The Cheltenham Festival
In horseracing and betting terms, the Cheltenham Festival is beyond compare in the hearts and minds of punters.
It might not get as much prize money as the Grand National meeting and the classic flat race meetings might be attended by princes and rajahs, but Cheltenham in March has no equal for many horseracing fans.
Racing at the Cheltenham Festival
Nearly half the UK’s National Hunt Grade One races take place over the four days of the Cheltenham Festival, including the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the world-famous Cheltenham Gold Cup. Betting on the festival’s races runs into the hundreds of millions of pounds, such is its popularity with British and Irish punters – many of whom descend on Gloucestershire in their tens of thousands to catch a glimpse of the action – and when the Cheltenham Festival was cancelled because of foot and mouth disease in 2001 turnover slumped at the two nations’ bookmakers.
Part of the festival’s appeal, though, is that many of its races are won by favourites; the long uphill ride to the Cheltenham winning post having a way of sorting the champion horses from the also-rans. It was at the Cheltenham Festival that horses like Arkle, Golden Miller, Best Mate and Desert Orchid entered into legend with their bookie-beating performances.
The competitive nature of the racing and the volumes of money being bet also has a habit of forcing prices up, with bookies competing to offer the best odds to their customers.
Cheltenham Festival top jockey
As well as bets being struck on the Cheltenham Festival races, the festival sees a lively contest on who will be the top jockey.
Tony McCoy and Mick Fitzgerald frequently rode the most winners in the 1990s, although Ruby Walsh has been the man to bet on in recent years. Walsh had the most wins in the 2004, 2006 and 2008 Cheltenham Festivals.