Cheltenham Festival 2018: Info, history, race guide and favourites

Nick Murphy | 12 March 2018

The Cheltenham Festival is arguably the biggest horse racing festival in the world.  It is considered as one of the UK’s premier sporting events alongside the FA Cup Final, Wimbledon, the Ashes and the Grand National.

Run over four days in Gloucestershire, the four-day meeting attracts the cream of the jump racing crop from the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. The best horses, jockeys and trainers will all converge on the Prestbury Park course in an attempt to take home a chunk of the £4m prize pot.

Although the meeting is open to all, the majority of the runners tend to come from Britain and Ireland. Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott, in particular, have a particular affinity with the event from across the Emerald Isle and will saddle a glut of runners at the 2018 event.

They’ll be joined across the week by over 250,000 fans who will pack out the 67,000 capacity course every day to create the famous Cheltenham roar. Irish punters will form a large amount of those with Day Three of the Festival traditionally falling on St. Patrick’s Day.

You can watch along at home with live coverage of the big races from 1:30pm on ITV every day. Ed Chamberlain, Matt Chapman and Richard Hoiles will be joined by a host of guests including Mick Fitzgerald and Francesca Cumani for analysis and insight on every race and all of the major talking points.

The Coral News Team will also be providing top-quality coverage in the run up to and during the Festival, which kicks-off on Tuesday 13th March 2018.

Cheltenham Festival History

The Cheltenham Festival first began life as the National Hunt Meeting back in 1860 at Market Harborough. It was only moved to Gloucestershire in 1904 before remaining there on a yearly basis since 1911 thanks to the work of Frederick Cathcart – then clerk of the course.

The Festival that we know and love today began to take shape after the Second World War. Its length was extended from two days to three in 1923. A year later the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup was introduced for the first time and won by Red Splash at 5/1. Golden Miller triumphed in the showpiece event five times from 1932 to 1936, a record that remains to this day.

Cheltenham enjoyed further prominence after the Second World War thanks to the involvement of the BBC. Horse Racing became a huge part of the broadcaster’s coverage and was helped by the prominence of Arkle, who won a hat-trick of Gold Cups from 1964 to 1966. He remains Timeform’s top rated steeplechaser.

It was around this time that the Festival’s relationship with the Irish also came to prominence. Desert Orchid and Istabraq captured the imagination through the 1980s and 1990s, before Kauto Star and Denman provided a memorable rivalry during the 2000s.

It was in 2005 that the Festival was extended to its current four-day format with six races on each day. During this time the Cross Country Chase was also added to the card, a 3m 7f slog run over a mammoth 32 obstacles.

The Course

Cheltenham has not one but three courses. These are known as the New Course, the Old Course and the Cross Country Course.

The New Course is primarily used on the first two days of the Festival. It consists of a longer run to the finish which allows for two extra fences to be jumped. This is also crucial as it tests a horse’s stamina on the longer run-in up the famous Cheltenham hill. For hurdle races above 2m, only two sets of hurdles are jumped in the final seven furlongs.

The Old Course is used on the final two days of the Festival, including for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. These races usually start at the top of the hill and have two fences on the run to the finish. The Cross Country Course incorporates banks, ditches, hedges and water. It is only used for the Cross Country Chase on Day 2 of the Festival.

2018 Cheltenham Festival Schedule 

Day One: Champion Day – Tuesday 13th March 

1:30pm Supreme Novices’ Chase: Opening race on the first day of the Festival. Run over 2m and won last year by the Gordon Elliott-trained Labaik. Ante-post favourites: Getabird, Samcro.

2:10pm Arkle Chase: 1m 7f Grade 1 contest for novice chasers. Won by Nicky Henderson six times, including last year with Altior. Ante-post favourites: Footpad, Petit Mouchoir.

2:40pm Festival Trophy: 3m 1f handicap won back-to-back by Un Temps Pour Tout in 2016 and 2017. Winners tend to go onto the Grand National. Ante-post favourites: Gold Present, Anibale Fly.

3:20pm Champion Hurdle: Most prestigious hurdling event in the calendar. £400,000 prize purse, £227,800 of which goes to the winner. Last won by Buveur D’Air in 2017. Ante-post favourites: Buveur D’Air, Faugheen.

4:10pm Mares’ Hurdle: Grade 1 contest open to fillies and mares four-years-old and above. First run in 2008 over 2m 3f and last won by Apple’s Jade. Ante-post favourites: Apple’s Jade, Let’s Dance.

4:50pm National Hunt Chase: 4m Grade 2 renewal open only to amateur riders and novice chasers. Won by Gordon Elliott in 2017 with Tiger Roll. Ante-post favourites: Presenting Percy, Elegant Escape.

5:30pm Novice Handicap Chase: Handicap for novice chasers with an OR between 0 and 145. Run over 2m 4f and won last year by Denis O’Regan-trained Tully East. Ante-post favourites: Movewiththetimes, Al Boum Photo.

Apple's Jade is favourite for the Mares' Hurdle

Apple’s Jade, who is favourite for the Mares’ Hurdle.

