Cheltenham Festival: Our layman’s guide to everything happening at Prestbury Park

Our tipster Andrew Cunneen has all the Festival bases covered for you.

Cheltenham racecourse

* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.

One. More. Week! It’s been a long winter for many reasons. Largely due to the fact every half-decent race meeting had to be rescheduled outside of Leopardstown, but also the world has changed and my gas heater broke down in the second week of November.

But just as the days are getting longer, the wait for the 2021 Cheltenham Festival is shortening as the minutes pass by.

By now you’ll have contrasting views for every expert under the sun about all 28 races. But you can catch-up on The Ultimate Cheltenham Preview Night to get the rundown from Ruby Walsh, Nina Carberry, Tony Mullins and our very own Frank Hickey if you’re still crossing out runners on your formbook.

Right, that’s the heavy stuff seen to, but for those of you who remain unwashed and sick to death of handicap ratings and statistics – it’s usually about now that you want a quick recap of the basics. Pay attention.

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ITV Extension

ITV or the designated broadcaster of choice have always just had the rights to cover five of the seven races on any given day of the Cheltenham Festival. This has generally meant we miss out on some handicaps, which, while not as desirable or headline-grabbing as some of the feature races, are worth a lot of money to a lot of people.

However, this year ITV have been designated the right to show six a day – largely due to the rights holders giving the broadcasters an extension due to the Festival being behind closed doors. Every cloud, as they say.

  • DON’T FORGET: Paddy will be all over your telly box throughout the Cheltenham Festival sponsoring ITV’s live coverage – and you can get free and exclusive tipping columns EVERY DAY from Ruby Walsh, Matt Chapman and Mick Fitzgerald here on PP News.

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Festival like no other

No amateur riders is a big headline coming into this Festival has countless races that would see a favourite shorten based solely on a jockey booking will now not exist.

There’s such a considerably large gulf in class between amateur riders at the Festival than there is the full-time pros; giving multiple races like the Hunters Chase, Kim Muir and the National Hunt Chase a totally different outlook.

Horses changing stables have grabbed the early headlines too in the lead-up to the Festival and given how rare that is this close to Cheltenham, it should be very interesting to see if the different brand of feed and the scheduling really makes as big a difference as the equine experts would suggest.

Naturally, both the biggest disappointment and largest difference between this year’s Festival and any other will be the lack of a crowd. Cheltenham can spook horses in the prelims. Crowds can affect races – so it should be interesting to see how quickly they go in the first mile of the Supreme Novices Hurdle for example. Usually, it turns into a stamina test rather than the speed drill it’s designed to be simply because of the excitement. A Festival like no other indeed.

Cheltenham Festival fans

Schedule Switch-Up

We’re so used to the traditional Festival lineup that sees Cheltenham finish up with the Grand Annual, but now the Martin Pipe is the final race of the meeting, with the Mrs Paddy Power Mares Chase taking place after the Hunters Chase.

Familiarise yourself with the new schedule as some races that used to be run on the New Course are now on the Old Course and that throws a lot of trends out the window.

Horses for Courses

You should be aware that Cheltenham has two courses – the New and the Old. The Old Course hosts the opening two days while the latter is the scene for Thursday and Friday.

The Old Course generally favours horses who can ride closer to the pace while the New Course has seen countless hold-up horses arrive late on to claim the spoils. You should be aware of this before you’re punting any of your fancies.

Short-priced favs

There’s a whole host of short-priced favs at the Festival and if you’re into your multiples, any of the following should be atop your list: Appreciate It, Monkfish, Envoi Allen, Shishkin, Kilcruit.

Every single year there’s hype horses and every single year at least one of them gets beaten. That’ll ultimately end up being the story of the Festival, whether we like it or not.

Top Trainers

‘Sneezy’ Foster is taking the reins at Cullentra for the Festival, minus a few Cheveley Park horses that have been sent elsewhere, but other than that, it’s a case of the usual contenders. Willie Mullins will be a short, short-priced favourite to be Top Trainer, but Henry De Bromhead’s team has never looked stronger.

Across the Irish Sea, Nicky Henderson is unrivalled when it comes to having his seasonal prep lead towards Cheltenham and Paul Nicholls, while he always states Cheltenham isn’t his be-all and end-all, certainly fires out winners in the Cotswolds like a man who enjoys being in the Winners’ Enclosure at Prestbury Park.

48-Hour Declarations

Remember that final declarations are due out 48 hours before the off for every race, meaning the final field isn’t confirmed until then.

But, thanks to Paddy Power’s Non-Runner Money-Back offer, if your horse doesn’t run, you’re not out of pocket. There’s really no reason not to get involved right now and take advantage of a potentially bigger price with the benefit of a safety net beneath you.

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Paddy Power Offers

If you sign up for Paddy Power, you’ll be rewarded with Three Free £5 Bets to use at the Cheltenham Festival where you can make a quick buck for no risk whatsoever. Now that’s the Festival spirit.

Not to mention that you get a Risk Free First Bet with the sportsbook, meaning that even if your first bet doesn’t win, we’ll refund it in cash to the maximum value of £10.

Oh, and don’t forget the Justice Refunds, where Paddy Power will refund you if we feel an abomination has taken place; a real miscarriage of justice has taken place, much like Goshen falling in the Triumph Hurdle last year when ready to bolt up. We’ve got you covered!

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