A beginner’s guide to Cheltenham 2019: Everything you need to know
If there’s one thing everyone knows about the Cheltenham Festival, it’s that you don’t need to be a horse racing aficionado to get swept up in one of the key sporting events of the year.
Between Tuesday and Friday, March 12 to 15, the eyes of the racing community in Ireland, England and beyond will focus on a Gloucestershire town and the most prestigious festival that the sport has to offer.
Cheltenham, which takes place at the famous Prestbury Park, is like Christmas for both racing enthusiasts and casual punters alike.
However, what about those of you planning to jump (pun intended) on the bandwagon for the first time this year? Look no further - we’ve got you covered.
How do I place a bet?
If you’re new to having a flutter, it’s not too complicated. Betting odds are based on the probability of an event happening and help the punter to work out how much they’ll win if their horse wins a race.
Placing a stake of €10 on a 5/1 shot will bring home winnings of €50 if your horse is first past the post, plus your initial stake. This is known as a single.
If you place an each-way bet, you’re betting on your horse not only to win but also to ‘place’. Depending on the race in question, a ‘place’ can be paid out up to fifth place so you can still get something if your horse doesn’t win. You’ll get a fraction of those 5/1 odds if your horse places, so your best bet in this case is to go for an outsider with higher odds.
What makes the Cheltenham Festival so special?
It’s a festival like no other, and it’s known as ‘the home of jump racing’ for a reason. It’s tense, it’s dramatic, and it takes place on one of the toughest courses of them all.
The biggest stables are all represented and this is the biggest stage for horse racing’s elite, with 13 Grade 1 races taking place over the four days.
What are the key races?
Tuesday starts with a bang at 1.30pm with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but the big one on Champion Day – as it’s known – is the Champion Hurdle at 3.30pm. Winner of this particular race for the last two years has been Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’Air, who will return this year to defend his crown.
Day two on Wednesday, March 13, is known as Ladies Day, and it features one of the most exhilarating races of the week in the form of the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
It’s all about those Grade One races at Cheltenham, particularly for the casual fans furtively keeping an eye on proceedings from their office desks. Thursday – known as St. Patrick’s Thursday – brings two absolute crackers in the form of the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Friday, March 15, brings the big one.
Gold Cup Day has given us some hugely iconic moments as the very greatest racehorses in history race up that famous, gruelling hill to grab the biggest trophy of them all – the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It starts at 3.30pm.
It’s going to be quite a week, with 28 races in total across the four days.
Who’s the jockey to watch?
Our own Ruby Walsh.
Still only 39-years-old, the Kildare jockey has amassed a stunning 58 wins at the festival over the course of his illustrious career. Ruby missed a portion of last year’s Cheltenham through injury but is now fighting fit and determined to add to his immense record tally.
Walsh, whose father Ted is one of the sport’s leading trainers, has been the leading jockey at the festival on 11 separate occasions, and twice won the Gold Cup aboard the legendary Kauto Star in 2007 and 2009.
Name one horse to look out for
In a word, Altior.
Nicky Henderson’s wonderhorse has won his last 18 races and is extremely well-fancied in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Ladies Day. Altior is aiming to win this particular race for the second year in a row and, while there are no sure things in racing, is going in as a red-hot favourite.
How can I watch it on TV?
The entire festival will be covered by Virgin Media Sport in Ireland.
Fancy a flutter at this year’s Cheltenham? Betway are giving you a chance to heed your hunch with money back as a free bet if you lose. It’s available on the first and last race every day at Cheltenham.
For more information, check out the Betway website.
Please gamble responsibly.