|Tuesday 6th February 2024
At The Post: What You'll Need to Be Ready for Cheltenham Festival
Some casual horse racing fans might mistakenly believe that the Grand National or the Royal Ascot are the big race meets that horse racing fans look out for in the calendar. While both events attract hundreds of thousands of people, there’s nothing like Cheltenham Festival, which brings people from all over the world to Gloucestershire for the week. As the first significant race meet of the year, and arguably the biggest, you can do a few things to ensure you’re ready to keep up to date with the action as it unfolds.
Understand The Schedule
Firstly, you must understand the schedule and key races to watch. Cheltenham is one of the most accessible races on UK television, and many betting apps will stream the races, too.
Of the 28 races at Cheltenham over the four days, exactly half are Grade 1 races, and the pinnacle of the whole event is the Gold Cup, which takes place on the final day. The Gold Cup sees the most betting action; for the sportsbooks, it is one of the busiest weeks in the calendar.
That’s not just our opinion either; horse racing guides of any credibility will rightly cite Cheltenham as one of the leading UK horse racing meets, if not the main.
More Variety At Cheltenham
Except for the Gold Cup, which is the most watched and gambled on event of the whole festival, other top races include the Champion Hurdle, the Stayers Hurdle, and the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Part of the allure of Cheltenham is the higher quality and consistency of races; for the purist, this is what matters most. While other meets might have individual races that trump most at Cheltenham, as an overall package, it is an extremely strong meet and challenges any in the UK or Ireland. While the Grand National might draw in the casuals far and wide, the higher consistency stretches across the four days of Cheltenham, and it’s been the setting for some of the most magical races of all time.
Although there are no official figures, sports betting companies and experts believe that over £1 billion in bets were placed over the four days at last year’s festival. It is the perfect start to the UK horse racing calendar, and it’s no surprise that over a quarter of a million people attend the track throughout the four days.
Check Out The Form
To prepare for this year’s festival, we would recommend taking some time to research the horses, jockeys, and stables that are tipped for big things. Even if you don’t place a bet, the races on their own can be exhilarating, and by examining the form and all the other variables involved, you’ll be able to go into the festival with a more substantial, rounded knowledge of what is about to unfold.
Horse racing is the most unpredictable of all sports that attract a betting audience, with huge favourites stealing the show and the limelight across many different races within the year, not just Cheltenham.
Where Will You Be Watching?
Just a few decades ago, horse racing fans would watch the races unfold all over the UK in bookmaker shops and pubs or listen on the radio. Now that the landscape has switched significantly to digital platforms, you can still follow the action via traditional routes.
Still, millions of horse racing fans around the UK will now use their smartphone or tablet to tune in. With multiple ways to watch and a whole new range of avenues to stay updated, whether it’s via podcasts or YouTube - some analysts believe this incredible range of options has had a negative knock-on effect on the number of people attending the race.
However, there are plenty of other factors to consider, and the TV ratings reflect the significant audience that still exists within the UK's sporting landscape.
There’s not much you need to be ready for this year’s festival; some groundwork and research should give you firm footing about what to expect. Ensure you give yourself time to watch the big races, and if you do enjoy betting, be sure to set limits so that you can enjoy it as responsibly as possible.
Unlike many other sports, big horse racing meets like Cheltenham take place over a number of days. Therefore, you can get right into the swing of it with podcasts, other social media channels, and speaking to other people who enjoy the entire event - and by building these connections and your knowledge, you’ll be ready to make this year’s festival as enthralling as possible.