Cheltenham Festival Guide 2019: history, info and race schedule
Nick Murphy | 1 March 2019
Everything you need to know ahead of Cheltenham
The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of National Hunt racing. It is considered as one of the UK’s premier sporting occasions alongside the FA Cup Final, Wimbledon, the Ashes and the Grand National.
Run over four days in Gloucestershire, the famous 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 strong affinity with the event from across the Emerald Isle and will saddle a glut of runners once again at the 2019 Festival.
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 Chamberlin, Matt Chapman and Richard Hoiles will be joined by a host of guests including Mick Fitzgerald and Tony McCoy 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 12th March 2019.
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 seven 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.
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.
2019 Cheltenham Festival Schedule
Day One: Champion Day – Tuesday 12th March
1:30pm Supreme Novices’ Chase: Opening race on the first day of the Festival. Run over 2m 1/2f and won last year by Tom George-trained 9/1 shot Summerville Boy. Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have both won this five times. Ante-post favourites: Al Dancer, Angels Breath.
2:10pm Arkle Chase: 2m Grade 1 contest for novice chasers. Won by Nicky Henderson six times, including in 2017 with Altior. Footpad won in 2018 for the Walsh-Mullins combination. Ante-post favourites: Glen Forsa, Duc Des Genievres.
2:50pm Ultima Handicap: 3m 1f handicap won back-to-back by Un Temps Pour Tout in 2016 and 2017 – making Tom Scudamore the most successful jockey with three wins. Coo Star Sivola won in 2018 for Nick Williams and Lizzie Kelly. Ante-post favourites: Give Me A Copper, Minella Rocco.
3:30pm Champion Hurdle: Most prestigious hurdling event in the calendar run over 2m 1/2f. Carries a £400,000 prize purse, £227,800 of which goes to the winner. Won back-to-back by Buveur D’Air in 2017 and 2018, making Henderson the leading trainer on seven. Ante-post favourites: Buveur D’Air, Apple’s Jade.
4:10pm Mares’ Hurdle: 2m 4f Grade 1 contest open to fillies and mares aged four-years-old and above. First run in 2008 over 2m 3f and won six times in a row by Quevega. Benie Des Dieux upset 2017 winner and odds-on favourite Apple’s Jade to win in 2018 for Mullins’ ninth win in the race. Ante-post favourites: Roksana, Benie Des Dieux.
4:50pm National Hunt Chase: 4m Grade 2 renewal open only to amateur riders and novice chasers, which been run more times than any other Festival race. Won in 2017 by subsequent Grand National winner Tiger Roll – 2018 winner was Rathvinden for Patrick and Willie Mullins. Ante-post favourites: A Plus Tard, Riders Onthe Storm.
5:30pm Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase: Handicap for novice chasers with an OR between 0 and 145. Run over 2m 4f and won last year by Brian Hughes-trained Mister Whitaker. Ante-post favourites: Ok Corral, Ballyward.
Day Two: Ladies Day – Wednesday 13th 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 Samcro in 2017 for Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy. The winner receives £125,000. Ante-post favourites: Champ, Battleoverdoyen.
2:10pm RSA Chase: 3m 1/2f Grade 1 chase won by 2019 Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy in 2018. Other previous winners include Arkle and Bobs Worth. Willie Mullins has won this four times but only once since 2009. Ante-post favourites: Santini, Delta Work.
2:50pm Coral Cup: Grade 3 handicap chase run over 2m 5f on the old course. Mullins and Mark Walsh combined to win in 2018 with 20/1 shot Bleu Berry in a race which is a popular betting heat and has had its fair share of long-odds winners. Ante-post favourites: Uradel, Cracking Smart.
3:30pm Queen Mother Champion Chase: Feature race of the day. Run over 2m with a prize purse of £400,000. Twice won by Sprinter Sacre; last won the still unbeaten Altior. Ante-post favourites: Altior, Min.
4:10pm Cross Country Chase: 3m 7f renewal won five times by Enda Bolger. Win for the second time in a row by Gordon Elliott in 2018 with Tiger Roll, who would go onto win the Grand National. Ante-post favourites: Tiger Roll, Auvergnat.
4:50pm Fred Winter Hurdle: Eight hurdle Grade 3 handicap contested over 2m and won in 2018 by the Elliott-Kennedy combination with Veneer Of Charm. Paul Nicholls has won this race three times. Ante-post favourite: Band Of Outlaws, Fine Brunello.
