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Cheltenham Festival History

In 1815, the first official flat race took place at Cheltenham’s Nottingham Hill. Three years later, Cleeve Hill then also saw its first piece of horse racing action.

There was controversy a few decades later when the local priest disrupted the annual two-day July meeting, dispersing the 30,000 nervous spectators. The Grandstand was the victim of an arson attack before the following year’s meeting and as a result, the racecourse was moved to Prestbury Park in 1831.

The Cheltenham Festival itself has been part of the National Hunt racing calendar since 1860. Originally titled The Grand National Hunt Meeting, the event moved between racecourses regularly but was most often held at Warwick Racecourse.

Festival Racecourse History

Cheltenham first played host to this magnificent event in its second year, then again in 1904 and 1905 after the development of the new course at Prestbury Park. The Festival then returned to Warwickshire for four more National Hunt seasons.

After a series of large-scale renovations to Prestbury Park’s course, stands and drainage, Cheltenham Racecourse was established as a world-class horse racing venue and became the permanent home of The Cheltenham Festival in 1911.

Racecourse Holdings was formed in 1964 to protect Cheltenham Racecourse from the interest of housing development companies. Today, Racecourse Holdings are known as The Jockey Club and they now own 14 racecourses and several training grounds including The National Stud.

Cheltenham Racecourse still remains one of the most prestigious horse racing venues in the world, hosting various other exceptional National Hunt meetings, including The Showcase, The April Meeting, Race Night, The November Meeting, New Year’s Day and The International.

Gold Cup History

In the 1850s the sport had had enough of the weak farm horses that were entered for racing and decided to make the races more challenging so that only carefully trained, physically strong, high-class participants could achieve glory.

Participating horses rose from simple gambling tools to athletic, elite specimens.

The first edition of The Cheltenham Gold Cup took place in 1924 and was won by 5-year-old Red Splash, ridden by Dick Rees and trained by Frederick S Withington with a starting price of 5/1.

The Gold Cup Trophy that was awarded that day continued to be in use until a new one was made to use in 1972 – that was until the original trophy reemerged from a bank vault where it had rested since the ’70s and was handed to Paul Townend and Willie Mullins in 2019 after the first of two consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup wins for Al Boum Photo.

Festival records

Let’s take a look at and celebrate the best horses, jockeys and trainers that have been successful in The Cheltenham Festival and graced the grounds of Cheltenham Racecourse:

Most successful horses

Here are the horses with the highest number of achievements in each of The Cheltenham Festival featured races:

The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

There are 5 horses with the joint-most victories in The Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy at The Cheltenham Festival, winning it on three separate occasions each: Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then, and the most recent, Istabraq, who won this race three years consecutively in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

The horse with the most wins in The Queen Mother Champion Chase is Badsworth Boy, who won this race three consecutive times in 1983, 1984 and 1985, ridden by jockey Robert Earnshaw on each occasion.

The Ryanair Steeple Chase

The horse with the most wins in the short history of The Ryanair Steeplechase at The Cheltenham Festival is Albertas Run, with two consecutive wins in 2010 and 2011.

The WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase

The horse will the greatest record in The Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeplechase is Golden Miller, who won this prestigious race 5 times in a row between 1932 and 1936. You’ll now find a champagne bar named after this great horse at Cheltenham Racecourse.

Most successful jockeys

Here are the jockeys with the highest number of achievements in each of The Cheltenham Festival featured races:

The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

There are three jockeys with an equal number of wins in The Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy who have all ridden to victory in this race four times each. The most recent jockey to achieve his four victories is Barry Geraghty:

  • 2009 – Punjabi – 22/1 starting price
  • 2014 – Jezki – 9/1 starting price
  • 2018 – Buveur D’Air – 4/6 starting price favourite
  • 2020 – Epatante – 2/1 starting price favourite

The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

There are two jockeys with 5 wins each in The Queen Mother Champion Chase, Pat Taaffe and, most recently, Barry Geraghty:

  • 2003 – Moscow Flyer – 7/4 starting price favourite
  • 2005 – Moscow Flyer – 6/4 starting price favourite
  • 2010 – Big Zeb – 10/1 starting price
  • 2012 – Finian’s Rainbow – 4/1 starting price
  • 2013 – Sprinter Sacre – 1/4 starting price favourite

The Ryanair Steeple Chase

The leading jockey in The Ryanair Steeple Chase is Ruby Walsh with four wins between 2005 and 2017:

  • 2005 – Thisthatandtother – 9/2 starting price
  • 2007 – Taranis – 9/2 starting price
  • 2016 – Vautour – 1/1 (Evs) starting price
  • 2017 – Un De Sceaux – 7/4 starting price favourite

The WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase

The most successful jockey in the history of The Cheltenham Gold Cup is Pat Taaffe with four wins between 1964 and 1968:

  • 1964 – Arkle – 7/4 starting price
  • 1965 – Arkle – 100/30 starting price favourite
  • 1966 – Arkle – 1/10 starting price favourite
  • 1968 – Fort Leney – 11/2 starting price

Most successful trainers

Here are the horse trainers with the highest number of achievements in each of The Cheltenham Festival featured races:

The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

The leading trainer in The Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy is Nicky Henderson with 8 wins under his belt provided by 5 different horses:

  • See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987)
  • Punjabi (2009)
  • Binocular (2010)
  • Buveur D’Air (2017, 2018)
  • Epatante (2020)

The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

There are three horse trainers with 6 wins each in The Queen Mother Champion Chase. The most recent to reach this number was Paul Nicholls in 2020:

  • Call Equiname (1999)
  • Azertyuiop (2004)
  • Master Minded (2008, 2009)
  • Dodging Bullets (2015)
  • Politologue (2020)

The Ryanair Steeple Chase

The trainer with the most success in Cheltenham Festival’s Ryanair Steeple Chase is Paul Nicholls with 3 wins:

  • Thisthatandtother (2005)
  • Taranis (2007)
  • Frodon (2019)

The WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase

The horse trainer with the most wins in The Cheltenham Gold Cup is Tom Dreaper with 5 wins between 1946 and 1968:

  • Prince Regent (1946)
  • Arkle (1964, 1965, 1966)
  • Fort Leney (1968)

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