The Cheltenham roar will not be silenced

The Irish were probably the happiest, as usual. Though the 2020 Festival anticipated St. Patrick’s day a little bit, 20.000 of them flocked to the race course in Gloucestershire. They were not disappointed, as six Cork point-to-point graduates were in the winners’ enclosure at Prestbury Park. Now, this year’s festival is barely over, but the schedule for next year is already public, for the satisfaction of the users of, who were just whetting their appetite. 

Cheltenham Festival™, presented by Magners as the sponsor, will run from 16 – 19 March 2021.

Seven races are scheduled for each of the four Festival days. Featured races are as follows:

  • Day One, The Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy.
  • Day Two, The Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase (Grade 1).
  • Day Three, The Ryanair Steeple Chase (Grade 1) and The Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1).
  • Day Four, The Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase.

Before settling down in its permanent home in Prestbury Park, this glorious Festival, labelled as such for the first time in 1907 in the Warwick Advertiser, had changed its venue several times in half a century. Its roots are to be found in the National Hunt Chase, that was first held at Market Harborough in 1860. The initial title was Grand National Hunt Meeting and most often it was held at the Warwick Racecourse. The new course in Prestbury Park, Cheltenham, was used for this purpose in 1904 and 1905. There had been one previous occasion when the race was staged in Cheltenham, in its second season in 1861. Warwick took over again from 1906 to 1910, but then Messrs. Pratt and Company invested into a new stand (the fourth one) in Cheltenham.

Massive drainage of surrounding grounds was carried out, the enclosured were tar paved and the paddock extended to 35 saddling boxes. These major improvements convinced the National Hunt Committee that Prestbury Park was a suitable home for the Festival. A decision was made in this sense in 1911, the meeting returned to Cheltenham and has remained there to date.

The four-day format was introduced after 2005, with one championship race on each day. Five new races were introduces to ensure that each day would still have six races. Later on, that total was raised to seven. The top event is still the Gold Cup on the Friday, but the list of grade one events is impressive: Champion Bumper, Triumph Hurdle, Ryanair Chase, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, Arkle Challenge Trophy, RSA Chase, Champion Hurdle, World Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The Cheltenham Festival was simply to big a deal to be cancelled, so ahead it went, from March 10th  to March 13th , and saw the second consecutive victory of Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup. A crowd of 68,859 was present to cheer, only slightly less than the maximum capacity of 70.000. It has been estimated that over 250,000 people have visited the racecourse over the four days.

What the future holds remains to be seen…. So far, the only certain thing is that St. Patrick’s Day 2021 will fall on the second day of the Festival. He might be willing to grace it with his presence…

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