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The Cheltenham Festival is the most prestigious meeting in the National Hunt racing calendar in the United Kingdommarker, and has race prize money second only to the Grand National. It is an event where many of the best Britishmarker and Irishmarker trained horses race against each other, the extent of which is relatively rare during the rest of the season.

The festival takes place annually in March at Cheltenham Racecoursemarker in Cheltenhammarker, Gloucestershiremarker. The meeting is often very popular with Irishmarker visitors, mostly because of that nation's affinity with horse racing, but also because it usually coincides with Saint Patrick's Day, a national holiday in celebration of the patron saint of Ireland.

Huge amounts of money are bet during festival week, with hundreds of millions of pounds being gambled over the four days. Cheltenham is often noted for its atmosphere, most notably the "Cheltenham roar", which refers to the enormous amount of noise that the crowd generates as the horses enter the home straight for long run in to the winning post.


The first Cheltenham Festival was held in 1902 at Prestbury Park, Cheltenham, which still remains the same venue for the festival to this day. It was in 1904 that the first National Hunt Steeplechase was introduced to the festival, a race which would become known as the Cheltenham Gold Cupmarker in 1924, when it was won by a horse called Red Splash. The Gold Cup was the first of the festivals four Championship races, with the Champion Hurdle being introduced in 1927, the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1959, and finally the Stayers Hurdle, which was first run in 1972.

In 2001 the Festival was cancelled due an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Britain. The meeting had initially been postponed to April, but when a case of foot and mouth was confirmed locally, putting the racecourse within an exclusion zone, all racing had to be called off. In 2008 the second day of the festival was cancelled due to heavy storms which hit Britain during the week. The races scheduled for that day were instead run on the Thursday and Friday of the Festival.

Until 2005, the Festival had traditionally been held over the course of three days, but this changed with the introduction of a fourth day, meaning there would be one championship race on each day, climaxing with the Gold Cup on Friday. To ensure each days would still have six races, five additional races were also introduced. Two further races have since been added bringing the total to 26 races overall, with Grade One events including the Champion Bumper, Triumph Hurdle, Ryanair Chase, Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle, Arkle Challenge Trophy, RSA Chase, Champion Hurdle, World Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and the feature race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Festival also includes one of the two biggest Hunter Chases of the season, the Foxhunter's, which is run on the Friday over the same course as the Gold Cup, and is sometimes referred to as the amateurs' Gold Cup.


For several years there have been concerns about the high number of injuries and fatalities to horses. This was brought to a head in 2006 when 11 horses died. In response the racecourse decreased the number of runners in certain races and resited one of the more difficult fences. However, some animal rights groups do not accept that this is sufficient.

Race schedule

The following table contains the race schedule for the 2009 festival, with each days feature race in bold.
Time Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
13:30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase Triumph Hurdle
14:05 Arkle Challenge Trophy Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle Pertemps Final Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle
14:40 William Hill Trophy RSA Chase Ryanair Chase Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
15:20 Champion Hurdle Queen Mother Champion Chase World Hurdle Cheltenham Gold Cupmarker
16:00 Cross Country Handicap Chase Coral Cup Freddie Williams Festival Plate Christie's Foxhunter Chase
16:40 David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
17:15 Champion Bumper Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase

Top Jockeys

The top jockey for the festival is the jockey who wins the most races over the four days. The winners since 1980 with wins in brackets are:


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