Of all of the fixtures featuring in 2015's racing calendar, there are few as well-anticipated or more enjoyed than the Cheltenham Festival, taking place between March the 10th and 13th at Cheltenham Racecourse. As with any big meeting, wagering will be top of the agenda for many excited attendees; last year some £600,000,000 of bets were taken in by bookmakers. The Festival certainly has a great number of top class races under it's belt, so what are they? Which horses have previous revelled in the events' previous glories?
The race kicking off the festival is the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, a frantic two mile run featuring a truly big field, all engaging in a satisfying mix of hurdling and chasing that spectators find irresistible! Last year, five year-old Vautour, trained by W Mullins and jockeyed by R Walsh, came out on top of the Grade 1 race, although Irish banker Douvan could assume the title this March.
Fans wanting to bet on the biggest race of Tuesday will be looking forward to the Champion Hurdle, however. Deciding the champion of the hurdling division over a two mile slog, Jezki (trained by J Harrington and ridden by B Geraghty) was 2014's winner, and may yet rise back up to first place this year.
Wednesday kicks off with the National Hunt Steeple Chase, a demanding novice horse and amateur jockey race that can truly put the strain on the contenders. With the prospect of injury an ever-present fear, punters should make sure they keep track of all the latest news via Coral's sports app; any slip-ups and one's picks could be in need for drastic last-minute alterations! Last year 9 year-old Midnight Prayer beat the odds and came out on top.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the top fixture of Wednesday though, a top class race that dictates who is the best chaser in the two mile division. Last year Sire De Grugy won a tense race, ridden excellently by J Moore.
Fans of chases will enjoy Thursday's Ryanair Chase, a two mile, five furlong race for five year old horses and older that are always the more lofty equines in the competition! Last year Dynaste, jockeyed by J Tizzard and traned by D Pipe, came first in the Grade 1 race, although this year's winner may well be a newcomer.
Feature event for Thursday is the Ladbrokes World Hurdle; three miles long, last year's winner was More Of That, ridden by B Geraghty, in what was an electrifying race! This year's picks include Zarkandar and Saphir Du Rheu, but it's likely to be a close one!
Finally, the ultimate day of the festival sees the County Hurdle, one of the most difficult handicaps to solve at the festival. Quick, exciting and nail-biting in equal measure, last year's race saw Tiger Roll come first place.
Then it's the big one; the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Last year saw Lord Windermere (D Russel and J Culloty) come first at this most important event, although this year Holywell, Bobs Worth and Many Clouds are all strong contenders- this is going to be an excellent watch!