Your guide to the Cheltenham Festival: Full schedule of the 'greatest show on turf'

12 March 2024, 09:58

Jockeys ride their horses in front of the Grandstand during The Cheltenham Festival
Jockeys ride their horses in front of the Grandstand during The Cheltenham Festival. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

Cheltenham Festival opens today with thousands descending on the racecourse for the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ with millions more watching on TV.

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Every sport has its peak. A true test of endurance, ability, skill, and luck.

For National Hunt racing the pinnacle is Cheltenham when the top horses and jockeys from Britain and Ireland lock horns across one of the greatest sporting stages for four days.

There’s a champion race every day with Tuesday hosting the Champion Hurdle, Wednesday the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Thursday the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle and Friday culminating with the 100th anniversary of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Victory in any of these ensures horse and rider get their names in the history books. Winning the Gold Cup puts them on the verge of legendary status.

It has been a wet start to the week and an inspection will take place on Wednesday morning to see if the Cross-Country Chase, where parts of the track are waterlogged, can take place later that day or whether it should be rescheduled for Friday.

Around 250,000 spectators are expected at the Gloucestershire track this week although ticket sales have been slower than recent years with rising prices and the cost of living cited as factors.

Jump racing fans have also complained of uncompetitive top-level races this season with small fields dominated by a handful of trainers.

Much of that will be forgotten as the Cheltenham crowd gives its traditional roar at the start of the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Heading into the festival the biggest questions were if legendary Irish trainer Willie Mullins can become the first person to have 100 festival winners. He has the favourite in many of the 28 races and only needs six victories.

He seeks a second straight win in Friday's Gold Cup - which marks its centenary - with Galopin Des Champs. Bargain buy Hewick, who cost just £800, will be among the rivals in a contest which boasts prize money of £625,000.

And what will win the Champion Hurdle after Britain's top hope Constitution Hill, widely considered among the sport’s greatest, was ruled out due to illness.

Irish-trained runners are expected to dominate again, with only 10 of last year's winners from Britain. Mullins is favourite to have more success than the entire British contingent.

The going at Prestbury Park is expected to be testing for the start of the meeting after heavy rainfall in the weeks leading up to the Festival. Another 4-6mm of rain is expected on Tuesday, with a mixed weather forecast for the remainder of the week.

Jockey Paul Townend celebrates on Galopin Des Champs after winning the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Jockey Paul Townend celebrates on Galopin Des Champs after winning the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Picture: Alamy

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When is Cheltenham Festival 2024?

The meeting runs for four days, beginning later today on Tuesday March 12 and runs until Friday March 15.

There are seven races each day, with the first at 1.30pm and the last at 5.30pm at Prestbury Park.

How to watch Cheltenham Festival 2024

The meeting will be broadcast for free on ITV1, but only subscription channel Racing TV will show all 28 races of the festival.

Cheltenham Festival 2024 race card and schedule in full

Champion Day (Tuesday, March 12)

1.30pm: Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

2.10pm: Arkle Challenge Trophy

2.50pm: Handicap Steeple Chase

3.30pm: Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

4.10pm: Mares’ Hurdle

4.50pm: Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

5.30pm: National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup

Ladies Day (Wednesday, March 13)

1.30pm: Novices’ Hurdle

2.10pm: Novices’ Steeple Chase

2.50pm: Coral Cup Hurdle

3.30pm: Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase

4.10pm: Cross Country Steeple Chase

4.50pm: Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Steeple Chase Challenge Cup

5.30pm: Champion Bumper

St Patrick’s Thursday (Thursday, March 14)

1.30pm: Turners Novices’

2.10pm: Pertemps Network Final

2.50pm: Ryanair Steeple Chase

3.30pm: Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle

4.10pm: Magners Plate

4.50pm: Jack de Bromhead Mares Novices’ Hurdle

5.30pm: Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup

Gold Cup Day (Friday, March 15)

1.30pm: Triumph Hurdle

2.10pm: County Handicap Hurdle

2.50pm: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

3.30pm: Cheltenham Gold Cup

4.10pm: Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Steeple Chase

4.50pm: Mares’ Steeple Chase

5.30pm: Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle

Daily highlights

Tuesday: Bookmakers fear a kicking with punters likely to include Supreme contender Tullyhill, Arkle Chase hopeful Gaelic Warrior and Mares' Hurdle favourite Lossiemouth in Mullins accumulators. Gordon Elliott's Irish Point will be among those trying to halt the charge in the Champion Hurdle.

Wednesday: Last year's Arkle 1-2 renew rivalry in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. El Fabiolo represents Mullins while British trainer Nicky Henderson will hope Jonbon can go one better and provide some compensation for his star Constitution Hill's injury.

Thursday: Teahupoo leads the Stayers' Hurdle market for Elliott, but there would be no more popular victor than 2019 winner Paisley Park, in the swansong of his career for trainer Emma Lavelle and owner Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth. Envoi Allen will bid for a second successive Ryanair Chase win under Rachael Blackmore.

Friday: Fastorslow was beaten last time by Galopin Des Champs but won their previous two encounters and other leading Gold Cup rivals include last year's runner-up Bravemansgame, Henderson's enigmatic Shishkin and Grand National winner Corach Rambler.