The Cheltenham Festival 2021

Dubbed the 'greatest show on turf', the Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest betting events in sport, and takes place across four days in mid-March each year. The Festival is one of the very few horse racing events which truly breaks into the sporting mainstream, and is perhaps only second to the Grand National at Aintree a month later in terms of prestige. 

The Festival holds 28 National Hunt races across four days, traditionally between Tuesday and Friday, with no less than 14 Grade 1 contests during that time, and usually ties in with the St Patrick's Day celebrations in Ireland. It is one of the biggest betting events of the entire sporting year, and you can view the latest Cheltenham odds here.

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Each of the four days of the Cheltenham Festival is headlined by either one or two Championship races, which consist of the Champion Hurdle (Tuesday), the Queen Mother Champion Chase (Wednesday), the Stayers' Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase (Thursday), before culminating in the headline race of the entire week, Friday's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The races at the Festival are so valuable and prestigious that plans are hatched months and even years in advance of certain races, and owners have been known to purchase horses with the specific aim of achieving a winner at the festival. 

The Festival is so popular that it was extended to four days in 2005, with several races added to the line-up, and the change has been so popular that there have been plenty of calls to extend they event further, by creating a fifth day on the Saturday - which in theory could be headlined by one of the two Championship races on the Thursday - either the Stayers' Hurdle or the Ryanair Chase. 

What happened at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival

A spectacular 2020 Cheltenham Festival kicked off with a vintage renewal of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle where Shishkin outbattled Abacadabras to claim victory in the curtain-raiser. Put The Kettle On was a shock winner of the Arkle, but the Champion Hurdle went to form as Nicky Henderson's Epatante was a class above her rivals, as she stormed to glory in the opening day showpiece. Another epic finish took place in the Mares' Hurdle as an inspired ride from Rachael Blackmore saw her pilot Honeysuckle to victory over red-hot favourite Benie Des Dieux in one of the finest renewals of the Mares' Hurdle.

One of the most talked about horses heading into the festival lit up day two as the Gordon Elliott-trained Envoi Allen steamrollered his rivals to claim an impressive win in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle. Barry Geraghty, who had a sensational week at Prestbury Park, produced one of the rides of the week on board Champ, who scooted home to claim a last gasp victory in the RSA Chase, while the thrills and spills continued in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. With Altior and Chacun Pour Soi both ruled out of the 2m Championship event, short odds-on jolly Defi Du Seuil was set to dominate. However, Politologue sparkled under a fine front-running ride from Harry Skelton to hand Paul Nicholls another win in the race. There was another shock in the Cross Country Chase as multiple Cheltenham Festival winner Tiger Roll could only finish second as French star Easysland claimed the win.

A hotly-anticipated renewal of the Marsh Novices' Chase started off Thursday's action and it didn't disappoint as Samcro outbattled the Willie Mullins-trained Melon and Faugheen, but the Closutton team of Mullins managed to taste victory later in the afternoon with Min winning the Ryanair Chase with aplomb. Another shock in a Championship race took place in the Stayers' Hurdle as 2019 champion Paisley Park flopped and it was the Rebecca Curtis-trained Lisnagar Oscar, who defied his 50/1 odds to land a surprise Grade 1 win,

The final day kicked off the with the biggest hard luck story of the week as when pulling more than ten lengths clear of his rivals, Gary Moore's Goshen fell at the last flight of the Triumph Hurdle, which left the door open to Burning Victory to collect the pieces and win the juvenile event. Yet again, though, the blue riband event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, went the way of Al Boum Photo, who became the first horse since Best Mate to win back-to-back renewals of the Cheltenham Festival showpiece, as the favourite fended off a late surge from the well-fancied Santini in one of the finest races in the last decade.

Picking a Winner 

Although all 28 races at the festival are tremendous spectacles in their own right, it's always nice to back the winner to boot, and punters up and down the country enjoy a flutter on the racing during the week. Of course, picking a winner is easier said than done, but previous form can play a strong part in finding the right horse to put a bet on, particularly when it comes to the five Championship races.

For instance, there are several races which serve as key indicators for the Gold Cup, including the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the Betfair Chase at Haydock, the King George VI Chase at Kempton, and the Denman Chase at Newbury to name just a few. Horses who tend to perform well in these races go on to perform well in the Gold Cup, and scrutinising the form book is essential. 

 We'll be previewing the festival in-depth on HorseRacing.net, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled on the site for the latest Cheltenham Tips.

2021 Horses to watch out for

The beauty of National Hunt racing is that the stars of the show have longer careers than those who run on the Flat, meaning that they return to the festival over several seasons, and build a real rapport with those who follow the sport. 

As such, it will be worth keeping an eye on some of the Grade 1 winners from 2020, including the Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Shishkin, who has the luxury of either becoming a key Champion Hurdle contender by staying over timber, or he could go novice chasing - and would almost certainly be one to follow with the Arkle Trophy in mind. 

Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante could look to retain her crown in 2021, while the Champion Chase will be fascinating following Politologue's shock win in the 2020 renewal. Paisley Park is likely to try and win back his Stayers' Hurdle crown, while could Al Boum Photo emulate Best Mate's heroics by winning three Cheltenham Gold Cups on the bounce? You can find the latest Cheltenham runners and racecards here. 

Compare Cheltenham betting offers

The festival is one of the biggest betting events of the entire year, so it is no surprise that bookmakers will pull out all the stops to attract punters to them with enticing sign up offers. Firms will offer extra on the more competitive races at the Festival to punters, such as the notoriously tricky Coral Cup, while some of the shorter-priced runners are usually available at enhanced prices, particularly in the Championship races. It's difficult to keep up with all of the Cheltenham free bets & offers at the best of times, so keep your eyes peeled on our dedicated hub on HorseRacing.net, where we will host all of the latest and best free bet offers and enhancements. 

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