All roads (and bridleways) lead to Cheltenham!

And they’re off! Jump racing’s showpiece event, the Cheltenham Festival, takes place over four days from 12-15 March, culminating, of course, in the Blue Riband race, the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase – regarded as the pinnacle of jump racing.
Cheltenham Festival 2019
We’ve compiled 15 amazing facts and figures about this historic sporting event.

  1. 1. Racing in Cheltenham was first recorded in 1815, when it was a flat race meeting held on Nottingham Hill.

  2. 2. By 1819, racing had moved to Cleeve Hill, which overlooks the current racecourse at Prestbury Park in the Cotswold Hills. Highlight of the 3-day meeting in August 1819 was the first ever Cheltenham Gold Cup.

  3. 3. That first Cheltenham Gold Cup was a three-mile flat race for three-year-olds – the winning horse was called Spectre.

  4. 4. The event attracted the ire of a prominent local clergyman, Rev Francis Close, who denounced racing as “evil” and was behind a disruption of the meeting in 1829 and an arson attack on the facilities in 1830!

  5. 5. Steeplechasing gradually replaced flat racing at Cheltenham and the Festival evolved out of the National Hunt Festival. The first Cheltenham Festival was staged at Prestbury Park in 1911.

  6. 6. In 1924, the Cheltenham Gold Cup as we know it today was run for the first time. It was won by a five-year-old called Red Splash.

  7. 7. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is competed by horses aged five years and over.

  8. 8. The Gold Cup race is just over 3.2 miles long – but it’s not the longest at the Festival. The historic National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase, the final race on the opening day, is over a 4-mile course.

  9. 9. Only seven horses have won the Gold Cup more than once, including the legendary Arkle (1964, 65, 66), Best Mate (2002,03, 04), L’Escargot (1970, 71) and Kauto Star – the only horse ever to regain the Gold Cup, winning in 2007 and 2009.

  10. 10. The fastest winning time is 6 minutes 29.7 seconds, set in 2011 by Long Run, ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen.

  11. 11. All three courses at Cheltenham are used during the Festival.

  12. 12. Over 200,000 people are expected to attend over the four days this year, with 65,000 or more packing the venue on Cheltenham Gold Cup day.

  13. 13. Prizemoney for the week totals around £5 million, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner taking home more than £350,000.

  14. 14. During the Festival, 200 tonnes of divot mix will be used to repair the course, together with 100 sacks of grass seed.

  15. 15. At the end of the Festival, there are around four million hoofprints on the racecourse (who counts them?!).

Everyone will be keeping their fingers crossed that the 2019 Festival passes with no harm to horse or rider. Last year, six horses died at the Festival, with a seventh having to be put down later as a result of injuries. Let’s hope this year’s event is remembered for all the right reasons.