An introduction to the Cheltenham Festival

An introduction to the Cheltenham Festival, giving you an insight into the history of the most glamorous Horse Racing event of the year.

On Tuesday the 10th of March 2015, the Cheltenham Festival will begin with a huge roar at approximately 13.30. The festival of Horse Racing begins with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The Willie Mullins trained Douvan is currently the market leader, available at around 5/2.

Douvan ran at Punchestown at the weekend travelling and jumping well. After that run he was rated at 149, similar to that of Vautour (also trained by Willie Mullins) who won the race last year.

So for those of you that don’t know much about Cheltenham, I’ll give you some history behind the festival.

The Cheltenham Festival is a National Hunt meeting which attracts the best horses from around the world (mainly Ireland and Britain). The festival takes place annually during the second week of March, coinciding with St Patrick’s Day which is usually a huge draw for Irish punters, who can be seen hanging around the Guinness Grandstand supping down some Guinness before, between and after the races (although punters of all nationalities get tucked into the stout on the day, not just the Irish!).

Cheltenham is known for a great atmosphere and the notorious roar at the start of the first race of the opening day. Millions of pounds are gambled over the duration of the four day festival. It was expected that in 2014 a staggering £250,000,000 was wagered throughout.

The official title of the Cheltenham Festival is the National Hunt Meeting. Devised in 1860, the first time it was held, the National Hunt Chase was actually staged in Market Harborough and named the Grand National Hunt. It was first held in Cheltenham in 1861 but wasn’t actually placed there permanently until 1911. The earliest traceable reference to it being a “Festival” of racing was in 1907. By 1911, the Cheltenham Festival was officially born. In 2005, the Festival had already grown from two days to three days; but with an introduction of a fourth day, this allowed for one Championship race per day.

There are now 27 races at the Festival, the most notable races are the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, The World Hurdle and concluding with the main event on the final day, the Gold Cup. In 2013, 235,125 racegoers attended with 67,570 (a sell out) attending on Gold Cup day.

Some interesting stats from the 2013 Festival are below:

  • 236,472 pints of Guinness were consumed
  • 45,000 baps were used
  • 10,745 bottles of Champagne were sold
  • £150,000,000 spent
  • 8000 Sticky Toffee Puddings were eaten

We are eight weeks away from the Festival and I’ll be previewing the races as we draw closer…

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