All you need to know ahead of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival

As always four days of top-class racing action take centre-stage in the sporting calendar next week as the Cheltenham Festival, the pinnacle of National Hunt racing, plays host to equine stars at Prestbury Park.
The Cheltenham Festival, the pinnacle of National Hunt racing, takes place from March 16 to 19.The Cheltenham Festival, the pinnacle of National Hunt racing, takes place from March 16 to 19.
The Cheltenham Festival, the pinnacle of National Hunt racing, takes place from March 16 to 19.

Ahead of this year’s meeting, we’ve marked your card with everything you need to know about the action, where to watch the racing and the leading names who look set to light up the sport.

What is the Cheltenham Festival?

The Cheltenham Festival consists of 28 races and takes place amidst the rolling hills of Gloucestershire. There are seven races on each of the four days of the meeting with the action getting under way every day at 1.20pm.

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Across the meeting, there are five championship Grade One races, which are essentially the feature races of the meeting. These are the Champion Hurdle (Tuesday), Champion Chase (Wednesday), Stayers’ Hurdle (Thursday), Ryanair Chase (Thursday) and the Gold Cup (Friday).

The latter, this year titled the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup is the sport’s Blue Riband event and the biggest race of the meeting, highlighted by its prize fund of £625,000.

Some of National Hunt racing’s most famous names have won the event including Arkle, Best Mate, Kauto Star and Denman.

How can I watch this year’s meeting?

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, crowds are not allowed to attend this year’s Cheltenham Festival for the first time in history.

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Only a select number of people are able to go to the meeting in order to ensure the meeting can be held safely over the course of the four days. This includes medical staff, jockeys, trainers and selected members of the media.

Therefore, ITV will be showing six races from the meeting every day, whilst you can also watch all 28 races live and exclusively on Racing TV (Sky channel 426). You can also watch the racing through a betting app of your choice as long as you have a betting account.

Which trainers and jockeys should I be following?

In terms of trainers, Willie Mullins is the most decorated trainer in the meeting’s history. The Irish handler has saddled 72 winners at the Cheltenham Festival and has also been crowned the meeting’s leading trainer seven times in the last 10 years. He enjoyed seven winners at last year’s meeting which was headlined by the success of Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo.

Nicky Henderson has saddled 62 winners at the Cheltenham Festival and his team for this year’s meeting includes Gold Cup contender Champ and dual Champion Chase hero Altior.

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Ditcheat trainer Paul Nicholls has enjoyed 46 winners at the meeting with the likes of Kauto Star, Denman, Master Minded and Big Buck’s. His team is headed by reigning Champion Chase winner Politologue and the talented Bravemansgame.

Paul Townend only has 12 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, but is the leading jockey to follow given his association with Willie Mullins. He is set to ride hot favourites Al Boum Photo, Appreciate It, Concertista and Chacun Pour Soi.

Who are some of the horses to watch out for?

The sport is currently benefitting from a number of exciting talents. Envoi Allen is unbeaten in 11 starts under Rules and is a dual winner at the Cheltenham Festival. He has taken to fences with aplomb this season and is unbeaten in three starts over the larger obstacles. He is a warm order for the Grade One Marsh Novices’ Chase (Wednesday) as the 8/11 favourite.

Another horse putting their unbeaten record on the line at this year’s meeting is Honeysuckle. Trained by Henry de Bromhead, she landed the Grade One Mares’ Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and was electric on her most recent start when registering a 10 length success in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. She is the 9/4 favourite for the Champion Hurdle, the feature event on day one of the meeting where she is set to face defending champion Epatante and the exciting Goshen who bounced back to from with success at Wincanton last time out.

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The Nicky Henderson-trained Altior is a four-time winner at the Cheltenham Festival, but faces a tough task in his attempt to record a third victory in the Champion Chase. Beaten on his return to action at Kempton last time out, he takes on the imposing Chacun Pour Soi who easily captured Grade One honours at Leopardstown for Willie Mullins on his latest start.

The biggest story of the week could come in the feature event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Al Boum Photo, another Mullins-trained inmate is bidding to become the first horse since Best Mate to win three renewals of the Blue Riband event. He is set to take on last year’s Gold Cup second and third Santini and Lostintranslation along with the likes of Champ, A Plus Tard and Frodon.

And a best bet for the week?

Concertista (6/5) looks banker material in the Grade One Mares’ Hurdle on the first day of the meeting. She has swept aside her rivals in consummate fashion so far this term and this looks a weak renewal. She has the class edge and also boasts winning form at Prestbury Park having tasted success at the Cheltenham Festival last term.

Analysis via Betting Expert