The Cheltenham Festival needs little introduction, and the majority of UK punters will have been keeping an eye on all the action across the winter months to gain clues for the four-day spectacular at Prestbury Park Racecourse. However, it’s also a festival that attracts casual fans and punters, many of whom will not have followed the big stories in the lead-up to Cheltenham 2020.
In light of the above, we are going to set out a brief-but-condensed guide to all you need to know about the 2020 Festival. Let’s Dive In:
Who, What, Where and When?
The four-day national hunt meeting takes place from 10th-13th March, with seven races held each day. 14 of the 28 races are Grade 1 events, and each day will see a feature race at 3.30 pm. Those feature races are the Champion Hurdle (10th March), Champion Chase (11th), Stayers’ Hurdle (12th) and, of course, the Cheltenham Gold Cup (13th).
What Are the Big Stories Heading Into Cheltenham?
As ever, several narratives are causing a stir in the lead up to the festival, but the biggest stories are as follows: Altior (2/1) faces some tough competition from Defi Du Seuil (9/4) and Chacun Pour Soi (11/4, odds sourced from Betfair) as he attempts to make it a hat-trick of victories in the Champion Chase; elsewhere, the form of Tiger Roll will be scrutinised ahead of his Grand National date, and he’s currently even money for the Cross Country Chase; Faugheen has made a late career revival as a chaser, with the 12yo a tempting 8/1 (William Hill) for the Marsh Novices’ Chase. Keep an eye too on the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Envoi Allen (11/8) looks like a future superstar.
The biggest race of the festival looks like a thriller this year, and we could make a case for several horses. The money is flying in for Santini, however, and he leads the betting markets with last year’s winner Al Boum Photo at 4/1. This is by no means a two-horse race, though, and the state of the ground on the day could be crucial.
We have mentioned Envoi Allen and Tiger Roll, but Benies Des Dieux (4/5 Mares’ Hurdle) and Paisley Park (8/11 for Stayers’ Hurdle) are considered locks. The odds can usually be beefed up with bookies’ promotions, so check out the pre-Cheltenham festival offers analysed by thebookiesoffers.co.uk before you part with your money.
Any News Beyond the Races?
Sure. There was a fall out at last year’s festival due to riders not pulling up horses, and the use of the whip is always under intense scrutiny. These issues will be raised at Cheltenham again due to the high-profile nature of the event. Also, and let’s hope this really does not happen; there are fears that coronavirus could impact the festival. It’s unlikely, of course, but one should not rule it out.
Tickets and Hospitality
Tickets are still readily available through The Jockey Club, and you are looking at something around £40 for a standard ticket and anything over £100 for a corporate ticket. Cheltenham is a very small town, however, so hotels tend to book out very quickly. Bristol and Birmingham, both of which have excellent transport links to Cheltenham, are good alternatives for lodging.
And One Last Thing
This will be the first Cheltenham Festival in an age that won’t feature the legendary jockey, Ruby Walsh, in the saddle. The Irishman retired last year after a string of record-breaking performances at Cheltenham across the last two decades. He has started a new career as a pundit, and he has proven himself to be insightful and erudite. If you are having a flutter, especially on any Irish horses, Walsh is very much worth listening to before you bet.