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Cheltenham Festival 2024: Dates, races and how to watch

The Cheltenham Festival in March is the biggest event in the jumps racing calendar, with four days of thrills and spills in the Cotswolds countryside at what is regarded as 'the greatest show on turf'.

For those four days in mid-March, the eyes of the wider sporting world are truly fixated on Cheltenham as the best horses, trainers and jockeys from Britain, Ireland and beyond congregate for a 28-race programme of intense quality National Hunt racing unmatched anywhere in the world.

Horse Racing

Cheltenham Festival date

In 2024, the Cheltenham Festival is scheduled to take place from Tuesday 12th March to Friday 15th March.

Where is the Cheltenham Festival?

The Cheltenham Festival takes place at Prestbury Park in the heart of the Cotswolds. The Gloucestershire venue is a mecca for fans of jumps racing and getting to The Festival is the end-game for any jumps horse in training.

How to watch the Cheltenham Festival

You can catch the entire Cheltenham Festival via the bet365 Sports Live Streaming platform, while selected races are shown live on ITV in Britain, as well as dedicated subscription channel Racing TV, which shows all 28 races live. 

Tickets to watch the event in person are available through the Cheltenham Festival’s website.

How many courses are there at the Cheltenham Festival?

There are three courses at Cheltenham - the Old Course and the New Course are the two main focuses as well as a unique Cross Country Course which is used for the Cross Country Handicap Chase. Both the Old and New courses are left-handed and undulating and have stiff fences that place a premium on sound jumping.

Both also feature a long climb in the home straight up the famous 'Cheltenham Hill'. This run to the line will expose any weak finishers and often at the Festival, races can completely change complexion 'up the hill'.

The Cross Country Course deliberately weaves around the centre of Prestbury Park, with turns to the left and right leading racers on a variety of routes and directions, jumping over a selection of natural and man-made obstacles incorporating banks, ditches, hedges, water, and timber rails.

What is the Prestbury Cup?

Cheltenham has long been the home of jumps racing in Britain. Down through the years, it has always been the place where the best horses in the UK are set to come face-to-face with the best from Ireland, often for the first and only time in a season.

The rivalry between Britain and Ireland has always been a key factor and, in 2014, the Prestbury Cup was introduced, with either Britain or Ireland taking the spoils for having the most winners across the four days of The Festival.

The Prestbury Cup, named after the nearest village to Cheltenham Racecourse, was won 18-10 by Ireland in 2023.

The Irish have been dominant in recent years, winning the trophy in seven of the last eight years - and they will be fancied to do it again in 2024.

History of the Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham has always been the Festival held in highest regard for jumps horses in Britain or Ireland. To have a winner at this meeting 'means more' for most connections.

Winning one of the Championship races at Cheltenham is to write a chapter in the history of 'the sport of kings'.

Down the years, the greatest jumps horses of all-time have left their mark on this famous plot of Cotswolds ground.

The echoes of past champions linger and there is an aura surrounding Cheltenham in March that simply does not exist anywhere else in the sport. 

Cheltenham Festival dress code

Traditionally a formal event, gentleman are advised to wear suits and women smart dresses.

But as of last year, the Jockey Club decided to ease dress restrictions across its courses, including Cheltenham, in an attempt to improve accessibility and inclusivity.

Racegoers can now wear whatever they like at the event – including trainers, jogging bottoms and ripped jeans – as long as it is not offensive or a football kit.

Read the full Cheltenham Festival dress code article here.

Who is the Cheltenham Festival's most successful jockey?

Ruby Walsh has rode more Cheltenham winners than anyone else with 59. The Irishman partnered greats like Kauto Star, Big Buck's and Hurricane Fly to their finest wins on this major stage. 

In 2021, Rachael Blackmore made history in riding six winners at Cheltenham to become the first female rider to be leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival and she added a Gold Cup win on A Plus Tard in 2022.

Each year, the leading rider at The Festival is presented with the Ruby Walsh Trophy, in honour of the most successful jockey of all time. 

Who is the Cheltenham Festival's most successful trainer?

