Countdown to Cheltenham 2020: who will win the major races?

The annual Cheltenham Festival is on the horizon, beginning on Tuesday March 10th at the famous British racecourse. This prestigious meeting promises to deliver four action packed days, where the best mares, novices, stayers, and hurdlers compete to become 2020 champions. 

Far from just being a highlight on the European racing calendar, the Cheltenham Festival is a favorite of horse racing lovers across the globe, with fans right here in the US being no stranger to previous festival winners like Tiger Roll, Frodon and Al Boum Photo. 

As the pinnacle of British jump racing, many winners at the festival have gone on to take the victory at the Grand National at Aintree just three weeks later. In fact, that’s exactly what Tiger Roll managed to do last year, winning the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase before snatching the trophy at the National for the second time in a row

Obviously, the festival is a favorite with horse players, but even if placing wagers isn’t your thing there will still be plenty to enjoy at this year’s festival, not least watching these fine thoroughbreds tackle challenging courses and fences. 

So, with the festival due to start in just a few weeks’ time, here’s a look at some of the current Cheltenham Festival 2020 favorites to win

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase – Ladies Day Wednesday 11th March

One of the most exciting races of the entire festival, the Cross Country Chase takes place on a separate course at the racetrack and is a true test of stamina and jump ability. Run over a distance of 3 miles and 6 furlongs, this chase has a total of 32 jumps that the horses need to scale. 

Don’t be surprised if the 2018 and 2019 winner Tiger Roll wins again this year, since the cross country chase has become a hit with his trainer Gordon Elliot. 

Ryanair Chase – St. Patrick’s Day Thursday 12th March 

Last year was a historical moment for horse racing, when jockey Bryony Frost became the first woman to win a Grade One race at the festival, riding the courageous Frodon. It’s one of two Championship races to be run on the third day of the festival, over a distance of 2 miles and 5 furlongs on the New Course. 

The luck of the Irish really comes through on St Patrick’s Day; legendary Irish jockey Ruby Walsh has won this race a total of four times – and that’s despite there being a nine year gap between wins two and three. Will Irish-trained Min be able to continue that streak this year?  

Gold Cup – Gold Cup Day Friday 13th March 

In 2019, Al Boum Photo delivered renowned Irish trainer Willie Mullins his first ever Gold Cup victory, and he’s on course to do the same again this year. The highlight of the four-day festival, the Magners Gold Cup, is run over a length of 3 miles 2 ½ furlongs, and the runners need a lot of staying power to achieve a strong finish. 

After a strong start to the season, there are currently three horses in top contention to win the big one: returning champ Al Boum Photo, Gordon Elliot’s Delta Work, and Nicky Henderson’s Santini. The race could go in either one of their directions.