The Cheltenham Festival And Grand National

Mar 9 08:42 2010 Gen Wright Print This Article

The Cheltenham Festival is considered by many as the climax of the National Hunt season, which occurs over four days in the middle of March each year.

Racing at Cheltenham dates back almost 200 years,Guest Posting with the first meeting being held on Nottingham Hill, above Bishops Cleeve, in 1815. In 1818 the first official race meeting took place, with Miss Tidmarsh, a five year old mare triumphant as the winner. The following year the first official three-day event took place and the winner of the first ever three mile, flat Gold Cup race, with a prize of 100 guineas, was Spectre.

The race got ever more popular over the next decade, with record crowds of 30,000 attending the July meeting which at that point hosted the Gold Cup. All was going well until 1829 when Reverend Francis Close, Cheltenham's parish priest, got involved, leading to demonstrations at the racecourse, with bottles and rocks being thrown at the horses and jockeys. The next year saw the same protesters burn the grandstand down before the next meeting. Following this violent display in 1931 it was decided to move the venue of the races would change to Prestbury Park, where the Cheltenham Festival is still held today.

In 1845 racing resumed in Cheltenham with the first ever steeplechase from Noverton Lane across to the Hewletts and in 1898 Mr Baring Bingham bought the course and racing was re-established in the town. He built a grandstand and erected rails around the course.

The Cheltenham Festival was first held in 1902, which marked the reopening of the Prestbury Park racecourse and by 1904 the first four-mile National Hunt steeplechase was run there and the course was thereby established as a major racing venue. In 1924 the first Gold Cup steeplechase was won by Red Splash and the prize money was £685. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a three mile, two and a half furlong race with a stamina-necessitating 237 yard uphill finish. 1964 saw the formation of the Racecourse Holdings Trust (now called the Jockey Club Racecourses) which was established to secure the future of horseracing at Cheltenham. The Jockey Club now owns fourteen racecourses in total and reinvests all of its profits in to the racecourses to continue their success and the development of horseracing in the UK.

When the race started in 1924 it was considered to be no more than a form guide and trial for the Grand National, which was reflected in the prizes - while the Gold Cup winner received £685, the winner of the National got a whopping £8,240.

These days the Cheltenham Festival is recognised as one of the UK's premier sporting and horseracing events. This year it is even looking as though it may eclipse the Grand National in terms of popularity and patronage; which normally easily exceeds 200,000; due to the ongoing battle between Paul Nicholl's stable mates Kauto Star and Denman. Indeed, the days have long gone since the Cheltenham Gold Cup has been regarded as a warm up for the Grand National. In fact it is now a race of very high regard and horses who win it are rarely risked in the turbulence of the race that is the Grand National. 2003 is a prime example of this - the six finishers in the National had missed out Cheltenham as they were being specially targeted for the Aintree race.

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Gen Wright
Gen Wright

The Cheltenham Race Festival is second in popularity only to the Grand National. But both horse racing events transfix a nation whos love of racing seems to know no bounds. You can get all the information on this years races from our websites.

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