Around this time of year, anyone with the vaguest interest in horse racing over the jumps gets really excited – that’s because the Cheltenham Festival is right around the corner. The Festival is for the absolute cream of jumpers and hurdlers from all around the planet – and takes place in Cheltenham, England, for four days each March. This year’s Cheltenham Festival will be held from the 11th to the 14th of March.
The whole of the jump racing calendar really revolves around the Cheltenham Festival in the British Isles. It includes 26 races in all, with 12 Grade 1 chases or hurdles races.
The main event on the Tuesday is the Champion Hurdle. This sees the best two-mile hurdlers in the world competing for the trophy – and it’s usually run at a break-neck speed. Last year, Hurricane Fly became the first hurdler to regain the race having lost it since the famous Comedy of Errors did so way back in 1975. The horse is currently ante-post favorite win the race for a third time in 2014.
Of course it goes without saying that gambling at Cheltenham is absolutely huge – with around $420 million being gambled in the UK alone each year. Each year sees Betfair, the world’s biggest gambling exchange which is based in the UK and sponsors a lot of horse racing both over the sticks and on the flat, taking an ever greater chunk of the betting market.
Wednesday is Ladies’ Day at Cheltenham and sees four Grade 1 races, with the National Hunt Chase (an event for amateur riders only) starting proceedings, followed by the Queen Mother Champion Chase (the day’s main event for the best two mile chasers).
But the main event of the whole Festival is, of course, the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday – the most prestigious chase in the world run over 3m2½ furlongs.
As the great Kauto Star and Denman have now retired, 2013 winner Bobs Worth is currently favourite to regain his crown – but whatever happens, it promises to be one of the greatest festivals ever.
–Emma, 41, is a UK-based freelance journalist, jump racing aficionado and mother of two.