A Quick Guide to Cheltenham Festival 2023

We’re all a little bit excited about the arrival of Cheltenham 2023 – one of the biggest and best racing events on the calendar. However, if you don’t know much about horse racing and are new to this kind of event, then fear not – we have put together this quick guide of all you need to know to get started…


Dress Code

If you are heading over for some actual real-life action, then you may want to dress the part. Although there isn’t an official dress code for the festival, this is certainly a dress-to-impress kind of event. Most women will be wearing bright-coloured dresses, hats and heels, whereas men will likely be suited and booted. But don’t forget to dress for the weather… We live in Britain and it can be very unpredictable!

Betting at Cheltenham

One of the best parts about Cheltenham, whether you watch it from home or have a track-side seat, is all the betting action. It is no wonder that millions of pounds are spent betting on the assortment of races over the four festival days. There are hugely generous Cheltenham betting offers available such as boosted odds, extra place deals and all sorts. You’ll also find plenty of expert tips up for grabs. If you’re new to horse racing betting, this is the time to get started.

The Major Races

There are 7 races per day over the four days, meaning 28 races in total. If you want to cherry-pick the ones you want to watch or bet on, here are the key races…

Tuesday at 15.30: Champion Hurdle

The big race of the first day is the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy. This is run over 2 miles and ½ a furlong. It is race number four – right in the heart of the day’s action and has produced some very famous winners including two-time champion Buveur d’Air, who won in both 2017 and 2018.


Trainers to look out for this year include 4-time winners Wille Mullins and Nicky Henderson. You may also want to look for horses owned by JP McManus – who has produced 5 winners in the last 10 years – including the last 3 winners.


Wednesday at 15.30: Queen Mother Chase

Heading into day 2 we have the Queen Mother Champion Steeplechase, run over 2 miles. Again, this is right in the middle of the day’s action and offers the biggest purse – of £400,000. In the last few years, it has been dominated by two-time champion, Altior.


In terms of betting, one trainer you may want to look out for is Nicky Henderson who has trained 5 of the past 10 winners… including 3 of the last 4 winners. Other names worth checking out include Paul Nicholls and Henry de Bromhead who also have decent track records in this event.


Thursday at 15.30: The Stayers’ Hurdle

On day 3, there are two big races – the Ryanair Steeplechase at 14:50 being a good one. However, the biggest race of the day is the 3-mile-long Stayers’ Hurdle at 15:30. This race has brought us some of the sport’s most legendary horses – such as Big Bucks who won it four years consecutively between 2009 and 2012. No one has matched this record ever since.


The most successful trainer in recent years is Wille Mullins, who won it in 2017 and 2018, with different jockeys, horses and owners.


Friday at 15.30: The Cheltenham Gold Cup

This is just the biggest race of the day, this is the biggest race of the festival… the pinnacle of four days of racing. As such, it has the biggest purse – £625,000 and this is the race every trainer and jockey wants to win. There is only one trainer who has won it more than once in the past decade and that’s Nicky Henderson. Willie Mullins has won it just once with the 7-year-old runner Al Boum Photo.


There are no dominant horses, owners, jockeys or trainers – this is all about the best on the day… which makes it the best race of the festival and some even argue, the best of the year.

Melbourne Cup vs. Cox Plate: Which Would You Choose For Your Star Horse?

Ask any casual racing fan to name the most prestigious horse racing event in Australia, and they’d almost certainly say the Melbourne Cup. And with good reason, too, as it’s not just the most famous racing event from Australia – it is one of the world’s greatest sporting and cultural events.

But the showcase at the most famous Australian horse racing racecourse, Flemington Park, does have competition from other events. These include the new super-rich events like The Everest, which carries one of the world’s largest racing purses.

And yet, there is also some debate as to whether the W.S. Cox Plate is the superior race. Yes, the Melbourne Cup is the one that brings the nation together, and the one that gets all the international attention. But for racing purists, and that means many trainers and jockeys, the one they want to win is the Cox Plate.

Both races steeped in history

The Cox Plate is in its 100th year in 2022, whereas the Melbourne Cup has been held since 1861. So, it’s fair to say that both races are steeped in history. Both offer huge financial incentives to owners, but the Melbourne Cup has the bigger purse at $AUD 8 million, whereas the Cox Plate offers $AUD 5 million (still a huge amount).

Nonetheless, we aren’t talking about history, money, or even prestige here, it’s more about the mechanics of the race. And some feel that the slog of the big handicaps like the Melbourne Cup becomes something like a war of attrition, not necessarily rewarding the best horse in the race due to the handicap system.

