The Cheltenham Festival is widely regarded as one of the most exhilarating horse race meetings of the year. It’s a chance for trainers to produce their best in class and for the jockeys to go down as legends of the sport, such is the prestige of the event.
The festival is particularly popular with Irish fans as it takes place in March, coinciding with St Patrick’s day. Each year it’s held at the now iconic Cheltenham Racecourse and with it tens of thousands of punters flock to the event over the course of the four days.
It’s one of the most significant meetings of the year, mainly because of the calibre of horses that are on show. There are multiple Grade 1 races throughout the meeting, but not only that, it’s one of few that extends to the wider horse racing community, rather than just the diehard fanatics.
Cheltenham Festival Major Races
When March rolls around it means the long wait is almost over for racing fans with the best four days of sporting action of the year almost upon us. The great and the good of the British and Irish National Hunt scene will all descend on Prestbury Park on Tuesday 12th March in 2024 for what is effectively the World Cup and Olympic Games of this sport all rolled in to one. It’s Cheltenham Festival time!
Four days to look forward to in all then, with no fewer than 28 races to get stuck into. There’s really something for everyone here, from the handicappers to the Grade 1 superstars. We have the best of the contests here.
|Day||Race||Grade / Length||Last Winner|
|Tuesday||Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle||Grade 1 / 2m 4f||Honeysuckle (2023)|
|Tuesday||Champion Hurdle||Grade 1 / 2m ½f||Constitution Hill (2023)|
|Tuesday||Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase||Grade 1 / 2m||El Fabiolo (2023)|
|Tuesday||Supreme Novices’ Hurdle||Grade 1 / 2m ½f||Marine Nationale (2023)|
|Wednesday||Champion Bumper||Grade 1 / 2m ½f||A Dream To Share (2023)|
|Wednesday||Queen Mother Champion Chase||Grade 1 / 2m||Energumene (2023)|
|Wednesday||Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle||Grade 1 / 2m 5f||Impaire Et Passe (2023)|
|Wednesday||Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase||Grade 1 / 3m ½f||The Real Whacker (2023)|
|Thursday||Ryanair Chase||Grade 1 / 2m 4½f||Envoi Allen (2023)|
|Thursday||Stayers’ Hurdle||Grade 1 / 3m||Sire Du Berlais (2023)|
|Thursday||Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle||Premier Handicap / 3m||Good Time Jonny (2023)|
|Thursday||Turners Novices’ Chase||Grade 1 / 2m 4f||Stage Star (2023)|
|Friday||Festival Hunters' Chase||Class 2 / 3m 2½f||Premier Magic (2023)|
|Friday||Cheltenham Gold Cup||Grade 1 / 3m 2½f||Galopin Des Champs (2023)|
|Friday||Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle||Grade 1 / 3m||Stay Away Fay (2023)|
|Friday||Triumph Hurdle||Grade 1 / 2m 1f||Lossiemouth (2023)|
The course is one of the most beautiful tracks in the world. As it’s set within the Cotswolds, you get panoramic views of the countryside from higher viewpoints. Not only that, you are able to see a huge amount of the course given its undulations towards the far side.
It holds over 68,500 spectators in total and you can expect every day to be sold out throughout the festival. This is especially true on Gold Cup day and St Patricks day, where tickets are at a premium.
There are actually two main courses used within the confines of Prestbury Park throughout the festival. They are split into the Old Course and the New Course, both with distinctive characteristics. The New Course is quite a bit longer than the old and also has a tricky downhill section which is often tough for horses to then judge jumping distance given the speeds they run at down the hill.
The cross-country race, one of the toughest at the festival, follows a third course constructed within the inner track which joins the old course to finish at the usual winning line.
As part of the continued growth of the racecourse, they are constantly updating and improving both the track and the facilities to make the experience for both punters, trainers and riders a more pleasurable one. One of the latest additions has been the Princess Royal Stand which was completed in 2015. It cost £45 million and added further 6,500 seats to the capacity.
A more detailed look at the racecourse including maps of the new and old course can be found on our Cheltenham Racecourse guide.
The Format of the Festival
In total there are 28 races across the four days, with each day having seven races and at least three Grade 1s.
