The 2018 Cheltenham Festival runs for four days from Tuesday 13 March to Friday 18 March 2018. Over the course of the event, there's some great action lined up as jockeys and horses from around Europe and beyond compete in the richest and most prestigious horse racing tournament. All of the days will feature key races at this year’s festival and below we look at the key dates and the main races for each day.
The first day of the festival has the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy as the highlight race. For some, the Champion Hurdle is not just a highlight, but the main gig of the entire Cheltenham Festival. One thing, in particular, makes it a great event in that it features new horses coming straight from the novices up against the more experienced breeds. It’s always great to see the birth of ‘legends’ and that is exactly what the Champion Hurdle is about - each year, emerging horses go on to win big trophies. The other great thing about the Champion Hurdle is that it’s a great test of how horses jump. Champion Hurdle has small hurdles, but is run at a high tempo quick speed which makes it exhilarating for spectators. Hot favourites for this year’s Champion Hurdle are Buveur Dair and Melon. Other races on 13 March are The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race, The Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase, The Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase, The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle Race, The J T McNamara National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup, and the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Seven more races follow on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival with the Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase being the highlight of the day. The Queen Mother Champion Chase is one of the most competitive races at the festival as horses have to be great jumpers and also excellent sprinters. There are some great names expected to be competing in this year's event and among these are Altior and Charbel, two horses that had a stellar 2017 and tipped at the frontrunners for the race. Additional races on 14 March are the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle Race, The RSA Steeple Chase, The Coral Cup Hurdle, The Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase, The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race, and the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
The third day of the Cheltenham Festival corresponds with the St Patrick’s Day, a holiday mostly celebrated by the Irish. On 15 March, the JLT Novices’ Chase is the main event of the day, running for a total of eight years this 2018. The race is relatively new, but has already pulled a large pool of fans. The fascinating thing about the JLT Novice’s Chase is that it is tricky for punters to predict. Horses that take part in the JLT Novices Chase do so after featuring in other races, therefore, there is no telling how they will perform after a few hours of rest. The JLT Novice’s Chase was added after calls by trainers who argued that there was no race at the festival that catered for horses that do not have the stamina to win the RSA Chase nor the speed to win the Arkle. Though difficult to predict, Willoughby Court and Death Duty are tipped as frontrunners by bookies. Other races on 15 March are The Pertemps Network Final, The Ryanair Steeple Chase, The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle, The Brown Advisory Plate, The Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle, and Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase.
The festival comes to a close on 16 March with the most anticipated race of the year, the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is run over 3m and 2.5.f. and only horses aged 5 years and above are allowed to enter this Class A Grade 1 race. What's more is that it's the most valuable event in the horseracing calendar with prize money being at a staggering amount of £550,000. Other races on the final day of the festival are The JCB Triumph Hurdle, The Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle Race, The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Race, and The St. James’s Place Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup, The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Race, and The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Steeple Chase Challenge Cup.