5:30pm Champion Bumper: Run The most significant National Hunt flat race on the calendar and run over 2m. Irish trainers tend to dominate, as it proved in 2018 with Mullins recording his ninth success through Relegate, ridden by Katie Walsh. Ante-post favourites: Envoi Allen, Blue Sari.
Day Three: St Patrick’s Day – Thursday 14th March
1:30pm JLT Novices’ Chase: Grade 1 contest run over 2m 4f and first established in 2011. Willie Mullins has trained four of the eight winners, although the Elliott-Kennedy combination won in 2018 with 10/1 shot Shattered Love. Ante-post favourites: Lostintranslation, Defi Du Seuil.
2:10pm Pertemps Final: Grade 3 hurdle for qualifiers only. Davy Russell won this 3m contest for the third year in a row in 2018 aboard Delta Work. Ante-post favourites: Sire Du Berlais, First Assignment.
2:50pm Ryanair Chase: 2m 5f Grade 1 renewal with prize money of £350,000. Henry de Bromhead-trained Balko des Flos won in 2018 ahead of 8/11 favourite Un De Sceaux. Ante-post favourites: Min, Footpad.
3:30pm Stayers’ Hurdle: Feature race on the third day of the Festival and the leading long-distance hurdle event on the calendar. Previous winners include Big Buck’s, Thistlecrack and Penhill (2018). Ruby Walsh has piloted five winners in the race. Run over 3m with a £325,000 prize pot. Ante-post favourites: Paisley Park, Faugheen.
4:10pm Brown Advisory Plate: 2m 5f handicap chase first run in 1951. 2016 and 2017 winners Empire of Dirt and Road to Respect were both ridden by Bryan Cooper. Won by The Storyteller in 2018. Ante-post favourites: Siruh du Lac, Janika.
4:50pm Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Chase: 2m hurdle open to fillies and mares first introduced in 2016. Laurina won in 2018 to retain Willie Mullins’ 100% record in the race. Ante-post favourites: Epatante, Posh Trish.
5:30pm Kim Muir Challenge Cup: 3m 1f handicap chase open to amateur riders. Jamie Codd has ridden the winner four times, although it was Warren Greatrex aboard Noel McParlan’s 8/1 shot Missed Approach who won in 2018. Ante-post favourites: Any Second Now, Measureofmydreams.
Day Four: Gold Cup Day – Friday 15th 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. Nicky Henderson has trained the winner six times, although the 2017 edition was claimed by Farclas for Elliott. Ante-post favourites: Sir Erec, Quel Destin.
2:10pm County Handicap Hurdle: 2m 1f handicap run on the new course over eight hurdles. Mullins and Nicholls have trained six of the last nine winners. Dan Skelton-trained 33/1 shot Mohaayed won in 2018. Ante-post favourites: Whiskey Sour, Ch’tibello.
2:50pm Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle: 3m Grade 1 contest for novice hurdlers last won by 33/1 chance Kilbricken Storm in 2018. Ante-post favourites: Birchdale, Lisnagar Oscar.
3:30pm Cheltenham Gold Cup: The main event. Run over 3m 2f with a total purse of £625,000. Won in 2018 by Richard Johnson aboard 5/1 shot Native River for Colin Tizzard. Ante-post favourites: Presenting Percy, Clan Des Obeaux.
4:10pm Foxhunter Chase: 3m 2f renewal that has strict qualification criteria. Open solely for amateur riders and won in 2018 by Pachu Du Polder for the second time. Female jockeys have won each of the last four renewals. Ante-post favourites: Stand Up And Fight, Ucello Conti.
4:50pm Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle: 2m 4f Grade Handicap contest first run in 2009 and won three times by Mullins. Elliott has trained the last two winners, including in 2018 with 11/1 shot Blow By Blow. Ante-post favourites: Dallas Des Pictons, Early Doors.
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 Paul Nicholls for the fourth time with Le Prezien. Ante-post favourite: Magic Saint, Whatswrongwithyou.
What to expect at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival
It’s difficult to say what will happen at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. The usual big powerhouse trainers will have their yards ready and firing. But an unusually dry winter has left plenty of yards without ideal prep-runs ahead of the event.
This means that a number of highly-fancied charges will come into the Festival with one or no runs under their belt, where usually they’d have two or three. Could that lend itself to more shocks at the 2019 Festival?
With open betting heats in the Arkle, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase, in particular, of the big races, it’s sure to be another hugely exciting four days. You can check out all the latest news, features and betting tips in the build-up and during the Festival right here at Coral News.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing