The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of National Hunt racing and features the championship races for hurdlers and chasers. The Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup are the most prestigious races in those disciplines but by no means the only Grade 1 races. In fact, there is a major championship race on all four days of the Cheltenham Festival. The Champion Chase is the most important chase over two miles and the Stayers’ Hurdle is the biggest race of the season in that sphere. Despite not reaching the turnover levels of the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup these two races are in the top 5 turnover Grade 1 races every year during the Cheltenham Festival. The winner of each race is often immediately made favourite for the corresponding race at the next Cheltenham Festival and there is plenty of ante post betting. There are several key trials for both races from October to February and the betting market develops in line with the outcomes.
Cheltenham Festival Champion Chase
The Champion Chase is the most lucrative and prestigious contest on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival. It’s a level weights race over two miles and 12 obstacles are jumped. The race takes place over a circuit and a bit of the Old Course. The pace over the minimum distance is frantic and one jumping error can take a horse out of contention. The race has a history of producing multiple winners and is the best race of the four big ones for favourites at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years. The winner is the champion two-mile chaser of the season. The winning horse must be an accurate jumper at pace and still need something in reserve to keep on up the hill after the final fence. Altior won the race in 2018 and at the time of writing is unbeaten 15 races over hurdles and fences. The horse has now won different races at the Cheltenham Festival from 2016 to 2018. Altior can justify favouritism by winning the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019.
Cheltenham Festival Stayers’ Hurdle
The Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival has had a number of names because there has been a change in the sponsors. Regardless of the title the race is run over three miles and about two circuits of the New Course on the Thursday of the Cheltenham Festival and there are 12 hurdles. The race is one of the most grueling of the meeting due to the distance and pace for a race of this nature. The Stayers’ Hurdle is another Grade 1 contest with a history of producing multiple winners. Indeed, Big Buck’s won four consecutive renewals from 2009 to 2012 and InglisDrever and Barracouda have won the race more than once this century. The staying hurdlers champion often becomes a leading contender for the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in subsequent years. Thistelcrack was the leading staying hurdler in the 2015/16 season and is prominent in the betting for the Gold Cup at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.