In contrast, the Cox Plate, with its shorter distance and ‘weight for age’ system is more of a fair system in the eyes of some racing fans. Horses will carry some weight because of their age, but it’s not like the handicap system where the best horses are punished to carry the most weight due to their perceived excellence. The Cox Plate has a better record of favourites winning, and it’s clear punters enjoy that element.

Everyone will have their personal favourite

Of course, some of this comes down to the question of handicaps versus other races. Detractors believe that forcing the best horses to carry heavier weights is the equivalent of asking a Real Madrid to play a football match with nine men against a team of 11 just because the Spanish team has had more success. Proponents of handicaps, however, believe that it’s simply part of the contest. Indeed, many punters enjoy their battle of wits against the handicapper.

We might ask – why not try to win both the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup? Despite the close proximity of the two race dates, it has been done in the past – seven times, in fact. Most recently, the double has been achieved by Makybe Diva (2005).

But the demands of modern racing – and welfare concerns – mean that fewer elite horses are trying to achieve the double. Verry Elleegant entered both in 2021, coming 3rd in the Cox Plate and winning the Melbourne Cup. So it is still very possible.

It’s always going to be a subjective opinion to say one is better than the other. And every jockey, trainer, owner and, indeed, punter is going to have their favourite. Maybe it’s the Melbourne Cup or the Cox Plate; perhaps it’s the All-Star Mile or the Caulfield Cup. Racing is a broad church, consisting of multiple disciplines; claiming one is the best is akin to claiming there is a best Olympic sport. And any horse with a Cox Plate or Melbourne Cup on its resume is going to be a special horse indeed – regardless of which one they win.

The Grand National versus the Cheltenham Gold Cup – Where Do You Stand?

Over March and April each year the two most significant races in the National Hunt calendar take place, namely the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National.

The Grand National alone takes around £300m in bets each year and it is estimated that the Cheltenham festival (which includes the Gold Cup as it’s feature race) hits the £500m. The prize money alone for the two races is over £1.6 million. Take a look at the best betting offers for the Aintree Grand National so you can have a punt yourself.

There is one sure-fire way to tell the difference between a horse racing aficionado and someone who is not (without possessing some kind of Derren Brown style extrasensory perception) – ask them which of these two races they like the most.

A purist of the Sport of Kings is far more likely to opt for the Gold Cup, the person on the street will just as likely gravitate towards the National.

Why is this though?

As somebody who has been passionately following horse racing for almost half a century, I will try to explain the psychology!

The Grand National – A Quick Synopsis

There is no doubt that the Grand National is a grand spectacle. When I watch the 40 horses start the gallop towards that first fence each year at Aintree, I must admit that it never once fails to give me goosebumps.

It’s a steeplechase marathon, which is always full of stories behind the contenders that are waiting to be etched into history forever.  Additionally, the actual race itself is very rarely uneventful.

It’s a national institution, a long running staple of not only the sporting calendar, (it attracts a sizable worldwide audience) but it is a quintessential part of British life itself. So much so, that if Dame Judy Dench or Sir Trevor McDonald embodied a horse race, it would probably be this one.

However, it is also a handicap. So, what, you say? Well, it means it has a mixed bunch of entrants with varying ability and that the best horse probably doesn’t come out on top that often (there are notable exceptions) as they all carry different weights around on their back. The perceived poorer horses are required to carry less of a burden around the track to even out this inferiority (some in fact carry nearly 2 stone less than others).

No other horse has become as synonymous with this race as Red Rum.  Between 1973 – 1977, the slightly framed gelding won it no less than 3 times and was runner-up twice. Over the years his name and achievements have deservedly transcended the sport of horse racing.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup – A Quick Synopsis

The Cheltenham Gold Cup meanwhile, is a race which usually attracts around 15 entrants and each and every horse is treated equally.

It’s a championship Grade 1 race, so there is no hiding place – these are the big boys (and girls).

It’s simply the cream of long-distance chasers competing against each other over a thoroughly relentless and unforgiving 3 miles and 2 furlongs. The Cheltenham course is the ultimate challenge, a supreme test of jumping skill, speed and stamina.

Furthermore, some of the greatest names in horse racing history have competed and won (think about Arkle, Golden Miller and more recently the Denman and Kauto Star rivalry making the front pages of the newspapers.)  They may not be as widespread household names as ‘Rummy’, but they have each made their own indelible marks.

It is often cited as the ‘blue riband’ event of National Hunt racing. So, the human equivalent of the Gold Cup would be Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson or maybe Novak Djokovic.

