Whether you’re a National Hunt veteran or a new horse racing fan looking for more excitement at the racecourse, the Cheltenham Festival will never disappoint. Dates and timings for the 2016 Festival have already been scheduled, and tickets are on sale for this fabulous four-day event, which is second only to the Grand National in prize money and jumping thrills.
The Cheltenham Festival goes back to the mid-19th Century and the first running of the National Hunt Chase. The National Hunt Chase changed venues several times in decades to follow, but finally the race and the festival moved permanently to Prestbury Park in Cheltenham in 1911, and the prestigious Gold Cup was established in 1924. The 2016 Cheltenham Festival runs from 15-18 March in 2016, and its overlap with St. Patrick’s Day is sure to bring in many spectators from Ireland who will no doubt have some strong contenders in the races.
It’s expected that over 200,000 race fans will attend the 2016 Cheltenham Festival and that more than 500 million pounds will be gambled on the races there. If you’re a jumping aficionado, this is certainly the event at which to try your horse racing luck!
Tuesday, 15 March, kicks off the festival with Champion Day. In addition to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the grueling four-mile National Hunt Chase, the highlight of the race card is the two-mile Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy.
Ladies Day follows on Wednesday, 16 March. You’ll see lots of novice and juvenile hurdles on this date, as well as the Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase, a popular two-mile race. If you enjoy playing the odds with bumpers and wagering on up-and-coming talent, the Weatherbys Champion Bumper might be just the race for you, especially if Nicky Henderson has any horses in the field.
St. Patrick’s Day falls on Thursday, 17 March, and the Ladsbroke World Hurdle is typically a card highlight on this day. In 2016, watch for the addition of a new St. Patrick’s Day race in place of past years’ charity derbys. The Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle will be run for the first time at 5.15. A Group 2 race at two miles and a furlong, this event is for four-year-old and up mares and fillies and is sponsored by owners/breeders Richard and Lizzie Kelvin Hughes.
The new St. Patrick’s Day race for the fillies and mares is in keeping with an increased focus on breeding for National Hunt racing and has garnered the support of many Cheltenham trainers. Nicky Henderson, the Festival’s most successful trainer, has spoken in favour of the race.
The culmination of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival is Friday, 18 March, Gold Cup Day. The race card will be full of hurdles and steeple chases and, of course, features the 2016 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase, the highlight of the entire four day Festival. While the “Cheltenham Roar” is sure to be loud at the first race of the festival, you can rest assured the crowd will be equally vocal when the field lines up for the Gold Cup, which this year featured a great win by Coneygree.
The Cheltenham Festival is a great way to combine betting with smart VIP entertainment and fine dining in any of the enclosures, boxes or marquees and of course the new stand will be ready too, providing extra space and comfort for racegoesrs. It’s also an ideal social media meet-up location for race fans. Tickets are bound to go fast, so reserve your place as soon as possible. When that Cheltenham Roar resonates throughout the entire racecourse on Champion Day, you want to be there to experience the exhilaration in person!
This article was written by John Hawthorne. As a full time sports writer he is always writing about horse racing in different countries. He currently writes for an Australian based horse racing odds website.