellent jumper to win the Arkle – one mistake and it could ruin your chances.
Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase Winning Trend: Favourites in the betting do very well in this race – look for a horse aged six or seven.
Race 3: Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase
The first handicap chase (in which the horses carry different weights depending on their form) of the meeting is the Ultima – raced over three miles and one furlong with 20 fences. It’s often seen as a precursor to the Grand National, as many horses that win the Ultima go on to take part, and some have won.
Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase Winning Trend: Handicap races tend to throw up some bigger priced winners, but course form is important. Look for a horse that has run at Cheltenham Racecourse before
Race 4: Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
The main event for the first day of the festival. It is the most prestigious two-mile hurdle race in the world. Open to horses aged four or over, there are 8 hurdles to jump and it requires both speed and accurate jumping. There have been many classic Champion Hurdle races over the years – this is not a race to be missed.
Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy Winning Trends: Favourites tend to do well here, particularly those aged six to eight.
Race 5: Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle
Another Grade 1 hurdle race, this time 2 miles and 4 furlongs long, with 10 hurdles. It’s a race that was dominated by one horse, Quevega, who won it six times in a row from 2009-2014. Cheering Quevega up the home straight became a Cheltenham Festival tradition!
Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle Winning Trend: Is there a favourite curse? Since Quevega, two favourites have fallen at the final hurdle… Look for an official rating above 147.
Race 6: Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race
The first handicap hurdle race of the festival, this Grade 3 race is two miles and four furlongs with 8 hurdles. Sometimes referred to as the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle, it’s often seen as a race for horses that failed to qualify for the Triumph Hurdle. There are normally plenty of entrants here, which makes for a fascinating race.
Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Winning Trends: Look at the Rated Novice Hurdle at Naas – many winners of that race do well here.
Race 7: National Hunt Challenge Cup
The final race of the first day is the National Hunt Challenge Cup – over three miles and six furlongs with 23 fences. It’s a race that is seen to be a trial for the Grand National, with many winners going on to place at the National, and Tiger Roll famously winning it twice.
National Hunt Chase Winning Trends: Look for stamina, and a rating of 142 or higher.
Wednesday 15th March 2023- Ladies Day
The highlight of the second day of the Cheltenham Festival is undoubtedly the Queen Mother Champion Chase, but there is plenty more on offer. It’s always a popular day with punters, with a buzzing atmosphere.
Race 1: Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Kicking things off is this Grade 1 two miles and five furlongs race with 10 hurdles, over the Old Course. It’s a race that often discovers horses that go on to win the Champion Hurdle.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Winning Trends: Favourites tend to do well in this race, particularly those from outside the UK
Race 2: Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase
This Grade 1 chase is over three miles with 20 obstacles. The winner of this is usually expected to enter the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following year, so it is a race for talented horses and usually very competitive.
Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase Winning Trends: Look at the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton for a guide to form – if they did well there, they could go well here.
Race 3: Coral Cup
A Grade 3 race over two miles and 5 furlongs, with 10 hurdles, the Coral Cup is usually a very open race, and no horse has ever managed to win it twice. There will be a big field and anything can happen!
Coral Cup Winning Trends: Look for a bigger price, but course form could be crucial.
Race 4: Queen Mother Champion Chase
The second day’s feature race – the Queen Mother Champion Chase is a true test of speed and mistake-free jumping. It’s a race that often comes down to a sprint finish with plenty of possible winners coming over the final (of 13) fence. As a two-mile race, it attracts the quickest chasers in the world.
Queen Mother Champion Chase Winning Trends: The winner will probably be a short price, usually 8 or 9 years old
Race 5: Cross Country Chase
Something a bit different – the Cross Country Chase is raced over the cross country course – a truly unique race at the Cheltenham Festival. There are 32 obstacles to negotiate, and you usually find that the horses become strung out across the course during the three and three-quarter mile race.
Cross Country Chase Winning Trends: Look for a horse with a rating above 140 that has won at least twice over fences
Race 6: Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase
A grade 3 race run over the New Course, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual is just over 2 miles long with 14 fences for horses over 5 years old. It’s the oldest race at the Cheltenham Festival, dating back to 1864. It’s named after Johnny Henderson who arranged the purchase of Cheltenham Racecourse when property developers were looking at it in the 1970s.
Grand Annual Winning Trends: The average starting price for the winner of this race is around 20/1, so look at the bigger prices
Race 7: Champion Bumper
A bumper race is a flat race (no hurdles or fences) for National Hunt bred horses – so horses that will go over jumps later in their career. It’s not open to any horse that has raced on the flat before. It’s a race that has been dominated by trainer Willie Mullins in recent times.
Champion Bumper Winning Trends: Not many favourites win this, but most winners have already won a bumper race – although most horses in the race have won at least one bumper!
Thursday 16th March 2023- St Patrick’s Day
The third day of the Cheltenham Festival is St Patrick’s Day – it’s a day with not one feature race, but two – the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle. It’s also a day where the Guinness flows particularly well… The atmosphere is always fantastic – a true festival experience.
Race 1: Marsh Novices’ Chase
A Grade 1 novice chase to kick things off, with 17 fences over 2 miles and four furlongs. Sometimes known as the Turners or Golden Millers Novices’ Chase, it’s a relatively new race having been established in 2011, but has already produced some great winners and fantastic drama.
March Novices’ Chase Winning Trends: The first two in the betting usually produce the winner
Race 2: Pertemps Network Final
The Pertemps is a Grade 3 race run over three miles with 12 hurdles. It’s the final for the 21 qualifying races that take place throughout the jumps season and tends to be won by younger horses that go on to have great careers. To qualify you must finish in the top 6 of one of these qualifying races.