Each day hosts a feature or ‘Championship’ race. On Tuesday this feature race is the Champion Hurdle, Wednesday it is the Queen Mother Champion Chase and on Friday it is the Gold Cup. Thursday actually has two feature races, the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Cheltenham Festival Full Schedule of Races in 2023
|13:30||Tuesday||Supreme Novices Hurdle||Old||£135,000|
|14:10||Tuesday||Arkle Novices’ Chase||Old||£175,000|
|14:50||Tuesday||Ultima Handicap Chase||Old||£125,000|
|16:10||Tuesday||Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle||Old||£127,998|
|16:50||Tuesday||Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle||Old||£80,000|
|17:30||Tuesday||National Hunt Challenge Cup||Old||£125,000|
|13:30||Wednesday||Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle||Old||£135,000|
|14:10||Wednesday||Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase||Old||£181,437|
|14:50||Wednesday||Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle||Old||£100,000|
|15:30||Wednesday||Queen Mother Champion Chase||Old||£400,000|
|16:10||Wednesday||Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase||X-Country||£75,000|
|16:50||Wednesday||Grand Annual Handicap Chase||Old||£125,000|
|17:30||Wednesday||Weatherbys Champion Bumper||Old||£80,000|
|13:30||Thursday||Turners Novices’ Chase||New||£175,000|
|14:10||Thursday||Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle||New||£100,000|
|16:10||Thursday||Magners Plate Handicap Chase||New||£120,000|
|16:50||Thursday||Jack de Bromhead Mares Novices’ Hurdle||New||£105,000|
|17:30||Thursday||Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase||New||£75,000|
|13:30||Friday||JCB Triumph Hurdle||New||£139,209|
|14:10||Friday||McCoy County Handicap Hurdle||New||£100,000|
|14:50||Friday||Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle||New||£135,000|
|15:30||Friday||Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase||New||£625,000|
|16:10||Friday||St James’ Place Festival Hunters’ Chase||New||£50,000|
|16:50||Friday||Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase||New||£120,000|
|17:30||Friday||Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle||New||£75,000|
The prize money and schedule above are courtesy of the BHA.
Free to Air TV Coverage
For many years the festival has been hosted by long-time horse racing broadcaster, Channel 4. But, as of 2017 the festival was able to secure a new TV deal, shifting the rights to their rivals, ITV, in a deal worth £30million spread across a number of meetings and races throughout the next couple of years.
The deal to move to ITV has been highly welcomed within the horse racing industry, mainly because of the money that ITV have pledged to put back into the sport. ITV actually paid 50% more (£30million from £20million) for the rights and it’s much hoped that this fresh approach to racing, including new presenters for the most part, will inject some much needed life into the sport.
The 2023 festival saw record levels of prize money with £4.86 million up for grabs. This was a slight rise from 2022 but a significant increase in of over £1.3 million from 2021 which had a total fund of just under £3.5 million. The previous record prize money for the festival was in 2018 when over £4.6 million was paid out.
Previous years had shown a steady increase in across the board with 2016 having £4.17 million and 2015 having a total of £3.9 million respectively. However, 2016 was the first year that there were seven races on each day. Previously, Thursday’s card only contained six races, a format which had been in place since the festival switched from three days to four in 2005.
Prize money starts at £50k for the lowest grade race whilst the pinnacle is the Cheltenham Gold Cup which has a prize fund of £625k to be won in 2023.
Great Britain Versus Ireland: The Prestbury Cup
The Prestbury Cup is a side competition between Great Britain and Ireland, and works in a similar manner to that of Ryder Cup in golf. Basically, the first country to get 15 or more wins in the festival takes the cup, starting from the Supreme Novices Hurdle on the Tuesday.
The cup is named after the village situated next to the racecourse. The winning team gets presented with the trophy once the festival has been completed.
In 2018, Ireland completed a hattrick of Prestbury Cup wins taking the contest by 17 wins to 11. This after the Irish had a record 19 wins in 2017 and a narrow 15-13 victory in 2016.
The 2019 festival saw a 14-14 draw between British and Irish trained horses. This was a first draw since 1978 when the final day was abandoned due to snow, with only 12 races being run.
Ireland won again in 2020 with 17 wins to 10 with a French trained winner in the other race before a record victory for the Irish in 2021 with a landslide 23 wins to Great Britain’s 5. Although there were double the British winners from the previous year in 2022 with 10, Ireland won the Prestbury Cup once more thanks to their 18 wins. The 2023 result was a repeat of the previous year with an 18-10 victory for the Irish.
