The four-day, 28-race Cheltenham Festival in England is the most anticipated and prestigious steeplechase meet in the world, and it takes place this week — from Tuesday through Friday. If you are a fan of American jump racing, you’ll fall in love with the sport even more once you experience the Cheltenham races with all its history and pageantry.
Like so many other venues, the event will take place behind closed doors this year because of the Covid pandemic and the UK lockdown. But the show will go on, just without the quarter-of-a-million screaming diehards who typically attend the Festival. Unfortunately, the races are not broadcast in the U.S., but you can watch them via live stream on subscription service TVG or watch replays on racingtv.com (https://racingtv.com/
As a primer, check out the official Cheltenham magazine, previewing the meet: https://online.flippingbook.
Other helpful sources for all things Cheltenham include the following:
Each day’s card consists of seven races. The highlight of Day One is the Unibet Champion Hurdle over two miles. The yellow and gold colors of owner JP McManus are synonymous with this race and he’s won each of the last four runnings, with the mare Epatante scoring last year. She’ll be back to defend her crown, but all eyes will likely be on the undefeated Honeysuckle and Rachel Blackmore. On a local note, the Bruton Street partnership, which campaigns on the National Steeplechase Association circuit, has Franco de Port entered in the Arkle Challenge Trophy.
The supporting card includes two novice events that often herald stars of the future in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. The exciting Monkfish, undefeated over hurdles, runs in the latter. The Glenfarclas Chase, will be a rematch between last year’s victor, heavily favored Easysland, and two-time Randox Grand National winner Tiger Roll, who has been off form lately.
The Day Three marquee is the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle. 2019 winner Paisley Park will be looking to avenge his defeat to 50-1 winner Lisnagar Oscar last year. Other contenders include Thyme Hill, Sire Du Berlais, McFabulous, Benie Des Dieux and Roksana. Willie Mullins’ Min will try to make it two in a row in the Ryanair Chase, but there’s no clear favorite among Min and challengers like Saint Calvados, Imperial Aura and Allaho. All eyes will be on the sensational undefeated Envoi Allen, seeking his third consecutive Festival win, this year in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup anchors the final day of the Festival, and favored Al Boum Photo, who made history last year when he became the second back-to-back winner this century, goes for the three-peat and match Best Mate’s triumphs in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Willie Mulllins’ trains the superstar.