How each day’s feature race defines the Cheltenham Festival

by Carter Toni

race defines the Cheltenham Festival

Ah, the Cheltenham Festival. The thundering hooves. Mud flinging from turf. The roar of the madding crowd. The fist pumps of jubilant jockeys.

This is one of the UK’s most iconic events, and it’s difficult to think of a sporting occasion that can match the pure rawness of emotion the Cheltenham Festival delivers each year.

As we edge nearer to the glorious four days once again, racing fans are becoming more and more excited. There are plans to be made, tips to be tipped, and preparations to be carried out for the four most important days on the horse racing calendar.

Every race at the Cheltenham Festival is special in its own individual ways, but it is the four feature events that really define this sporting institution. The Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Gold Cup are the races every jockey, trainer and owner wants to win, and they are the races that cause the country to stop what they’re doing and take notice.

Indeed, it rarely feels like the Festival has truly begun until the Champion Hurdle takes place on the opening day. This race has the power to set the tone for a jockey or trainer — a win here can give a massive boost of confidence and lead to further successes as the week goes on. We saw that with jockey Rachael Blackmore and trainer Henry de Bromhead in 2021, after Honeysuckle’s glorious triumph in the Champion Hurdle.

Honeysuckle has won the day one showpiece in each of the last two years, but now that De Bromhead’s prized mare has lost her unbeaten record, 2023 could be the year we see another name step to the fore.

Looking to day two of the Festival, the Queen Mother Champion Chase stands as one of the most iconic Cheltenham races. As the shortest of the four feature races, it is perhaps the most exhilarating, and the winner is usually the horse that can provide the greatest showing of speed and power on the day.

Energumene got the victory last year, and will be going for glory once again for trainer Willie Mullins this time around, with Paul Townend in the saddle.

Day three is all about the Stayers’ Hurdle, an endurance test run over more than two miles and seven furlongs. It’s a race that can produce tremendous amounts of drama, especially if it’s close as the horses pound up the home straight.

Flooring Porter has won the race for the past two years, and is once again being tipped as a contender in the Stayers’ Hurdle odds for 2023.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. This is the true showpiece event of the four-day meeting, the chance for a horse, jockey and trainer to make themselves the enduring story at the end of the Festival. Run over more than three miles and two furlongs, only the finest horses step up to mark and earn victory.

De Bromhead has been the trainer with the magic touch in the last couple of years, following the victories of Minella Indo and A Plus Tard in 2021 and 2022 respectively. A Plus Tard is one of the top favourites again this year, but it’s anyone’s guess who will earn the plaudits in the Festival’s feature race.

These four races are the cream of the crop at Cheltenham, and every jockey and trainer will be fighting tooth and nail to make sure their horses cross the line first.

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