This meant the Prestbury Cup went to Ireland for a fourth year in a row, with Britain’s winless streak extending to eight years.
Day by Day Overview
Tuesday / Champion Day
Day one of the festival is usually the most anticipated, just because of the 12 month wait since the last race. It’s a day that the organisers have really thought about in terms of hitting the ground running and there are some monster races straight from the off.
The day kicks off with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and is one of the fastest races of the whole meeting. It’s a highly excitable race and whilst not always the easiest to call it’s a great curtain raiser for the four days.
The next race is the Arkle Chase, named after one of the festival’s most iconic horses. This two-miler isn’t the longest race by any means, but as it’s run over fences, it offers a demanding first look at some of the jumps that the riders can expect to navigate over throughout the week.
One of the tougher races of the week, never mind day, is that of the Festival Trophy, currently known as the Ultima Handicap Chase. It has another big field to work through, except this time they are often much more experienced than that of the Arkle, which should give punters a good insight as to which horse could be the shrewd pick. The massive field size means that value can be found. The race is often seen as a good measuring stick in the lead up the Grand National just a month or so later.
The highlight of the day is undoubtedly the Champions Hurdle, one of four Grade 1 races that day. It is again run over two miles and showcases some of the best hurdlers in the world. To give you an idea of the calibre of horse, previous winners have included Istabraq, See You Then, Annie Power, Hurricane Fly, Binocular and the list just keeps going on.
The final three races for the day are the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and the National Hunt Challenge Cup.
Wednesday / Ladies Day
Day two of the festival sees another highly competitive line-up of races and horses. The day opens with the Baring Bingham (Ballymore) Novices’ Hurdle and is followed by the Broadway (Brown Advisory) Novices’ Chase.
Next is one of the toughest races of the whole week, the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, which has a massive field of 20+ runners. It’s not a particularly long race at 2m 5f, but the pace is rapid and it often comes down to which horse has the biggest heart, which isn’t easy to predict given the field size. If ever there was a race where the form book tends to go out the window, this would be it.
The key race of the day is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. This race basically decides who the best two-mile chaser in the world and again, attracts a star-studded line-up.
The Cross Country Chase is favoured by horse racing fans for betting on for the exact opposite of reasons to the Coral Cup. The Irish have long dominated in this race and due to its field size and the calibre of horse racing, the formbook is going to be your friend with the Cross Country.
Another competitive but tough race to call is the Grand Annual Chase, which is actually the oldest race running at the festival having first been contested in 1834. The race is named after Johnny Henderson, father of trainer Nicky, who was a key figure in securing the course’s future during the 1960’s. The race is another that has a strong field, given the fact it includes 20 or more horses, making it that little bit tougher to call.
The final race on Wednesday is the meeting’s only flat race, the Champion Bumper.
Thursday / St Patrick’s Thursday
Another bumper day at the festival, and often St Patrick’s Day, the third day of the meeting switches to the New Course and is kicked off with the Golden Miller (Turner’s) Novices’ Chase. It is one of the newest races at the meeting, formed in 2011, and is named after Golden Miller, the five-time Gold Cup winner. This is also one of most popular races of the meeting and has been dominated by Irish trainers Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.
The second race is the three-mile Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle, a contest with a number of qualifying events throughout the season.
The Ryanair Chase is another that is hotly contested, run over 2m 5f. The race involves horses that are 5 years old and above and is often made up of horses who probably aren’t quite ready for the step up in class to bigger races such as the Gold Cup. But, the horses on show are likely to be ones to watch for the future, so bear that in mind when looking at previous results.
The Stayers Hurdle is probably the highlight of day three, bringing together the strongest long distance hurdlers in the industry at the time. This race is followed by the Plate Handicap Chase, which just so happens to be another tricky pick for punters, mainly down to the size of the field but also that horses are aged just 5 years and over.
Finally, the day finishes off with the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices Hurdle and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup to cap a fine days racing.
Friday / Gold Cup Day
The fourth and final day of the meeting, is, let’s face it all about the Gold Cup. But, there is still a world class day of racing ahead, kicked off by the Triumph Hurdle. This has a cracking field usually and with it trainers are looking to establish potential future stars of jump racing.
