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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By HRI Foreign Staff — As the end of 2023 bounds to a close, Cheltenham fans and racing enthusiasts look eagerly to March. The festival represents the peak of the jump-racing season, and with a 100-year celebration of the Gold Cup also on the books, this year is certain to see an even greater extravaganza. 

The dates this year are confirmed for Tuesday, 12 March to Friday, 15 March. Spectators are invited to come for one day or all four days, and, as always, the event is open to everyone—from those fluent in horse racing racecards to those just coming to partake in the iconic festival fashion. 

Last year’s program will be hard to top, but with the centennial making this year’s races extra-special, it’s certain to be just as unmissable as the 2023 iteration. Plus, fans will be dying to know: will Constitution Hill deliver a breathtaking performance yet again? 

Centenary Celebration 

The first Cheltenham Festival took place in 1860; at the time, it was a National Hunt Chase held at Market Harborough and was referred to as the ‘Grand National Hunt Meeting.’ Over many years, it evolved into what today is jubilantly referred to simply as the ‘Cheltenham Festival.’ The Gold Cup, now the climax of the event, was introduced in 1924—hence this year’s special celebration. 

Throughout the current season, culminating with the festival, there will be a special emphasis on honouring and re-telling the stories of Gold Cup legends. This includes the likes of Red Splash, Easter Hero, Cottage Rake, Arkle, L’Escargot, Best Mate and Kauto Star—among others. 

Furthermore, the 2024 celebration brings a fantastic chance to support worthy causes. The Gold Cup 100 Community Fund was established to provide financial assistance to initiatives that improve the lives of individuals residing near Cheltenham Racecourse. Fans and spectators will have numerous opportunities to support the cause. 

Notable Things to Look Foward To 

No one could say it better than The Jockey Club itself: “The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the one they all long to win, many times over, above all others. Every horse, jockey, trainer, breeder, owner and fan worth their weight in gold is here. Greats become legends. Legends rewrite history.”

As is standard, several top-class graded races will happen every day, including some incredibly challenging handicaps. There are seven races scheduled for each of the four days of the festival, for a total of 28 races in total. While each race is sure to be exciting, each day features a spotlighted event. 

The highlight of day one—or ‘Champions Day’—will undoubtedly be the Champion Hurdle, where Constitution Hill, last year’s dominant winner, will aim to defend his title. Reports indicate that Consitution Hill is racing better than ever. 

Day two will be referred to this year as ‘Style Wednesday’ and will be all about the speedy chasers with Queen Mother Champion Chase as the main event. On day three, or ‘Saint Patrick’s Thursday’ the Stayers’ Hurdle will take centre stage.

Friday, 15 March is the Gold Cup day. Fans are looking forward to seeing Galopin Des Champs attempting to defend his staying crown under the guidance of Willie Mullins. It won’t be an easy task as there are plenty of top-notch competitors ready to deliver outstanding performances—keep an eye out for Bravemansgame and Gerri Colombe. 

Last Year’s Recap

The Cheltenham Festival 2023 was, agreeably, quite the event. Galopin Des Champs and Paul Townend secured an impressive performance for the final cup—or at least impressive to those watching—which is why this year they are once again the pair to watch. 

Trainer Barry Connell celebrated his first Festival win with Marine National, while jockey Michael O’Sullivan also tasted victory for the first time. It was a thrilling start to the event. 

Last year’s Champion Hurdle featured the calm, but powerful performance of Constitution Hill under jockey Nico de Boinville. The pair showcased unparalleled speed, precision and accuracy, securing coach Nicky Henderson’s 9th Champion Hurdle win.

Perhaps one of the most unforgettable moments of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival was when the legendary Honeysuckle triumphed for the fourth time at Presbury Park. Honeysuckle captured hearts everywhere—it was truly special to see her end her remarkable career with a festival victory.

Speaking Economically 

The Cheltenham Festival, a renowned horse racing extravaganza in the UK, captivates a multitude of global visitors. According to a study conducted by the University of Gloucestershire, this grand event had a remarkable influence on the local economy, generating a staggering £274 million during the 2023 edition.

This year is also set to be a big one for the economy, for the industry and the pockets of bettors everywhere. With technology creating new—and to some, controversial— opportunities to engage with the racecards on deeper levels, the event is sure to be memorable in more aspects than one. 

The countdown to the festival is only just beginning; fans should keep their eyes open for further developments. And hey, if you or someone dear to you hasn’t mastered the art of reading a racecard, now is the perfect moment to dive in and learn.

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