"Winning at Cheltenham...well, it just doesn't get much better than that" - Sir AP McCoy
(estimated 8 minute read time)
Taking place over four magnificent days in March, the Cheltenham Festival features some of the best jump racing in the world and has become known as “the Olympics” of horse racing. With a large variety of top-class races held over the four-day Festival, take a look at our guide into the race schedule for each day.*
*Please note race schedule is subject to change and this guide was based on the Cheltenham Festival 2023 race schedule.
Day 1: Champion Day (Tuesday)
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – 13.30
A race for novice hurdlers, often featuring young and promising horses. It is a Grade 1 race and open to horses aged four years or older. It is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham over 2 miles and ½ furlong (2 miles and 87 yards, or 3,298 metres), and horses must navigate eight hurdles during the race.
Arkle Challenge Trophy – 14.10
A race for novice chasers, typically featuring the best young steeplechasers. It is the premier race during the jumps season for the speedier novice chasers as it is run over the minimum trip of 2 miles with 13 fences to be jumped. As a result, this Grade 1 presents a fierce test of accurate jumping at speed.
Ultima Handicap Chase – 14.50
A handicap steeplechase where horses carry different weights. Open to horses aged five years or older, it is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham over approx. 3 miles and 1 furlong (5,029 metres), with 20 fences to be jumped. Such is the gruelling nature of this race, winners are often selected to race in The Grand National, although not always in the same year.
Unibet Champion Hurdle – 15.30
One of the most prestigious hurdle races in the world, featuring elite hurdlers aged four years or older. The Unibet Champion Hurdle, the feature Grade 1 race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival, is the championship contest for 2-mile hurdlers and has been won by some of the greatest hurdlers of all time including Istabraq, Honeysuckle, and Constitution Hill.
Mares’ Hurdle – 16.10
The Mares’ Hurdle is a Grade 1 race, restricted to mares only. It is a relatively new addition to the meeting, having first been staged in 2008. It is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham over approx. 2 miles with 10 hurdles to be navigated.
The Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – 16.50
A Grade 3 handicap hurdle restricted to four-year-old juvenile hurdlers. Run over just 2 miles with only eight hurdles to jump, it provides trainers with an alternative to the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle, the other race at the Cheltenham Festival restricted to four-year-old hurdlers.
National Hunt Chase – 17.30
A novice Grade 2 chase for amateur riders over 3 miles and 6 furlongs with 23 fences to be jumped. Up until 2019 it was run over 4 miles, but the distance was reduced due to welfare concerns after 2020’s race, in which only four of the 18 runners completed.
Day 2: Ladies Day (Wednesday)
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – 13.30
A race for novice hurdlers over an extended distance. It is the premier race during the National Hunt racing season for novice hurdlers over the trip of 2 miles and 5 furlongs. It is a launchpad for top-class hurdlers and has been won by the likes of Istabraq, Hardy Eustace and Faugheen, all of whom went on to win the Champion Hurdle the following season.
Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – 14.10
A highly prestigious race for novice chasers over a longer distance. It is the novices’ equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and several winners have gone on to triumph in the Gold Cup itself in later years, including most recently Denman, Bobs Worth and Lord Windermere.
Coral Cup Hurdle – 14.50
Introduced to the Cheltenham Festival in 1993, it is one of the most competitive handicaps of the week and often turns into a dash for the line with multiple potential winners. Run over distance of 2 miles 5 furlongs with 10 fences to jump and a maximum field of 26, it is one of the most fiercely competitive betting heats of the festival.
Champion Chase – 15.30
Known fondly as the Queen Mother Champion Chase, this is one of four championship races held at the festival and is the most prestigious race in the National Hunt season for two-mile chasers. Open only to horses over the age of five and run on a track just under 2 miles with thirteen fences, the Champion Chase is often a thrilling race. Recent legends of this race include Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre and Altior.
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase – 16.10
A unique race over a variety of obstacles and terrain, open to horses aged five and older. At a distance of 3 miles 6 furlongs with 32 obstacles to be cleared, Cheltenham’s Cross-Country provides a stern test for both horse and rider. It is a one-of-a-kind race and was added to the festival schedule in 2005.
Grand Annual Chase – 16.50
Run on the Old Course over a distance of 2 miles with 14 fences to be jumped, this is a Premier Handicap race which is often run as a fierce gallop.