Pertemps Network Final Winning Trends: You can find a big priced winner here as favourites tend to struggle. Look for a horse that has raced at least six times over hurdles.
Race 3: Ryanair Chase
The first feature race of the day, this Grade 1 steeple chase is for horses rated above 130 and is raced over two miles, four and a half furlongs. It’s a race that falls between the distance of the Champion Chase and the Gold Cup, and some great horses have won this race, such as Imperial Commander (who later won the Gold Cup) and Cue Card (who later won the King George VI Chase).
Ryanair Chase Winning Trends: Look for a horse rated 162 or higher, and check how they got on in the Ascot Chase
Race 4: Stayers’ Hurdle
The second feature race of Thursday is the Stayers’ Hurdle – as the name suggests a true test of stamina. The ultimate long-distance hurdling race, over three miles with 12 hurdles to jump. Not many horses have the stamina to compete in this race – it’s a real slog up the hill to the finish line.
Stayers’ Hurdle Winning Trends: Many winners here have run at the Cleeve Hurdle, with a couple winning there. Focus on horses that have proven stamina.
Race 5: Festival Plate
A Grade 3 handicap chase raced over two and a half miles, the Festival (or Paddy Power) Plate is usually an open race, with plenty of horses in with a chance around the final bend. It makes for an exciting watch, but it can be difficult to pick the winner!
Festival Plate Winning Trends: Look for course form. And be lucky!
Race 6: Mares Novices’ Hurdle
One of the most recent additions to the festival, this Grade 2 hurdle over the New Course is two miles one furlong with 8 hurdles. It’s a natural precursor to the Mares’ Hurdle, but so far no winner of the Mares Novices’ Hurdle has ever gone on to win the Mares Hurdle.
Mares Novices’ Hurdle Winning Trends: Willie Mullins has an excellent record in this race, winning each of the first five.
Race 7: Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
This race is exclusively for amateur jockeys, and is run over three miles and two furlongs. There are 21 fences to jump, and it has produced a few National winners over the years.
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase Winning Trends: It’s usually an open race, but major shocks are few and far between – look at the shorter prices
Friday 17th March 2023 – Cheltenham Gold Cup Day
The final day of the festival is Cheltenham Gold Cup Day – one of the most eagerly anticipated days in UK racing. Obviously the feature race is the Gold Cup, but there are six other great races to enjoy. It’s a great day to be at the course – the feeling of anticipation before the Gold Cup starts is palpable, something any UK sports fan should experience.
Race 1: Triumph Hurdle
Attracting some of the best young novices around, the Triumph Hurdle is a great way to kick off Gold Cup Day. Generally regarded as a stepping stone to the Champion Hurdle, this two mile on furlong race is for horses four years old and up. The size of the field has decreased over the years, but the quality has gone up.
Triumph Hurdle Winning Trends: Look for a rating of 140 or higher
Race 2: County Handicap Hurdle Race
The County Hurdle is a Grade 3 handicap hurdle race run over two miles and one furlong. It’s a very competitive contest, and very exciting to watch as there are plenty of horses with a good chance of winning. It does make picking a winner quite difficult though…
County Hurdle Winning Trends: This is a bit of a lottery – look for course form as a guide but it can be finger in the air stuff
Race 3: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
The Potato Race, as it’s sometimes called, is a classic test for long-distance hurdlers aged over four. Quite a few horses that have won this have gone on to win the Stayers’ Hurdle or the Gold Cup. It’s another gruelling stamina test – who has enough in the tank to get up that famous Cheltenham hill?
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Winning Trends: Look at the Classic Novice Hurdle on Cheltenham Trials Day – previous course form is important.
Race 4: The Cheltenham Gold Cup
The biggest race at the Cheltenham Festival, and one of the biggest horse races in the world. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the ultimate steeplechase prize. It has been won by some legendary horses over the years like Kauto Star, Best Mate and Arkle. Some punters prefer not to bet on this race and just enjoy the spectacle.
Cheltenham Gold Cup Winning Trends: Previous Gold Cups set the standard, but look at the King George VI Chase as well. Major shocks are rare in the Gold Cup.
Race 5: Foxhunter Steeple Chase
The Foxhunter Steeple Chase, or Hunters’ Chase as it’s sometimes known, is another race for amateur riders. It’s the same course and distance as the Gold Cup, and is sometimes called the Amateur Gold Cup.
Foxhunter Steeple Chase Winning Trends: It’s usually a very open race that has been dominated by horses aged 10 or 11 in recent years.
Race 6: Mares’ Chase
This Grade 2 chase is two and a half miles long with 22 fences. It’s a new race, open to mares, and was added to the festival programme in 2021.
Mares’ Chase Winning Trends: As it is such a new race, there aren’t many trends here – but as there aren’t many races like this, last year may be a good guide.
Race 7: Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Race
The final race of the Cheltenham Festival – the Get Out Of Jail Stakes – is two miles and four furlongs on the New Course, with 9 hurdles. It’s been won by some great horses over the years, many going on to run in the Gold Cup.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Race Winning Trends: Not many favourites win this race, look for a rating of 134 or higher and hope you’ve picked right to end the Festival on a high!
How to get Cheltenham Festival Tickets
If you would like to experience the Cheltenham Festival in person, there are many different ticket options. These range from the Best Mate Enclosure, where you will find the Guinness tent and live music, to a whole host of hospitality options, such as the Platinum Suite, with a four-course meal and complimentary bar, or the Gold Cup Restaurant, with a Champagne reception, exquisite food and access to the Parade Ring.
Get in touch with us today if you would like to find out more about Cheltenham Festival hospitality tickets.