The County Hurdle follows this race and is renowned as one of the hardest races all week to pick a winner from. It has a big field and a lot of unknown horses involved, but the flip side is that the winner is usually a very healthy price.
The Spa (Albert Bartlett) Novices Hurdle’ is one of the newer races to the Festival, although it has been about since 2005. It offers a very strong field and with it it’s often one that finds the fancied horses taking the spoils.
The Gold Cup is run next and is regarded as one of the biggest and most important jump races in the world, let alone at the Cheltenham Festival. It’s has been won by some of the most recognisable names in the sport and has some of the most exhilarating races to boot.
Three races follow the main event, seeing off the festival for another year. These are the Festival Hunters’ Chase, run over the same distance as the Gold Cup, the Liberthine Mares’ Chase, and the Martin Pipe Hurdle for conditional jockeys.
Results & Statistics
When the world of National Hunt racing descends on Cheltenham for the week, there is a whole host of numbers to crunch once the dust hast settled on another festival. Below we have all the results from the latest Cheltenham Festival races in 2023. Tables show the winner of each race, followed by the official places. We will then look at who were the top trainers and jockeys at the latest running of the event as well who are the most successful of all time.
Tuesday 14th March 2023 Results (Day 1)
Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (13:30): 14 Ran
|1st||Marine Nationale||9/2||Barry Connell||Michael O’Sullivan|
|2nd||Facile Vega||9/4 Fav||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|3rd||Diverge||25/1||Willie Mullins||Patrick Mullins|
Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase: 14:10 (9 Ran)
|1st||El Fabiolo||11/10 Fav||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2nd||Jonbon||2/1||Nicky Henderson||Aidan Coleman|
|3rd||Saint Roi||11/1||Willie Mullins||Mark Walsh|
Ultima Handicap Chase: 14:50 (23 Ran)
|1st||Corach Rambler||6/1 JF||Lucinda Russell||Derek Fox|
|2nd||Fastorslow||7/1||Martin Brassil||J J Slevin|
|3rd||Monbeg Genius||6/1 JF||Jonjo O’Neill||Jonjo O’Neill Jr|
|4th||The Goffer||7/1||Gordon Elliott||Davy Russell|
Unibet Champion Hurdle: 15:30 (7 Ran)
|1st||Constitution Hill||4/11 Fav||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
|2nd||State Man||7/2||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle: 16:10 (9 Ran)
|1st||Honeysuckle||9/4 JF||Henry de Bromhead||Rachael Blackmore|
|2nd||Love Envoi||11/1||Harry Fry||Jonathan Burke|
|3rd||Queens Brook||16/1||Gordon Elliott||Davy Russell|
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle: 16:50 (21 Ran)
|1st||Jazzy Matty||18/1||Gordon Elliott||Michael O’Sullivan|
|2nd||Byker||6/1||Charles Byrnes||Philip Byrnes|
|3rd||Risk Belle||10/1||Willie Mullins||Luke Dempsey|
|4th||Sundial||18/1||Padraig Roche||Simon Torrens|
WellChild National Hunt Novices’ Chase: 17:30 (10 Ran)
|1st||Gaillard Du Mesnil||10/11 Fav||Willie Mullins||Patrick Mullins|
|2nd||Chemical Energy||8/1||Gordon Elliott||Jamie Codd|
|3rd||Mister Coffey||11/1||Nicky Henderson||Derek O’Connor|
Wednesday 15th March 2023 (Day Two)
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle: 13:30 (10 Ran)
|1st||Impaire Et Passe||5/2||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2nd||Gaeilic Warrior||9/2||Willie Mullins||Patrick Mullins|
|3rd||Champ Kiely||13/2||Willie Mullins||Danny Mullins|
Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase: 14:10 (10 Ran)
|1st||The Real Whacker||8/1||Patrick Neville||Sam Twiston-Davies|
|2nd||Gerri Colombe||5/4 Fav||Gordon Elliott||Jordan Gainford|
|3rd||Bronn||50/1||Willie Mullins||Daryl Jacob|
Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle: 14:50 (26 Ran)
|1st||Langer Dan||9/1||Dan Skelton||Harry Skelton|
|2nd||An Epic Song||16/1||Martin Brassil||J J Slevin|
|3rd||Camprond||20/1||Philip Hobbs & Johnson White||Aidan Coleman|
|4th||Scaramanga||50/1||Willie Mullins||Jack Foley|
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase: 15:30 (7 Ran)
