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The Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest horse racing events on the calendar. The traditional March spot means that it acts as an unofficial opening ceremony to the British and Irish National Hunt season, and it does this in style. This is somewhat similar to the Kentucky Derby marking the start of the race for the Triple Crown.
This four-day meeting traditionally straddles St Patrick’s day, which adds to the festival atmosphere that so many punters enjoy. Of course, racegoers are there for more than just the fun and frivolity that fills the stands and enclosures. They also make the pilgrimage to Cheltenham to enjoy the on-track action.
In addition to the thousands that will pack the stands, millions more will tune in to watch the four days of racing on TV and via streaming services. As they do, many will also be placing bets on the more than two dozen races that make up the four-day schedule.
If you’re one of them, you might be wondering what key bits of information you need ahead of the event to help you make the most of the four days. From knowing which races will be the most exciting to where to find the best odds, our ultimate Cheltenham guide has everything you need to know.
Cheltenham Racecourse, nestled in the picturesque Cotswolds, boasts unique track layouts that contribute to its status as a premier destination for National Hunt racing. Rather than using the same course layout for all four days, races are split over three, creating variety and some unique challenges for horses, jockeys, bookies and punters.
The Old Course, with its undulating terrain and testing turns, challenges both horse and jockey, particularly in the famous Cheltenham Hill leading to the finishing straight. The New Course is slightly larger and more galloping in nature, allowing it to provide a different set of challenges, including a longer run-in. Meanwhile, the Cross Country Course is an unconventional blend of natural obstacles and traditional fences, adding an exciting dimension to the venue, and attracting skilled cross-country specialists.
Each layout demands a combination of stamina, agility, and strategic riding, making Cheltenham a true test of equine excellence. The eclectic track designs contribute to the festival’s reputation for delivering thrilling and unpredictable racing.
In addition to being a highlight of the horse racing calendar, the Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest events of the year for bookies. For that reason, most have been offering odds on the meeting for months already and many are also running special promotions to poach punters from their competitors.
Savvy bettors can take advantage of this by shopping around to find the best bonuses and free bets, as well as comparing the odds offered by different brands. This can be a lot of leg work to do on your own, but thanks to comparison sites like oddschecker.com, punters now have all of this information in one place. Simply browse the list of free bets to see which ones will best suit your bankroll and betting style.
Remember that the odds will fluctuate throughout the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival and across the four days, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on markets to see if any new attractive options open up to you as the days go on.
Being mid-week, some race fans don’t have the chance to watch all four days of the Cheltenham Festival and therefore must prioritise which ones they follow live. If you’re one of these people, here are some of the must-see fixtures on the four-day schedule.
• 12th March at 15:30: The Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy is the feature race of Champion Day that is run over two miles.
• 13th March at 15:30: The Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase is a Grade 1 jump race over two miles and 12 fences that is the highlight of Style Wednesday (formerly known as Lady’s Day)
• 14th March at 14:50: The Steeple Chase is the main event on St Patrick’s Thursday. It’s a longer distance than the previous days, spanning two miles and five furlongs.
• 15th March at 15:30: The Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase is the highlight of both Gold Cup Day and the whole Cheltenham Festival. Run over three miles and 2.5 furlongs, it is one of the most prestigious Grade 1 races in horse racing.
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