Cheltenham Festival News
Friday 14th February 2014
Cheltenham: Home of the Best British Racing

In horse racing circles, the prestige of the Cheltenham Festival is essentially without parallel, however this phenomenal event invariably receives far fewer column inches than Aintree and The Grand National. Here we shed some light on this under-loved horse racing spectacular.

The story of Cheltenham

Cheltenham Festival originated as the National Hunt Meeting back in 1860, which saw the National Hunt Chase held for the first time at nearby Market Harborough. The event took place in a variety of locations throughout the area over the following decades, before returning to Cheltenham in 1904 and 1905. The event finally settled at Prestbury Park in 1861, and has since established its reputation as one of the most prestigious race meets and social events in the extended British riding and racing community, more or less unchanged from year to year.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup forms the perennial centre-piece of proceedings at the festival, having been established in 1924, although the Champion Hurdle (established 1927) and the Queen Mother Champion Chase (1959) have also attained great significance.

Cheltenham and the Irish

Celebrating St Patrick’s Day on an annual basis, Cheltenham represents the ideal opportunity for Irish racing devotees to visit the races in England and for English fans to enjoy a touch of Gaellic culture/Guinness alongside their racing action.

Two time champ Hurricane Fly
© Caroline Norris
Hurricane Fly

Of course, the Irish connection at Cheltenham goes far deeper than the event’s coincidence with St Patrick’s Day. This is the meet at which racing fans from the British Isles can see British and Irish horses racing against each other at the top level, with little or sometimes no intervention from horses raised in France or elsewhere on the continent. Effectively, Cheltenham is the British and Irish horse racing championship! Irish winners are seldom thin on the ground; 2006 saw ten Irish horses passing the post first, whilst in 2012 an incredible 15 won out, notably the phenomenal two time champ Hurricane Fly.

Ones to watch at this year’s festival

Speaking of Hurricane Fly, many will be expecting great things from this particular 9-year-old at this year’s festival (which takes place from March 11th-14th). Other ones to watch will include Sprinter Sacre and Bob’s Worth, whilst Our Conor's chances are also looking healthy

All in all, Cheltenham Festival offers a traditional British racing experience with a firm focus on the very best racing from home shores. We certainly can’t wait for March 11th!

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