|1st||Energumene||6/5 Fav||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2nd||Captain Guinness||12/1||Henry de Bromhead||Rachael Blackmore|
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase: 16:10 (16 Ran)
|1st||Delta Work||11/10 Fav||Gordon Elliott||Keith Donoghue|
|2nd||Galvin||11/4||Gordon Elliott||Davy Russell|
|3rd||Franco De Port||9/2||Willie Mullins||Patrick Mullins|
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase: 16:50 (19 Ran)
|1st||Maskada||22/1||Henry de Bromhead||Darragh O’Keeffe|
|2nd||Dinoblue||7/2 Fav||Willie Mullins||Luke Dempsey|
|3rd||Global Citizen||12/1||Ben Pauling||Luca Morgan|
|4th||Third Time Lucki||8/1||Dan Skelton||Harry Skelton|
Weatherbys Champion Bumper: 17:30 (21 Ran)
|1st||A Dream To Share||7/2||John Kiely||John Gleeson|
|2nd||Fact To File||16/5 Fav||Willie Mullins||Patrick Mullins|
|3rd||Captain Teague||40/1||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden|
Thursday 16th March 2023 (Day Three)
Turners Novices’ Chase: 13:30 (7 Ran)
|1st||Stage Star||15/2||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden|
|2nd||Notlongtillmay||40/1||Laura Morgan||Adam Wedge|
Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle: 14:10 (23 Ran)
|1st||Good Time Jonny||9/1||Tony Martin||Liam McKenna|
|2nd||Salvador Ziggy||10/1||Gordon Elliott||Aidan Kelly|
|3rd||Mill Green||22/1||Nicky Henderson||Daryl Jacob|
|4th||Green Book||40/1||Venetia Williams||Charlie Deutsch|
Ryanair Chase: 14:50 (9 Ran)
|1st||Envoi Allen||13/2||Henry de Bromhead||Rachael Blackmore|
|2nd||Shishkin||Evs Fav||Nicky Henderson||Nico de Boinville|
|3rd||Hitman||22/1||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden|
Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle: 15:30 (11 Ran)
|1st||Sire Du Berlais||33/1||Gordon Elliott||Mark Walsh|
|2nd||Dashel Drasher||40/1||Jeremy Scott||Rex Dingle|
|3rd||Teahupoo||9/4 Fav||Gordon Elliott||Davy Russell|
Note that Dashel Drasher originally finished second however the placings were reversed by the stewards at the course with Teahupoo, this decision was then reversed on appeal leaving the initial result to stand
Magners Plate Handicap Chase: 16:10 (23 Ran)
|1st||Seddon||20/1||John C McConnell||Ben Harvey|
|2nd||Fugitif||11/1||Richard Hobson||Sean Bowen|
|3rd||Shakem Up’Arry||16/1||Ben Pauling||Luca Morgan|
|4th||Gevrey||125/1||Gordon Elliott||Sam Ewing|
Jack De Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle: 16:50 (21 Ran)
|1st||You Wear It Well||16/1||Jamie Snowden||Gavin Sheehan|
|2nd||Magical Zoe||15/2||Henry de Bromhead||Adrian Heskin|
|3rd||Halka Du Tabert||12/1||Gordon Elliott||Davy Russell|
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase: 17:30 (23 Ran)
|1st||Angels Dawn||10/1||Sam Curling||P A King|
|2nd||Stumptown||7/2 Fav||Gavin Cromwell||Barry O’Neill|
|3rd||Mr Incredible||4/1||Willie Mullins||Patrick Mullins|
|4th||Dunboyne||8/1||Gordon Elliott||Jamie Codd|
Friday 17th March 2023 (Day Four)
JCB Triumph Hurdle: 13:30 (15 Ran)
|1st||Lossiemouth||11/8 Fav||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2nd||Gala Marceau||10/3||Willie Mullins||Danny Mullins|
|3rd||Zenta||12/1||Willie Mullins||Mark Walsh|
McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle: 14:10 (24 Ran)
|1st||Faivoir||33/1||Dan Skelton||Bridget Andrews|
|2nd||Pied Piper||12/1||Gordon Elliott||Davy Russell|
|3rd||Filey Bay||6/1||Emmet Mullins||Mark Walsh|
|4th||Sharjah||10/1||Willie Mullins||Patrick Mullins|
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle: 14:50 (20 Ran)
|1st||Stay Away Fay||18/1||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden|
|2nd||Affordale Fury||150/1||Noel Meade||Sam Ewing|
|3rd||Sandor Clegane||28/1||Paul Nolan||Sean O’Keeffe|
Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup: 15:30 (13 Ran)
|1st||Galopin Des Champs||7/5 Fav||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2nd||Bravemansgame||6/1||Paul Nicholls||Harry Cobden|
|3rd||Conflated||22/1||Gordon Elliott||Sam Ewing|
St James’s Place Hunters’ Chase: 16:10 (23 Ran)
|1st||Premier Magic||66/1||Bradley Gibbs||Bradley Gibbs|
|2nd||Its On The Line||28/1||Emmet Mullins||Derek O’Connor|
