Long considered the jewel in the crown of National Hunt racing, the Cheltenham Festival and Cheltenham Gold Cup are as popular as ever with horse racing aficionados the world over. The first organised flat race took place in 1815, with the race course seeing its popularity soar in the decades that followed. Held in the third week of March each year in the Cotswolds, Cheltenham is one of the most important fixtures in the National Hunt calendar. And this year’s race is set to be as big as ever. Here are just a few of the reasons why.
History of National Hunt Racing
National Hunt racing mainly takes place in the winter and spring when the ground is softer, making jumping less dangerous for the horse. This type of racing is so popular because the horses are not usually retired at a young age. They often race over multiple seasons, becoming a familiar face on the fixtures.
Jumps racing, especially the events at Cheltenham, are extremely popular with people in Britain, Ireland and France, with many people travelling hundreds of miles for the event. Cheltenham has become an all-inclusive race, loved and attended by anyone and everyone with a passion for horses.
Cotswolds Racing Heritage
The picturesque setting of Cheltenham racecourse is steeped in prestigious racing history. The idyllic location has provided the backdrop for the races since 1898, and remains one of the UK’s prime locations for horse racing.
It’s not only one of the most prestigious racecourses around. Many past winners have all been trained on location by expert racehorse trainers including Jonjo O’Neill, Richard Phillips, Tom George and Nigel Twiston-Davies. It is this illustrious racing prestige that makes the Cotswolds the prime location for Cheltenham.
The world famous Gold Cup is often viewed as the highlight of the four-day event and it’s clear to see why its popularity hasn’t dwindled. The race is run over approximately 3 miles, 2 furlongs and has been known to catapult its winners to worldwide fame.
Dawn Run, Arkle, Kauto Star, Desert Orchid, Golden Miller and Best Mate are just some of the past winners of this prestigious race. Champion jockeys and trainers alike are all vying for the chance to add their name to the list of winners. Can this year’s favourite Harry The Viking take his place as champion?
Cheltenham is also famed for its record breaking winners. The nature of jump racing has seen horses such as Golden Miller notch up 5 wins between 1931 and 1936 and jockey Pat Taaffe win 4 times between 1964 and 1968.
Cheltenham 2012 is set to be as big as ever, with people all over the world preparing to attend one of the racing calendar’s biggest events. Whatever the results, the four-day event has the potential to catapult the winners to global recognition.
Article contributed by Clare Evans.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of HorseRacing.com.