Over the course of the British racing calendar there are a number of races that enthusiasts look forward. These elite races often capture the imagination (and money) of more punters than at any other. However, there is one week in March that is head and shoulders above the rest.
The Cheltenham Festival is four days of racing jam-packed with the best horses Britain and Ireland have to offer going head to head – something that doesn’t happen often during the racing season.
Well-known for the “Cheltenham roar” that greets the horses as the tape goes down for the opening race, the Cheltenham Festival is a truly unique event in the National Hunt Racing season.
Hundreds of millions of pounds are wagered across the four days, with 27 races contested in total. For the bookmakers, it's the biggest week of the year and results can make or break their profit margins. For punters, it's the chance to cheer on their favourites as they battle to take the bookie's money.
Famous Moments At Cheltenham
There have been many great moments at Cheltenham over the years, however perhaps none more dramatic than what happened in the 2015 Mares' Hurdle.
The combination of trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh had already won their first three races of the day, and needed to win this to complete the quadruple. Many punters had backed them to do just that, and bookmakers stood to lose over £40 million if Walsh and Mullins could triumph on the favourite, Annie Power.
It looked as if they would do exactly that coming up to the final fence, with Annie Power starting to pull clear of the field in impresive fashion. Both bookies and punters must have had their hearts in their mouths pondering the implications of the result. However, incredibly the horse ran straight into the final fence and fell, allowing Glens Melody to come through and take the race. It was incredible drama, the like of which I have never seen before.
Winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup is seen as the pinnacle for a steeplechaser – in the racing world it's even more prestigious than the Grand National at Aintree. Ran over 3 miles 2 ½ furlongs, the Gold Cup course includes 22 fences and ends with a stamina sapping climb up the “Cheltenham hill”. It's a race like no other, and only the very best can claim a Gold Cup win on their CV.
Famous winners of the race have included such names as Arkle, Best Mate, Golden Miller, Kauto Star, Mill House and Denman. This list of top class horses shows just how good they have to be to win the Gold Cup, and very few manage it more than once. It is quite simply the Premier League of horse racing. If you've never seen a Gold Cup before, I suggest you clear your calendar for next March and make sure you don't miss out again!