|3rd||Shantou Flyer||50/1||Sam Loxton||Olive Nicholls|
Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase: 16:50 (9 Ran)
|1st||Impervious||15/8||Colm Murphy||Brian Hayes|
|2nd||Allegorie De Vassy||13/8 Fav||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|3rd||Pink Legend||33/1||Venetia Williams||Charlie Deutsch|
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle: 17:30 (21 Ran)
|1st||Iroko||6/1||Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero||Aidan Kelly|
|2nd||No Ordinary Joe||14/1||Nicky Henderson||Luca Morgan|
|3rd||Buddy One||28/1||Paul John Gilligan||Jack Gilligan|
|4th||Might I||6/1||Harry Fry||Lorcan Murtagh|
Top Trainers from 2023
Willie Mullins picked up his tenth leading trainer award in 2023 with six wins. This was the fifth year in succession that he had the most wins at The Festival. The Closutton based trainer couldn’t replicate his record haul of ten wins from the previous year but did manage to add sixteen placed runners to his tally.
Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead both had three winners whilst Britain’s Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton had two winners each.
Mullins started with a second and third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle before picking up his first win of the meeting with El Fabiolo in the Arkle. With State Man finishing second to Nicky Henderson’s Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle, Willie Mullins had to wait until the final race of the day to pick up his second win when Gaillard Du Mesnil won the National Hunt Challenge Cup as the 10/11 favourite.
Day two started with a bang for Willie Mullins when he had the first three home in the opening race of the day, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Impaire Et Passe and Paul Townend led home Gaelic Warrior under Patrick Mullins and Champ Kiely ridden by Danny Mullins. More success followed in the big race of the day, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, when 6/5 favourite Energumene powered home for a 10 length victory.
Mullins drew a blank on day three, having to wait until the final race of the day, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase, to gain even a place when Mr Incredible finished third. It didn’t take long to return to winning ways on the final day however, training the first four in the Triumph Hurdle. Lossiemouth finished in first place ahead of Gala Marceau in second, Zenta in third and Gust Of Wind in fourth.
The Gold Cup brought Willie Mullins his sixth and final win of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival as Galopin Des Champ confirmed his promise as the 7/5 favourite to storm to a 7 length victory over King George VI Chase winner Bravemansgame.
Top Jockeys from 2023
Paul Townend’s five wins in 2023 earned him the leading jockey award at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival for the third time. Harry Cobden, Rachael Blackmore and Michael O’Sullivan all had two wins whilst 17 different jockeys picked up single wins.
All five of Townend’s wins came for trainer Willie Mullins, riding El Fabiolo to victory in the Arkle along with Impaire Et Passe in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Energumene in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Lossiemouth in the Triumph Hurdle and Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup.
Arguably the festival’s unluckiest rider was Davy Russell who had come out of retirement in January to ride for Gordon Elliott following an injury to Jack Kennedy. Had had six places across the four days without winning.
All Time Top Trainers & Jockeys
Over the last decade or so it’s been Willie Mullins that has been the trainer to beat at Cheltenham. Since 2011, Mullins has won the top trainer award ten times. In 2023 his six wins brought his total number of victories to 94, extending his lead over British trainer Nicky Henderson as the festival’s winning most trainer.
Long-time rival Henderson is a clear second on the list of all time Cheltenham festival trainers with 73 wins to his name, with Paul Nicholls back in third with 48.
