The Cheltenham Festival is the most prestigious jumps meeting in the sport. There are 28 races over four days in the second week in March. In the lead up to the 2020 meeting there are some key Cheltenham Festival trials.
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A number of Cheltenham trials take place at the Cheltenham November meeting. At the end of January the course stages a Trails day meeting. Some of the leading contenders for the championship races and handicaps will take part in Cheltenham Festival trials.
The Cheltenham Festival is also the biggest betting meeting of the year. In fact, more than half the top 20 turnover races on the Flat and over jumps take place at the Festival. There is a feature championship race each day. In 2020 the following races will be the highlight of each day from Tuesday to Friday:
This article examines the Cheltenham Festival trials for these four races and others.
In addition to the Cheltenham trials at the Cheltenham November meeting, during that month and on trials day in January, there are a number of important prep races over the course of the season. The biggest race at the Festival is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Al Boum Photo won the race in 2019. The horse is trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins so will probably have a prep race in that country over Christmas or at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.
The second most prestigious chase in Britain is the King George VI Chase, which is run at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. The race is the most important of the Cheltenham trials.
There is a million pound bonus for any horse that wins the Betfair Chase in November, the King George and Gold Cup. Clan Des Obeaux won the Kempton race last season but was only fifth in the Gold Cup. The horse will be trying to win the bonus this season.
The Champion Hurdle is the most important hurdle race in the sport. It is run over two miles on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival. Sadly last year’s winner, Espoir d’Allen, has passed away so there will be a new champion or a former winner can prevail. Buveur D’air won the race in 2017 and 2018. The horse will probably run in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton which is one of the key Champion Hurdle Cheltenham Festival trials.
Altior is the second highest rated chaser in Britain and won the Champion Chase last season. The horse will be targeted at the race at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. There is no appropriate prep race for the horse at the Cheltenham November meeting. Altior will run in one of the recognised Cheltenham Festival trials. The major prep races for the meeting that matters most are run at Sandown and Ascot but other courses stage Cheltenham trials suited to Altior.
The Stayers’ hurdle is the championship race for long distance hurdlers. Paisley Park won the race in 2019 and is the favourite for the next renewal in March 2020. The owner of the horse is registered as blind and follows sport through the atmosphere and audio commentary. Paisley Park will probably run in the key Cheltenham trials for the stayers’ hurdle at Ascot and Newbury. An impressive run in either race will make Paisley Park a big favourite at the Festival.
The highlight of the Cheltenham November meeting is the BetVictor Gold Cup. It is a handicap chase but not one of the most important Cheltenham Festival trials. However, a horse that runs well in a competitive handicap at the track will enter calculations for a similar race at the Festival.
There are a number of hurdle races at the Cheltenham November meeting that can provide pointers for the big races at the Festival. There is also a cross country race which is becoming more significant as one of the informative Cheltenham Festival trials.
November is an important month for steeple chasing in Britain. In addition to the Cheltenham November meeting, there are several chases that often prove to be good Cheltenham trials. Here are the key races over fences during the month:
These three races are now established as important Cheltenham Festival trials. However, the three winners in 2018 did not win a race at the Cheltenham Festival the following March. In recent years Cue Card has performed best in these races which have been Cheltenham trials for the horse. Bristol de Mai has won two of the races but not won at the Cheltenham Festival.
Six weeks before the main meeting the course stages Cheltenham Festival trials day. The Cotswold Chase is significant prep race for the Gold Cup. Frodon won the race in 2019 but did not contest the Gold Cup. The horse ran in the Ryanair Chase and was an impressive winner. The horse’s regular jockey is Bryony Frost who is the famous female jumps jockey in the sport. Frodon is expected to run in one of the Cheltenham trials before the end of the year.
The Cleeve Hurdle is a race over the smaller obstacles and a distance of about three miles. In the last four years two of the winners have won The Stayers’ hurdle at the Festival. Thistlecrack and Paisley Park achieved the double. Big Buck’s has won two Cleeve Hurdles and is a four-time winner of the stayers’ hurdle. Inglis Drever also won both races. The results of the Cleeve Hurdle since 2008 make the race one of the most information Cheltenham Festival trials of the season.
Harvey Mayson has worked as a horseracing writer, blogger and tipster for several of the UK’s leading bookmakers and numerous other specialist racing sites. Harvey has great knowledge of horse racing history and was the author of the Paddy Power Cheltenham Festival and Aintree Grand National blog for three years. Harvey’s blog at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014 included a 100,000-1 ante-post four-timer while he correctly forecast the first four winners on Grand National day in 2015. He also tipped three Grand National winners in a row and eleven consecutive winning nap selections.