It also benefits from being part of the Cheltenham festival, where, over the course of 4 days many of the Championship races are run. It is what all of the trainers in the business gear up for during the course of the entire season (all roads lead to Cheltenham).

The Grand National does have an undercard featuring some top-quality racing, but it is not at the same level or prestige as its Cheltenham counterpart.

Concluding thoughts…

Those who follow horse racing and appreciate the very best competing against each other would naturally gravitate to the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Grand National being an entertaining distraction for them from the endless ups and downs of the jumps season.

On the other hand, the casuals who are more inclined to bet once a year are drawn into the theatre and occasion of a one-off long-distance race featuring a cast of many. They are not too concerned with the fact that some of the competitors are given more favourable conditions than others or that they are not observing a group entirely made of the finest equine specimens that racing has to offer.

The truth is that each showpiece has its place in our hearts and minds, and long may this continue.



Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Cheltenham Gold Cup, run over 3 miles 2½ furlongs and 22 notoriously stiff fences on the New Course at Prestbury Park, is the most valuable conditions, or non-handicap, chase in the British National Hunt calendar, offering £625,000 in prize money. The race was created, in its current guise, by Frederick Cathcart, Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham Racecourse, in 1924. The inaugural running, which was captured by British Pathé News, was won by Red Splash, trained by Major Humphrey Wyndham and ridden by Dick Rees. Interestingly, the original Gold Cup trophy was returned to Cheltenham Racecourse in 2018 and, mounted on a plinth bearing the names of all the winners in the intervening years, is now presented to the winner as a perpetual trophy.


The Cheltenham Gold Cup was transferred from the Old Course to the New Course in 1959 and, in the modern era, has been won by some of the finest steeplechasers in history. Arguably the finest of them all, Arkle, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years running in 1964, 1965 and 1966, completing his hat-trick at prohibitive odds of 1/10, making him the shortest-priced winner ever. The only horse since to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in three consecutive years was Best Mate in 2002, 2003 and 2004, but the roll of honour includes such luminaries as Dawn Run, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star, to name but a few.


In 1983, Yorkshire trainer Michael Dickinson entered the Guinness Book of World Records, not for the first time, by saddling the first five home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In order, his so-called ‘Famous Five’ were Bregawn, Captain John, Wayward Lad, Silver Buck and Ashley House. Other notable winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup include Norton’s Coin, a completely unconsidered 100/1 outsider trained by Carmarthenshire permit holder Sirrell Griffiths, in 1990, Long Run, who set the current course record of 6 minutes 29.5 seconds, in 2011 and, more recently, Al Boum Photo, who provided perennial Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins with his first winner, after six previous runner-up finishes, in 2019.

Goodwood Festival

The Goodwood Festival, traditionally known as ‘Glorious Goodwood’, is a five-day horse racing meeting that is staged annually at Goodwood Racecourse in late July and early August. Situated high on the Sussex Downs, on the southern edge of the South Downs, five miles north of Chichester, Goodwood has been described as ‘the most beautiful racecourse in the world’.


Horse racing was introduced to Goodwood by Charles Lennox, Third Duke of Richmond, in 1802. The initial two-day meeting, staged on a course known as ‘The Harroway’ on the Goodwood Estate, served as a replacement for the annual fixture held by officers of the Sussex Militia at nearby Petworth Park. A more ambitious, three-day fixture, held under Jockey Club Rules followed in 1803 and, in 1814, the fixture was moved to July, where it has remained ever since.


Notwithstanding the suspension of horse racing and the closure of Goodwood Racecourse for the duration of World War II, the Goodwood Festival continued to evolve and increase in popularity for the next two centuries or more. Nowadays, it is one of the highlights of the British racing calendar.

The modern Goodwood Festival features a total of 13 Group, or Pattern, races, of which three – the Sussex Stakes, the Goodwood Cup and the Nassau Stakes – are at the highest, Group One level and form part of the British Champions Series.


The Sussex Stakes, run over a mile, is the feature race on day two and, in fact, the most valuable race of the week, with £1 million in prize money. The Goodwood Cup, run over two miles, is the feature race on day three and, in 2017, was promoted to Group One status, with a corresponding increase in prize money to £500,000. The Nassau Stakes, run over a mile-and-quarter, is the feature race of the fifth, and final day, with £600,000 in prize money. The undisputed betting highlight of the final day, though, is the Stewards’ Cup, a historic handicap run over six furlongs on one of the fastest sprint courses in the country and worth £250,000 in prize money.

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