SETTING THE SCENE: The Cheltenham Festival.
Setting the Scene: The Cheltenham Festival
The outstanding records over the Cheltenham Festival’s colourful history
The Cheltenham Festival is upon us once again and, as the excitement builds for one of the biggest horse racing events in Britain, we have collated some of the most incredible stats and records to help set the scene for the festival at Prestbury Park.
Kicking us off and highlighting the magnitude of this festival in the horse racing universe is the record prize money that was given at the 2019 renewal of the Festival. 2019 saw £4,590,000 split between the race winners and contestants with the winner of the Gold Cup, the most prestigious event at the Festival taking over £350,000.
The Gold Cup at Cheltenham is the highlight of the event and almost always sees the Friday at the Festival completely sold out. Considered to be the most prestigious of the National Hunt events, the Gold Cup winners are remembered in the racing community for generations and have, in some instances, become cult heroes for their success.
Arkle, or simply known as ‘himself’, became one of the most well-recognised horses in the history of racing in Britain to the extent that he received fan mail from all over the world, with his success and fame even leading to two Grade 1 races being named after him: the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Arkle Novice Chase. During his career he broke numerous records, including a very impressive feat at Cheltenham; he was the shortest priced Gold Cup winner of all time at 1/10.
Cheltenham has produced many legendary horses and, alongside the horses, of course, comes legendary jockeys. There have been many over the years that have laid their legacies at Cheltenham, some going on to be considered some of the best jockeys of all time; Ruby Walsh is the most recognised of such definition and one that made Cheltenham Festival his playground for years. Winning 56 times on the tracks at Prestbury Park, Ruby Walsh took more victories than any other jockey on the famous racecourse on his way to becoming the third most prolific winner in British and Irish jump racing history.
Legendary horses and legendary jockeys. All that’s missing is legendary trainers and Cheltenham doesn’t skip the beat with some of the best trainers in the world of horse racing descending on the Festival every year to try their hand at winning the prestigious Gold Cup and other Grade 1 races. None have been more successful than Willie Mullins, a household name in horse racing across the UK and Ireland and for good reason. In his Cheltenham career alone, Mullins has won 88 races, more than any other trainer in the history of the event.
We couldn’t discuss Cheltenham Festival without mentioning the culture surrounding the four-day event and the people that attend, helping the Festival become the iconic highlight of the yearly sporting calendar that it has. For years it has been known for its atmosphere and ‘The Cheltenham Roar’, the incredible sound made by the punters and spectators as the starter raises the tape for the first race of the Festival. Cheltenham attracts more money than any other festival in the UK and with it comes a lot of spectators, willing their picks to the finish line first. In 2022, Cheltenham attracted more punters than ever before with 280,627 people attending over the four days.
While legendary participants at the Festival are interesting, there is one stat that captures the mood at Cheltenham more than any previously mentioned. Cheltenham is a big occasion and the excitement, betting skill, and celebrations require a lot of energy to maintain over four days. What better way is there to fuel such festivity than the glorious versatility that is the potato? Every year at Cheltenham the esteemed clientele consume nine tons of potatoes in the form of chips, jackets and every other variety in existence. Wholly encapsulating the tradition that is Cheltenham Festival, the potato represents the humble beginnings of the racecourse that first came to life in 1815 having now grown into the gargantuan globally recognised jubilee it is today.