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Close Brothers at the Cheltenham Festival

A look ahead to the world renowned jump racing festival, Tuesday 16 to Friday 19 March 2021.

Cheltenham Festival 2021 

18 days to go

2021 Event Schedule

    Officially billed as Champion Day, the opening afternoon of the Cheltenham Festival is packed with top quality racing and starts with a bang as the best young hurdlers clash in the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle. The newly-named Sporting Life Arkle crowns the champion two-mile novice chaser and the headline race on day one is the Unibet Champion Hurdle, won by some legends of the sport over the years including magnificent mare Dawn Run, the hugely popular Brave Inca and three-time winners Hatton's Grace, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq. Last year the two-mile crown went to the Nicky Henderson-trained Epatante.


    1.20pm The Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle Race (Grade 1)
    1.55pm The Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase (Grade 1)
    2.30pm The Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
    3.05pm The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) 
    3.40pm The Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1)
    4.15pm The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race (Grade 3)
    4.50pm The National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup (Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase) (Grade 2) 

    Ladies Day consists of a fine blend of speed and stamina, with The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase one of the most exhilarating races of the entire week as the fastest two-milers fly around Prestbury Park's demanding chase course.

    The Brown Advisory Novices' Chase is a severe examination for burgeoning staying talent and the Cross Country Chase gets better by the year, with dual hero Tiger Roll famously going on to claim Grand National glory at Aintree on the occasions he was successful. Last year he had to settle for second behind the promising French challenger Easysland.


    1.20pm The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 
    1.55pm The Brown Advisory Novices' Steeple Chase (Grade 1)
    2.30pm The Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (A Handicap Hurdle Race) (Grade 3)
    3.05pm The Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase (Grade 1) 
    3.40pm The Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase
    4.15pm The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase Challenge Cup (Grade 3)
    4.50pm The Weatherbys Champion Bumper (A Standard Open NH Flat Race) (Grade 1) 

    St Patrick's Thursday and every reason to celebrate, with a couple of cracking Grade One contests in the Stayers' Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase.

    The Marsh Novices' Chase also carries top-class status while the Pertemps Network Final provides a fantastic puzzle for punters to solve as a huge field scrap for hurdling honours over three miles.


    1.20pm The Marsh Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 
    1.55pm The Pertemps Network Final (A Handicap Hurdle Race) (Listed) 
    2.30pm The Ryanair Steeple Chase (Grade 1)
    3.05pm The Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle Race (Grade 1)
    3.40pm The Paddy Power Plate (A Handicap Chase) (Grade 3)
    4.15pm The Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2)
    4.50pm The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase (0-145)

    Gold Cup Day needs no introduction.

    One of the most sought-after titles in racing is decided on the final day of the Festival and always promises to provide the greatest spectacle.

    The WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup is a race associated with the elite of the sport and nothing can rival the Cheltenham roar as the horses charge up the famous hill - last year saw Al Boum Photo claim back-to-back wins in the race, the first horse to do so since Best Mate who went on to win a third the following year. Willie Mullins' charge is likely to be back to try and emulate that great chaser this time around.

    The JCB Triumph Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle also crown top-class talents, while a recent tweak to the programme now means the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle is the 28th and final race of the Festival.


    1.20pm The JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)
    1.55pm The County Handicap Hurdle Race (Grade 3) 
    2.30pm The Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle Race (Grade 1) 
    3.05pm The WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase (Grade 1)
    3.40pm The St James's Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Steeple Chase
    4.15pm The Mrs Paddy Power Mares' Steeple Chase (Grade 2)
    4.50pm The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle Race (0-145) 

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    2020 Cheltenham Festival Highlights - Day 1

    The roar was released on Day One of The Festival™ presented by Magners on Tuesday 10 March 2020, as the crowds arrived to be a part of four extraordinary days of sport.

    The Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle set the scene for a fantastic week of racing with the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin landing the honours for Nico de Boinville in impressive style. The gelding got the week off to a flying start for owner, Mrs J Donnelly who had 2019 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo to come later in the week, and was bidding to etch his name into the history books.  

    The feature race of the day, The Unibet Champion Hurdle was off at 3.30pm, and as ever, the race appeared to be wide open. However, it was Champion Trainer, Nicky Henderson’s star mare, Epatante who proved too good for the field of 16 as she extended the trainer’s exceptional record in the G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle to eight wins. Jockey Barry Geraghty was celebrating his fourth, and record-equalling, success in the race as the mare held off a strong challenge from Sharjah under Patrick Mullins for his father Willie. The famous green and gold silks of J.P. McManus were back in the Winners’ Enclosure for the fifth consecutive year, and giving the famous owner a birthday winner, kick-starting what turned out to be an incredible week.

    The highly anticipated Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1) lived up to the hype as two top mares, Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle battled up the Cheltenham hill in fine style with Honeysuckle coming out on top for Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead, giving Rachael her third success at The Festival™ presented by Magners.


    Close Brothers at the Cheltenham Festival History


    Close Brothers first year at the Cheltenham Festival, sponsoring the 17:30pm Novices Handicap Chase on the opening day of the festival. Won by Ballyalton (IRE).


    The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase this year was thrilling race, but in the end Tully East came through and won by a cosy length-and-a-quarter.


    Bottom weight Mister Whitaker came out best in the closest finish on day one of the Festival for trainer Mick Channon and jockey Brian Hughes.


    Rachael Blackmore landed her first Cheltenham Festival winner with a superb ride on A Plus Tard to land the 2019 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase. A Plus Tard’s win was the first of the festival by a favourite, coming just half an hour after the short-priced Benie Des Dieux had fallen when clear at the final fence in the Mares’ Hurdle.


    A switch of race this year saw Close Brothers now sponsoring the Mares Hurdle on day 1 of the Festival. Benie Des Dieux was a strong favourite to take the race but Rachael Blackmore pinched the race with a decisive move around the home bend on board Honeysuckle.