In the UK, the Cheltenham Festival is a meeting in the National Hunt with race prize money up for grabs. The four-day festival usually takes place annually at Cheltenham Racecourse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. This festival includes Grade I races such as the Champion Hurdle, the Stayers’ Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Cheltenham is well known for its atmosphere, including the “Cheltenham roar”, and there are lots of people that attend the festival – approximately 60,000 people daily. It is one of the biggest races that take place in the UK. The winner can win up to £625,000.
The Cheltenham Festival was first held in 1860. Then the National Hunt Chase was held at Market Harborough – the Racing got a crowd of over 30,000 visitors. The Cheltenham Festival consists of 28 races. With around 500 horses and jockeys in for prize money worth £6.12 million for the big win!
The week of Cheltenham races includes the Gold Cup on Friday, and other highlights on Tuesday with The Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, Wednesday sees the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and Thursday hosts the Stayers’ Hurdle. What’s more interesting about this event is the clash between top Irish horses and top English horses. It truly is an amazing spectacle.
Cheltenham Festival also has the famous Ladies Day. This is one of the most popular days of the National Hunt season, the race is shown all over the world and is enjoyed by millions of fans. The race has inspired documentaries, books, newspaper articles, even slot games like First Past the Post at Kitty Bingo. Each year, millions of bets are placed, and punters get a huge thrill from each race.
One of the most famous female jockeys is Bryony Frost – she is known to be a fierce competitor: “It’s a partnership that you won’t find in this world. You’re at one with your horse. And you’re asking him to be brave. He is asking you to be brave! There… that’s the connection. You can feel that he’s giving him everything. And he feels that you’re giving the maximum!”
In March 2019, Frost became the first woman to win a Grade One race at the Cheltenham Festival. The following month, she got the British Conditional Jockeys title for the 2018–19 season. Frost rode Frodon to victory in the 2020 King George VI Chase and she became the first woman jockey to win the title.
Paul Townend is an Irish jockey who won at Cheltenham in 2020. It is considered one of his greatest achievements.
“I’d never felt anything like that before. It just brought winning to a whole new level. It’s still a bit of a blur. Even when I watch it back, it’s nearly like watching it as a third person. It was an amazing day.”
Paul’s competition with Ruby Walsh has been tough. Walsh has competed at the Cheltenham Festival for over 21 years, he is the third most prolific winner in British and Irish jump racing history. Despite that, Paul managed to win his tussle with Walsh and win the race!