The Cheltenham Festival is fast approaching. During a four-day extravaganza at the famous Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire, the annual celebration of National Hunt racing will take place during the second week of March, between Tuesday 10th and Friday 13th in 2020.
While the prestige of the Cheltenham Festival has grown significantly over recent decades, making this the foremost National Hunt event in the British racing calendar, the dedication of day two as Ladies Day is a tradition that has also grown in popularity and appeal. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to spot royals and numerous celebrities in attendance, decked out in their most stylish and sumptuous attire.
Along with an array of live music, entertainment and side events to keep visitors busy throughout the day, some of the best-dressed ladies also stand to win prizes for classy cut of their clothing and accessories, plus there’s often special recognition for those crowned with the snazziest of headwear. Whether located in one of the three main enclosures, or in some of the more exclusive areas of the racecourse, it promises to be another great day.
2020 Ladies Day Race Schedule
Continuing the success of 2019 and previous years, there’s a strong schedule of seven quality races being held on Ladies Day, during the second day of the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday 11th March. Amongst the seven races being held this year there’s a good variety of types and classes to enjoy, including three Hurdles and two Fences, accompanied by one Cross Country and a National Hunt Flat competition to conclude the day.
At the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, the Ladies Day race schedule will be as follows:
|13:30||Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle||Hurdles||2m 5f||Grade 1|
|14:10||RSA Insurance Novices’ Steeple Chase||Fences||3m 1/2f||Grade 1|
|14:50||Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase||Fences||2m||Grade 1|
|15:30||Coral Cup Hurdle||Hurdles||2m 5f||Grade 3|
|16:10||Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase||Cross Country||3m 7f||Ungraded|
|16:50||Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap||Hurdles||2m 1/2f||Grade 3|
|17:30||The Weatherbys Champion Bumper||NH Flat||2m 1/2f||Grade 1|
Typically attracting the greatest attention amongst racegoers are those in the Grade 1 classification, with all four of these races on Ladies Day carrying much prestige amongst owners, trainers and jockeys alike. As such, these are the four key races to look out for, with all of them held on the Old Course at Cheltenham Racecourse.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Also known traditionally as the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle, this race was inaugurated in 1971 and named in honour of the developer who bought Prestbury Park back in 1898, then organised the very first Cheltenham Festival in 1902. Open to four-year-olds and upwards, and champion jockey Ruby Walsh enjoyed four winners in the past, all of which were trained by legendary Irishman, Willie Mullins.
Although Walsh has now retired, Mullins will once again be hoping for success in this race and has several runners. However, French-bred Envoi Allen trained by Gordon Elliott is the strong tip this year, thanks to unbeaten winning form in every race between February 2018 and January 2020; including the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham last year.
RSA Insurance Novices’ Steeple Chase
Held since 1946, this is a challenging novice chase over three miles and thirteen fences in which stamina is everything, open to five-year-olds and upwards. Pat Taafe holds the record for wins as a jockey with five between 1953 and 1970, while Fulke Walwyin (1948 to 1957) and Willie Mullins (1998 to present) jointly hold the leading trainer records for this race.
This race has also earned a reputation for producing future Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, given that numerous winners to subsequently achieve that feat. The most recent example was 2013 Novices’ Steeple Chase victor Lord Windermere, who then went on to triumph spectacularly at the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup, landing the most prestigious National Hunt title of them all.
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
As such a great admirer of horse racing and with a particular fondness for National Hunt races, it’s only fitting the Queen Mother should have such a prestigious event as this named in her honour. As an owner, unfortunately, Her Majesty never boasted any winners in this race, although she did come close with a runner-up named Game Spirit in 1976.
Considered to be the leading minimum-distance race in the National Hunt calendar, this is undoubtedly the feature race during Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival and in 2019, Altior was the winner for a second year running. According to the latest Cheltenham day 2 betting tips, Defi Du Seuil is highly fancied to be first past the winning post this year, which could land owner John P. McManus the lion’s share of the £400,000 purse.
The Weatherbys Champion Bumper
The Champion Bumper is regarded as the most highly esteemed race of its kind, with winners of this event at the Cheltenham Festival often going on to great National Hunt careers over obstacles. Although flat racing is an entirely different specialisation within horse racing, a “bumper” is a flat race which is run under jump racing rules, including the same starting conditions.
Despite most commonly attracting flat race jockeys for obvious reasons, legendary National Hunt jockey Ruby Walsh boasts the most wins with three. Likewise, all three were trained by Willie Mullins, who has an exceptional record of nine wins in total, including Relegate in 2018. He might have to wait for another, though, given that Israel Champ trained by David Pipe is the hot tip to win the 2020 Champion Bumper.