When anyone talks about the biggest horse racing events in the UK when it comes to national hunt racing, the first one that almost all people mention is the Cheltenham Festival. Known as being a place where the very best take each other on across four days of action, this is a special week for fans of the sport, horse, trainers, jockeys, and those who own the big runners.
But what is it about the festival that makes it so special?
On the track, the meeting has 28 races to enjoy, but for many, it is about the big four, the feature races each day. The biggest is the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a race in which those who want to bet on horse racing will see that A Plus Tard is the current 10/3 favourite to go one better than last season, when he finished second. The horse to beat him that day was Minella Indo, and he’s 7/2 second favourite to win back to back titles.
Elsewhere, names such as Honeysuckle and Shishkin will no doubt grab the headlines when they run at the festival, regardless of whether they win or lose, such is their stature in the game. But when it comes to the festival, it is more than just the four days on the track we see, and more than just the winners.
The Cheltenham Build Up
One of the greatest elements of the Cheltenham Festival is the build up that we see taking place on most weeks of the national hunt season. Rather than just arriving at the week, people talk about Cheltenham for months in advance.
When potential Cheltenham runners take to the track, win or lose, you will hear talk of the festival straight after, and any betting market changes that come because of that. A Plus Tard kicked off his campaign with a big win at Haydock back in November, and that is what took him to the top of the Gold Cup market, a place he has stayed ever since.
A Plus Tard blows the field apart to win the Betfair Chase 🤯
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) November 20, 2021
The second big reason why so many people love Cheltenham is that we see a large number of runners coming back to the festival time and time again. Some begin in the novice races for younger horses and progress through to open competition, from hurdling to chasing and much more.
We all watched Appreciate It romp home in the Supreme Novice Hurdle at the 2021 festival, and one of the best parts of that knew that he would be back to another racing in 2022.
This time around, he steps up to open company to take on the wonder mare Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle. A win or good run and he may stay hurdling, whereas a poor run, and the horse may go chasing and come back for a different race next season, more than likely the Arkle Chase.
With horses coming back year after year, and talk of the festival for almost 12 months, it is easy to see why the Cheltenham Festival is held in such high regard by racing fans.