The Cheltenham Festival is almost upon us. Weeks, months and even years of hard work and dedication have been building towards the four-day horse racing extravaganza at Prestbury Park - where the best horses in the business will gather on the second full week of March, vying to take home some of the most famous and prestigious prizes in the world of sport.
Racing enthusiasts, who have been crossing off the passing days on their calendar, will already be researching the races and tracking their favourite horses in the build up to the festivities. If you don’t have the time, knowledge or energy to go into such detailed measures of preparation – don’t worry, cheltenhamfestival.net has got you covered. Visit the site for all the breaking news, tips and ante-post previews of every single race at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
Cheltenham Festival tickets have been on sale throughout the season. It’s not too late to book your seats in the Tattersalls Stand, or even a place in the Best Mate Enclosure, but 250,000 horse racing fans flock to Gloucestershire every year to watch the best action the sport has to offer, so you better get those tickets booked today.
Whether you are in attendance on the opening Tuesday or the final Friday, you are guaranteed an action packed day of sporting drama, full of intrigue, suspense and top quality entertainment.
Irish Champion Trainer, Willie Mullins has often dominated the proceedings on the opening day of the Festival. However, recent tragedies and set-backs have thrown a spanner in the works this season and the first day flood gates have been thrown wide open for some of the other top trainers in the world to steal Mullins’ limelight.
Yorkhill’s predicated late switch to the Champion Hurdle - covering for injured duo Faugheen and Annie Power - will give Mullins a great chance of retaining the title ahead of a hungry chasing pack, led by Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’Air and Alan King’s Yanworth. Mullins’ star mare, Vroum Vroum Mag will be favourite to hand the Irishman a ninth-straight victory in the Mares Hurdle. However, Gordon Elliott’s Apple’s Jade resigned the star to a surprise defeat earlier in the season and the two look set to renew their mouth-watering rivalry at the Festival.
The best first-season hurdlers will get the Festival off to a flying start in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Altior claimed that crown in stunning fashion last year and he will be flying the Nicky Henderson flag on the first day of the Festival once again. He will head into the Arkle as the overwhelming favourite, as he looks to establish himself as the top dog in the two-mile chasing division.
One who will have something to say about that is the Willie Mullins’ Douvan, who puts his fourteen-race unbeaten streak on the line in the feature Championship race on day two of the Festival - the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Fox Norton and God’s Own will be out to try and upset the odds-on favourite, but another stunning victory is expected, as the horse racing world anticipates an incredible showdown between Douvan and Altior in the very near future.
Finian’s Oscar and Neon Wolf have been in excellent form this season and a possible battle between the two in the Neptune will thrill onlookers in the first race on day two at Cheltenham. The RSA Chase is a three mile contest of the highest order and the Cross Country wows fans year-in-year-out, as it winds an unusual route around Prestbury Park, taking on a unique mixture of hurdles, fences and strategically placed shrubbery.
The Stayers’ Hurdle is the main event on the penultimate day of the Festival, with Unowhatimeanharry bringing plenty of form and confidence with him to Cheltenham, having landed the Albert Bartlett crown on Friday at the Festival last year. Former Champion Hurdler, Jezki has returned from injury this season and could provide Harry Fry’s favourite with stiff competition. As could 2015 victor Cole Harden, who looked back to his old self when finishing just behind Unowhatimeanharry in the Cleve Hurdle earlier in the year.
Un De Sceaux will be stepping up in trip in a bid to land the Ryanair Chase for Willie Mullins, but there will be a strong field opposing him as he looks to repeat his Festival heroics in the Arkle back in 2015. Novice chasers will get Thursdayoff to a flying start in the JLT, with the Pertemps Final at the Byrne Group Festival Plate providing fans with plenty handicap excitement later in the day.
Friday at the Cheltenham Festival is always an electrifying day to be in attendance and the opening contest, the Triumph Juvenile Hurdle, is shaping up to be one of the most exciting races of the entire week. Defi Du Seuil will defend his unbeaten seasonal record, but the likes of Charli Parcs, Cliffs Of Dover and a large Irish battalion of young challengers – headed by Bapaume, Mega Fortune and Merie Devie – will make this race one of the most memorable contests staged at Cheltenham in recent years.
The County Hurdle is amongst the best and most profitable handicaps of the meeting and the final race of the Festival, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, is one of the most historic sporting contests in the country – having first been run back in 1834. However, the highlight of the final day and the jewel in National Hunt racing’s crown, is the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
For over 80 years, the biggest and best names in the sport have come to Prestbury Park, looking to get their name etched into the famous Gold Cup trophy, alongside all-time greats like Arkle, Best Mate and Kauto Star.
Thistlecrack is the hot favourite to claim the title and to watch Colin Tizzard’s charge attack the obstacles in his majestic, swashbuckling style is worth the admission fee alone. Fan’s favourite Cue Card will garner plenty of support from the crowd, as will seasonal victors like Native River and Bristol De Mai. The Guinness Grandstand will be bouncing as Djakadam, Outlander and Sizing John whip the Irish fans into a frenzy, ensuring this year’s Gold Cup – and the 2017 Cheltenham Festival as a whole – is a sporting occasion you simply cannot afford to miss.
2017 Cheltenham Festival Preview