Willie Mullins has saddled an amazing 94 Cheltenham Festival winners from 1995-2023.

The Irishman has been leading trainer at the meeting 20 times, including in nine of the last 11 years, and in 2022 his tally of 10 winners set a new benchmark and helped Mullins to enjoy more race victories at the meeting than all of Britain's trainers combined at the meeting that year. 

What to look for on day one of the Cheltenham Festival?

The feature race on day one at Cheltenham is the Champion Hurdle - the two-mile Championship contest won by such greats as Hatton's Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq on three occasions each.

Trainer Nicky Henderson has won a record ten Champion Hurdles in his career and the outstanding and unbeaten Constitution Hill is 1/3 to successfully defend his crown in 2024.

The Cheltenham Festival begins on the Tuesday with the traditional curtain-raising Supreme Novices' Hurdle getting things started, while the other opening day Grade 1s are the Arkle Novices' Chase and the Mares' Hurdle.

What to look for on day two of the Cheltenham Festival?

Wednesday at the Cheltenham Festival is headlined by the Queen Mother Champion Chase, a two-mile speed test for the fastest and most accurate jumpers in the game.

Badsworth Boy won this race three times in the early 1980s and remains the only three-time winner, with the likes of Viking Flagship, Moscow Flyer, Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre and Altior all bagging two wins.

Energumene triumphed for Willie Mullins in 2023 for the second year running but injury means he won't be bidding for a hat-trick this season, with his stablemate El Fabiolo the favourite to take over the mantle. 

Day two also features Grade 1s via the Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle and the Champion Bumper - the only Cheltenham Festival race without jumps - while the Cross Country Chase is also on day two and is often one of the highlights of the week due to its unique nature.

What to look for on day three of the Cheltenham Festival?

Sandwiched in the middle of Thursday are Grade 1 contests the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers' Hurdle. They've vied for feature-race status in recent times, but traditionalists will still lean to the three-mile hurdles race for top billing.

Won four times on trot from 2009-2012 by the mighty Big Buck's for Paul Nicholls, the Stayers' Hurdle is the ultimate stamina test over the smaller obstacles and the 2023 renewal went the way of Sire Du Berlais for trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Mark Walsh. A successful defence is available at 25/1.

Thursday at Cheltenham also houses the Marsh Novices' Chase, the Pertemps Final over hurdles and the Festival Plate over fences - both amongst the tricky Cheltenham Festival handicaps - and the Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle, one of the newer Festival contests.

The Thursday finale is the Kim Muir Challenge Cup, one of three races at the meeting restricted to amateur riders.

What to look for on day four of the Cheltenham Festival?

Day four is Cheltenham Gold Cup Day, the centrepiece of the Cotswolds extravaganza and the most coveted race in the National Hunt calendar.

Run over three-miles-and-two-furlongs, this stamina-sapping test is the Blue Riband of jumps racing and the sport's ultimate prize.

The likes of Arkle, Best Mate and Kauto Star stand out amongst great horses to have won the Gold Cup, while Golden Miller won five times in the 1930s.

Irish trainer Henry De Bromhead has achieved a remarkable feat in recent times, with his Minella Indo leading home stablemate A Plus Tard in 2021, before their roles were reversed spectacularly in 2022 when Rachael Blackmore's partner stormed home to win by 15 lengths.

Galopin Des Champs claimed the spoils in 2023 for trainer Willie Mullins and is 4/6 to repeat that feat in 2024 after winning the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup since Christmas. 

Last year's runner-up Bravemansgame is 16/1 for Paul Nicholls while L'homme Presse is 10/1 to become the first UK-trained Gold Cup winner since Native River in 2018.

Friday begins with the Triumph Hurdle, the championship event for four-year-olds and also includes the third Grade 1 novice event over hurdles, the Albert Bartlett over three-miles.

The concluding day also houses the devilishly tough County Hurdle, the Foxhunters Chase - run over the Gold Cup course and distance featuring amateur riders - as well as The Festival's newest addition, the Grade 2 Mares' Chase which brings down the curtain on events in the Cotswolds.

Any odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.

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