The now retired Ruby Walsh is still the most successful jockey at the festival by some distance with a total of 59 wins. Second is fellow Irishman Barry Geraghty on 43, followed by the legendary Sir Anthony McCoy with 31. Hot on their heels is Paul Townend, now fourth on the list with 28 festival wins.
History of the Cheltenham Festival
The Cheltenham Festival has been running since 1860, making it one of the oldest race meetings in the world. Interestingly, it’s actually been held at a couple of different racecourses within that time, originally being held at Market Harborough, with the running of the first National Hunt chase.
At the turn of the 20th Century, the home of the meeting was mostly at the Warwick Racecourse and eventually moved to Cheltenham on more permanent basis in 1904, due to the expansion of the Prestbury Park. Over the coming decade or so the location flicked back between Cheltenham and Warwick, before in 1911, due to significant upgrade in facilities and the courses that were on offer, it was switched to Cheltenham on a permanent basis and has been held here ever since.
The Gold Cup is arguably the most important jumps race in the world and has been running since 1924. But, the first inauguration of the Cheltenham Gold Cup was actually in 1819, but back then it was a 3m flat race. It wasn’t until 1924 when it made its first appearance over jumps at the Cheltenham Festival and has been a stable figure ever since.
Initially the race wasn’t considered to be one of the bigger ones for both spectators and trainers. It was actually seen as a warm up to the Grand National, allowing trainers to see if horses had progressed enough over the winter to run in what was renowned as the most prestigious race of the time. Both the National Hunt Chase and the County Handicap Hurdle were held in higher regard, with higher purses for both, compared with the Gold Cup.
Moving into the modern era, the Gold Cup switched from the Old Course to the New Course in 1959. The race has seen and created some legendary racehorses, including Arkle, Best Mate, Kauto Star, Desert Orchid and Denman.
Throughout the sixties there were few racehorses that were as successful as Arkle. Named after the Scottish mountain (shown in image), the Irish born thoroughbred won pretty much everything that you could do in that time and from his 35 races, lost only 3 times, highlighting just how successful he was.
His rating of 212 was and still is the highest rating of any steeplechaser in the history of the sport. To put that into perspective, the popular Kauto Star only ever reached that of 191, some 21 points short of Arkle’s record level.
But, it was at Cheltenham where the horse really stood out from the crowd and in particular, the Gold Cup. He managed to win the race on three separate occasions, but what was even more impressive was that it was in three consecutive seasons, highlighting the dominance of this magnificent horse in the mid-sixties.
Aged 13 Arkle was laid to rest but his legacy still lives on with his skeleton being on show at the Irish National Stud Museum and the naming of the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham after him.
Another famous name in jumps racing is that of Desert Orchid. Whilst he won one Gold Cup back in 1989, he was probably more famed for his four wins in the King George VI Chase. But, his résumé is one that has to be admired and undauntedly one of the best of all time.
The horse was always the peoples favourite and they loved the fact that he was as honest when racing as you could get, giving 100% each time he raced. Throughout the eighties and early nineties there wasn’t much that he didn’t win, but what was more impressive is that his wins came from different styles of races and different lengths, making him a true all-rounder.
It was his appearances after his retirement that really caught the heart both inside and outside of the sport. He attended several charity events, raising thousands of pounds in doing so. Few horses have left such a legacy both on and off the course.
Kauto Star Versus Denman
Throughout the decades of Cheltenham there have been several rivalries between a plethora of horses, but none have been able to reach the heights of the Kauto Star v Denman story. They will both go down as two of the true greats of the sport and their ability to bring the best out of each other was unparalleled.
The pair were essentially stable mates, but for long periods owner, Paul Nicholls, was keen to keep the pair apart. By the time that Denman had started to compete with Kauto Star, it was the latter that was the established name and had already won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2007.
A year later it was Denman’s chance to earn the crown, which he duly took, beating Kauto Star by 7 lengths in one of the most impressive performances that race had ever seen. But, it was just a year alter when Kauto Star reasserted his dominance over Denman, winning by an impressive 13 lengths, an almost nod to say, nice try, but better luck next time!
Both horses ended their careers with impressive figures. Denman having 12 wins from just 13 runs and Kauto Star 15 wins from 25 runs, but earning almost three times in prize money than his stable mate.