The 2021 Cheltenham Festival will be a little different from its predecessors. Still, all the entrants are nevertheless ready to prove, once again, why this meeting is considered to be the pinnacle of the British jump racing season.
The Festival, as it has become known, consists of four days of premier hunt racing. Each day features seven races, with the events on the first two days run on the Old Course, while the second half is run on the New Course.
The race meeting features 14 Grade 1 events, headlined by the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which is run on the meeting’s final day. Every breeder, jockey, and trainer in attendance dream of winning at The Festival to secure their place among jump racing’s elite.
It is an enormously popular meeting with over 65 000 punters and race fans attending each day, many of whom are Irish because the Cheltenham Festival often coincides with Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations every year.
This has led to a fierce rivalry forming between racers and fans from Great Britain and Ireland, which was recognized in 2014 with the creation of the Prestbury Cup. The Festival is also well-known for the atmosphere created by the crowds in attendance, and the noise created as the starter gets ready to launch the first race of the event has come to be known as the “Cheltenham roar.”
However, things will be slightly different in 2021 after last year’s event was the final one on the race calendar before punters were prevented from attending mass gatherings due to health concerns. This situation will still be in effect for this year’s event, so, unfortunately, no fans will attend the venue.
But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, because, for the first time, British free-to-air television channel ITV will be broadcasting six of the seven races each day so you can watch almost the entire festival from the comfort of your own home.
The other significant change for the 2021 event is the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase will be run for the first time, in place of the 2m4f novice handicap chase, which moved to Sandown the week before the Festival.
The Gold Cup is the marquee event every year at the Cheltenham Festival and is run as the premier race on the final day of proceedings. Paul Townend comes into the 2021 Cheltenham Festival looking for a hat-trick of wins in the Gold Cup, having won the race riding Al Boum Photo in 2019 and 2020.
The dominant paring is odds on to win it again this year at 3/1 on most NJ betting sites. However, there is some potential value to be found among his competitors, with the likes of A Plus Tard (7/1) and Royale Pagaille (10/1) both looking in decent form ahead of the meeting.
Willie Mullins is a massive favorite (best price 1/3) to finish the meet as the top trainer. No person has trained more winners than Mullins in the Cheltenham Festival history (he has 72 winners). He has been the leading trainer seven times before, including the 2019 and 2020 consecutively. Not only that, but his horses dominated the Dublin Racing Festival in the lead-up to Cheltenham.
Townend is widely expected to finish the event as the top jockey (best price 2/5). He won the accolade in 2020 after riding five winners, including his second consecutive win in the Gold Cup. If he completes a hat-trick of Gold Cup victories, he is almost certain to pick up yet another top Jockey crown as well.
(Premier races bolded, race times in Eastern Standard Time)
08:20 The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Racecourse
08:55 The Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple
09:30 The Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase
10:05 The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy
10:40 The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle Racecourse
11:15 The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Racecourse
11:50 The National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
08:20 The Ballymore Novies’ Hurdle Racecourse
08:55 The Brown Advisory Novices’ Steeple Chase
09:30 The Coral Cup Hurdle
10:05 The Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple
10:40 The Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase
11:15 The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase Challenge Cup
11:50 The Weatherbys Champion Bumper
08:20 The Marsh Novices’ Chase
08:55 The Pertemps Network Final
09:30 The Ryanair Steeple Chase
10:05 The Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle
10:40 The Paddy Power Plate
11:15 The Mares Novices’ Hurdle
11:50 The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase
08:20 The JCB Triumph Hurdle
08:55 The Country Handicap Hurdle Race
09:30 The Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle Race
10:05 The WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase
10:40 The St James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunter’ Steeple Chase
11:15 The Mrs Paddy Power Mares Steeple Chase
11:50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle