The Cheltenham Festival is a National Hunt meeting that takes place over four days in March each year and is one of the highlights of the horse racing calendar. Each day has its own unique character and revolves around its own championship feature race.
To help you decide which day is best suited to you, we’ve put together this guide to the individual events and characteristics of each of the four days.
While the Gold Cup is billed as the most prestigious event of the Festival, it can be argued that as a whole opening day is the most exciting, with seven important races and the tangible air of anticipation as spectators await the opportunity to let go the famous ‘Cheltenham roar’ to cheer their selections on.
The day is bookended by two novice races – the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase. Each of these races acts as a showcase for up-and-coming young horses who may one day take the racing world by storm. There are plenty of opportunities for socialising on opening day, with many bars and restaurants on-site.
Day Two (Wednesday) – Ladies’ Day
Ladies’ Day at the Cheltenham Festival is one of the most stylish yet fun days in the entire racing calendar. Known for being slightly more colourful and extravagant than its Royal Ascot counterpart, Cheltenham Ladies’ Day is all about style and glamour.
Often attended by celebrities and even royalty, the feature race of Ladies’ Day is the Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase – the lady herself often attended throughout her life. Cheltenham has a reputation for being one of the most social festivals of the jumps racing season and Ladies’ Day is the highlight of the event in these terms
Day Three (Thursday) – St. Patrick’s Day
While Day Three of the Cheltenham Festival certainly does not always fall on St. Patrick’s Day, the honorary title is still bestowed to the Thursday. Highly popular with Irish visitors and the reason the Guinness Village was established, Day Three has an atmosphere all its own.
World-class racing is combined with live music and entertainment, and the social opportunities are tremendous. The day’s feature race is the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, where horses such as Big Buck’s and Baracouda have made names for themselves. The Ryanair Steeple Chase is also an important race, and is often seen as a stepping stone to the following day’s Gold Cup.
While every day at Cheltenham is special in its own right, the Friday sees the cream of the crop in terms of horses. Legends have been made here, from Arkle to Kauto Star, Golden Miller to Best Mate and more.
While this demanding race dominates the schedule, there is still plenty to see throughout the rest of the day. Annual members and club ticket holders can then finish off their festival in style with some live music in the Final Flight bar.
Whichever day you choose, excitement and some of the best racing in the world is practically guaranteed.