Day Two: Ladies Day – Wednesday 14th March 

1:30pm Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle: Grade 1 contest for four-year-olds and above run over 2m 5f. Previously won by Istabraq, Faugheen and Willoughby Court (2017). Ante-post favourites: Samcro, On The Blind Side.

2:10pm RSA Chase: 3m Grade 1 chase won by Might Bite in 2017. Winners tend to go on to race in the Gold Cup. Ante-post favourites: Presenting Percy, Monalee.

2:50pm Coral Cup: Grade 3 handicap chase run over 2m 5f on the old course. Robbie Power and Jessica Harrington combined to win in 2017 with Supasundae. Ante-post favourites: William Henry, Le Breuil.

3:30pm Queen Mother Champion Chase: Feature race of the day. Run over 2m with a prize purse of £400,000 for 2018. Twice won by Sprinter Sacre; last won by Special Tiara. Ante-post favourites: Altior, Min.

4:10pm Cross Country Chase: 3m 7f renewal won five times by Enda Bolger. Victory claimed in 2017 by Cause of Causes. Ante-post favourites: Cause of Causes, Josies Orders.

4:50pm Fred Winter Hurdle: Eight hurdle Grade 3 handicap contested over 2m won last year by Flying Tiger. Ante-post favourite: Farclas.

5:30pm Champion Bumper: Run on the flat over 2m with National Hunt rules. Won last year by Fayonagh for Gordon Elliott. Ante-post favourites: Didtheyleaveuoutto, Blackbow.

Altior odds

Altior, who is favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Day Three: St Patrick’s Day – Thursday 15th March

1:30pm JLT Novices’ Chase: Grade 1 contest run over 2m 4f and first established in 2011. Willie Mullins has trained the last three winners, including Yorkhill in 2017. Ante-post favourites: Yanworth.

2:10pm Pertemps Handicap Hurdle: Class A listed hurdle for qualifiers only. 2m 5f distance won last year by John Constable. Ante-post favourites: Glenloe, Eagle Lion.

2:50pm Ryanair Chase: 2m 5f Grade 1 renewal with prize money of £350,000. Won by Willie Mullins for the second year in a row in 2017 with Un De Sceaux. Ante-post favourites: Un De Sceaux, Douvan.

3:30pm Stayers’ Hurdle: Feature race on the third-day of the Festival. Previous winners include Big Buck’s, Thistlecrack and Nichols Canyon (2017). Run over 3m with a £325,000 prize pot. Ante-post favourites: Supasundae, Sam Spinner.

4:10pm Brown Advisory Plate: 2m 5f handicap chase first run in 1951. 2016 and 2017 winners Empire of Dirt and Road to Respect both ridden by Bryan Cooper. Ante-post favourite: Benie Des Dieux.

4:50pm Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Chase: 2m hurdle open to fillies and mares; first run in 2016. Won twice by Walsh-Mullins combination with Limini and Let’s Dance. Ante-post favourites: Laurina, Apple’s Shakiri.

5:30pm Kim Muir Challenge Cup: 3m 1f handicap chase open to amateur riders. Won last year by Domesday Book. Ante-post favourites: Squoateur, Mall Din.

Clarence House Chase odds, Champion Chase odds, Un De Sceaux odds

Un de Sceaux

Day Four: Gold Cup Day – Friday  16th March 

1:30pm Triumph Hurdle: Opening race on the final day of the Festival run over 2m 1f and seen as a route to the Champion Hurdle. 2017 edition was claimed by Defi du Seuil. Ante-post favourites: Apple’s Shakiri, Storm Ireland.

2:10pm County Handicap Hurdle: 2m 1f handicap run on the new course over eight hurdles. Won in 2017 by 20/1 shot Arctic Fire. Ante-post favourites: Max Dynamite, Call Me Lord.

2:50pm Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle: 3m contest for novice hurdlers last won by Penhill in 2017. Ante-post favourites: Cracking Smart, Next Destination.

3:30pm Cheltenham Gold Cup: The main event. Run over 3m 2f with a total purse of £625,000. Won in 2017 by Robbie Power aboard 7/1 shot Sizing John for Jessica Harrington. Ante-post favourites: Might Bite, Native River, Sizing John.

4:10pm Foxhunter Chase: 3m 2f renewal that has strict qualification criteria. Open solely for amateur riders and won in 2017 by Pachu Du Polder. Ante-post favourites: Burning Ambition, Wonderful Charm.

4:50pm Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle: Run over 2m 4f and open strictly to conditional jockeys. Champagne Classic returned odds of 12/1 to win last year’s renewal. Ante-post favourites: Duc Des Genievres, Off You Go.

5:30pm Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase: The final race of the meeting contested over 2m. Named after famous owner Johnny Henderson and won last year by Rock the World. Ante-post favourite: Any Second Now.

Jockey Robbie Power celebrates after his winning ride on Sizing John in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase during Gold Cup Day of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

The Coral News Team have also picked out five horses you should add to your Cheltenham tracker to help you get the best possible start to the four-day Festival.

Cheltenham race previews, betting tips and racing news – Coral have it all.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing