One of the highlight’s of the racing calendar returns this week as the 2023 Cheltenham Festival takes place over the water.
Prestbury Park will host four days of action, which is expected to once again be dominated by Irish talent, getting underway on Tuesday afternoon with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this year’s festival…
The big ones
There’s a seven-race card for each of the festival’s four days, but the main event each day is the 3.30pm running.
On Tuesday, that’s the Champion Hurdle, before eyes turn to Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase. Thursday’s top billing is the Stayers’ Hurdle, before the Gold Cup on Friday.
Welcome to the #CheltenhamFestival 2023.
This is your line-up 🤩 pic.twitter.com/vF0NbBn8GC
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 12, 2023
Irish jockeys and trainers have continually shone at Cheltenham, and this year is looking likely to continue in that fashion.
An added flavour to the festival is the battle between Irish and British wins, one which has been dominated by the Irish side as of late. In 2021, Irish wins accounted for 23 of the 28 races, while Britain picked up 10 wins in last year’s runnings. The charges of Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls represent some of the homeside’s best chances, but even they will find it hard to challenge the green wave.
On the jockey front, last year’s top jockey of the festival Paul Townend is thought to be in a good position to defend his title, aided with the pick of Willie Mullins’ yard. Mullins, the most successful trainer in the festival’s history, is bringing an impressive line-up, and with a bit of luck might improve on his 2022 tally of 10 wins.
Top jockey at Cheltenham in 2021 Rachael Blackmore will be up against Townend in Tuesday’s Mares’ Hurdle, reuniting with Honeysuckle, trained by Henry de Bromhead.
Davy Russell and Danny Mullins are also in the saddle, with the latter hoping to continue the fine form he showed at Leopardstown last month.
Also, in memory of Henry de Bromhead’s son Jack, who died in September last year, the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle will carry his name. De Bromhead’s Magical Zoe is expected to run in the Thursday race.
1.30pm – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, 2.10pm – Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase, 2.50pm – Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase, 3.30pm – Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy, 4.10pm – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle, 4.50pm – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, 5.30pm – National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
1.30pm – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, 2.10pm – Brown Advisory Novices’ Steeple Chase, 2.50pm – Coral Cup Hurdle, 3.30pm – Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase, 4.10pm – Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase, 4.50pm – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase Challenge Cup, 5.30pm – Weatherbys Champion Bumper
🐐 Legends, everywhere…
The FIVE jockeys with the most Cheltenham wins since 1988 👇pic.twitter.com/eIv0cU8RLD
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 13, 2023
1.30pm – Turners Novices’ Chase, 2.10pm – Pertemps Network Final, 2.50pm – Ryanair Steeple Chase, 3.30pm – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, 4.10pm – Plate Steeple Chase, 4.50pm – Mares Novices’ Hurdle, 5.30pm – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup
1.30pm – JCB Triumph Hurdle, 2.10pm – McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle, 2.50pm – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, 3.30pm – Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase, 4.10pm – St James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Steeple Chase, 4.50pm – Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Steeple Chase, 5.30pm – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
Ones to watch
Energumene (Willie Mullins) looks set to defend his title in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, while stable-mate Galopin Des Champs is one of the favourites for Friday’s Gold Cup.
2022’s Gold Cup champ A Plus Tard (de Bromhead) is set to run in Friday’s main event, but Galopin Des Champs (Mullins) is the bookies pick.
Constitution Hill is one of Nicky Henderson’s hopefuls which could spoil Irish celebrations in the Champion Hurdle after de Bromhead opted against running back-to-back winner Honeysuckle in Tuesday’s top billing. However, Mullins is expected to be on-hand once again to keep the title in Irish hands, with State Man able to provide the upset.
Where to watch
There will be live coverage of the festival each day on Virgin Media One from 1pm.