Champion Bumper – 17.30
Regarded as the most prestigious flat race in the National Hunt calendar, it is the only race of the Cheltenham Festival where no obstacles are jumped. It is for horses who are yet to begin their jumping careers and has been the starting point for many top-class hurdlers and chasers.
Day 3: St. Patrick’s Thursday
Turners Novices’ Chase – 13.30
It is one of three Grade 1 novice chases at the meeting and attracts runners who are best over the intermediary distance of 2 mile 4 furlongs. Established in 2011 and run on the New Course at Cheltenham, the Novices’ Chase features 11 fences to be navigated.
Pertemps Network Final – 14.10
Run on the New Course over a distance of 3 miles, this race serves as the final for the 21 long-distance qualifying races that are run throughout the jumps season prior to the festival. The race has been something of a stepping stone for younger horses who go on to greater achievements over fences.
Ryanair Chase – 14.50
Added to the festival schedule in 2005, the Ryanair Chase is a Grade 1 National Hunt steeplechase which is open to horses aged five years or older. Run over a distance of 2 miles 5 furlongs, it is the feature race on day three of the festival and represents the championship contest for chasers whose optimum trip falls between that of the Champion Chase and Gold Cup.
Stayers’ Hurdle – 15.30
A Grade 1 hurdle race run over 3 miles with 12 hurdles, it is the championship contest for long-distance hurdlers and has been won by some of the best hurdlers in the history of jump racing including Thistlecrack and Big Buck’s.
Magners Plate – 16.10
A Premier Handicap National Hunt steeplechase open to horses aged 5 years or older. With 14 fences and a 2-mile 4-furlong track on the New Course to navigate, it is often a springboard to greater achievements.
Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – 16.50
Open to just fillies and mares aged 4 years and older, it is run on the New Course at Cheltenham. First run in 2016, this race is run at slightly over 2 miles with 8 hurdles to be jumped.
Kim Muir Handicap Chase – 17.30
Restricted to just amateur jockeys, this is a long-distance handicap chase run over 3 miles and 2 furlongs. Named after a cavalry soldier who tragically lost his life fighting in WWII, the Kim Muir Handicap Chase is always the final race on day three of the festival.
Day 4: Gold Cup Day (Friday)
Triumph Hurdle – 13.30
Restricted to four-year-old juvenile hurdlers, this Grade 1 hurdle race is the most prestigious race in the National Hunt season for horses who fall into this category. Run over a distance of 2 miles and 1 furlong, the Triumph Hurdle has produced future champions such as Tiger Roll.
County Handicap Hurdle – 14.10
A fiercely competitive Premier Handicap hurdle run over 2 miles 1 furlong, it is run on the New Course and features only eight hurdles to be jumped. Until a change to the running order in 2009, this was traditionally the final race of the festival.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – 14.50
A Grade 1 race, often referred to as the ultimate test for the very best long-distance novice hurdlers, being run over 3 miles and with 12 hurdles to jump. After a change in the rules in 2023, only horses aged 5 or older are allowed in this race.
Cheltenham Gold Cup – 15.30
The highlight of the festival, The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious contest in jump racing and has been won by some of the greatest horses in the history of the sport. It is a Grade 1 chase providing the highlight of the four-day Cheltenham Festival and, with prize-money of £625,000, is the most valuable jumps race in Britain and Ireland after the Grand National. The Gold Cup represents the ultimate challenge for the very best staying chasers, with 22 fences to be jumped during the relentless 3 miles 2½ furlongs, and a punishing finish up the famous Cheltenham hill. Among the greats to have won the race are Golden Miller, Mill House, Arkle, Best Mate and Kauto Star.
St.James’ Place Hunters’ Chase – 16.10
Run over the same course and distance as the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it is restricted to amateur jockeys only. For this reason, it is often referred to as the amateurs’ Gold Cup. Qualification for entry in the Festival Hunter Chase is based on a horse’s previous performances within a specific period.
Mares’ Chase – 16.50
Run for the first time in 2021, this is one of the newest races to feature in the festival and is run over 2 miles 4.5 furlongs with 17 fences to be jumped.
The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle – 17.30
Established in 2009 and named in honour of Martin Pipe – a 15-time champion trainer who retired in 2006 with 34 victories at the festival. As the title suggests, it is open only to conditional jockeys – professional riders who are still at the start of their careers.