When is Cheltenham? Where can I watch it? Who shall I look out for? Which horses are being backed? What time is the Gold Cup? Relax, Mike Norman is here to answer all the key questions...
When is it?
The 2021 Cheltenham Festival is nearly upon us, starting Tuesday 16 March and running for four consecutive days to Friday 19 March.
The first race on each day will start at 13:20, the feature race on each day commences at 15:05, and the action concludes on all four days with the final race going off at 16:50.
Where can I watch it?
Sadly, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we won't be able visit Cheltenham this year, go to the pub to watch the racing, or even pop over to a friend's house. And remember, it's important that we stick to these Government rules so that we can enjoy visiting racecourses and friends again in the very near future.
But the good news is that every one of the 28 Cheltenham Festival races can be viewed live from the comfort of your own armchair.
Racing TV - a subscription paid service - has comprehensive coverage of the festival each day, including every race live, while free-to-air ITV Racing start their coverage at 1pm each day and will show the first six races live before going off air at 16:30.
But in even better news, every single Cheltenham Festival race can be viewed live simply by having a Betfair account. Just log in, go to the race you want to watch on the Betfair Exchange or Sportsbook, and click on the Live Video button (as per screenshot below). You'll also be able to watch the action right here on Betting.Betfair, on our Cheltenham Hub.
What are the main races?
Every race at the Cheltenham Festival is valuable in its own right, both in terms of prize money and prestige, but throughout the week there are four main races, one on each race day, and these are called the four championship races.
They are listed below, each with a link to the antepost Sportsbook market, where Betfair are going Non Runner Money Back should your horse not make it to post, and the antepost Exchange market where Win odds can be far more rewarding.
|Tuesday||Champion Hurdle||Champion Hurdle|
|Wednesday||Champion Chase||Champion Chase|
|Thursday||Stayers' Hurdle||Stayers' Hurdle|
|Friday||Cheltenham Gold Cup||Cheltenham Gold Cup|
Who are the trainers and jockeys to look out for?
Cheltenham, the home of National Hunt racing, can be the place where dreams are made, but sadly, again due to the pandemic, there will be no amateur jockeys in attendance this year.
But the sport's biggest names will all be in attendance including four-time British champion jump jockey Richard Johnson, plus current champion Brian Hughes, and the current Irish champion jump jockey Paul Townend.
Look out also for Rachael Blackmore, the leading female rider in the sport who has a terrific book of rides for one of Ireland's leading trainers Henry De Bromhead.
In terms of trainers then three big names stand out.
Willie Mullins, who has saddled an incredible 72 Cheltenham Festival winners, is once again expected to dominate this year and has potentially the strongest string of horses he's ever had, while Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls and six-time champion trainer Nicky Henderson will also send a strong team of horses to Prestbury Park.
Who are the shortest price favourites?
A big feature of this year's Cheltenham Festival is the number of short-price favourites that are expected to line up.
Two will go to post on the first day of the meeting; Shishkin in the Arkle Novices' Chase is trading at around 2.01/1 currently, while later on the card Concertista is a strong 2.245/4 favourite for the Mares' Hurdle.
On Wednesday another three hot pots will be going to war for the punters, Monkfish (1.845/6) in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase, Chacun Pour Soi (2.245/4) in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and French raider Easysland (2.265/4) in the Cross Country Chase.
It's the turn of the unbeaten Envoi Allen on Thursday, who is 1.8810/11 to win the Marsh Novices' Chase, while on Friday, Al Boum Photo will be bidding to win a hat-trick of Gold Cups, and although not as short as some other favourites, he is very strong at the head of the market at 4.1 in a race of this nature.
Are there any famous horses running?
To casual horse racing fans the one horse that most will have heard of is Tiger Roll, winner of the last two Grand Nationals.
But it's not just at Aintree where Tiger Roll has a strong record, he's won at the Cheltenham Festival an incredible four times including twice in the race in which he'll be bidding to win again on the Wednesday of the meeting, the Cross Country Chase.
Tiger Roll has been out of form this season, and he's not getting any younger, but spring, and especially Cheltenham, bring out the best of him so he might be worth a small interest at odds of 11.010/1.
Another big name, especially in horse racing itself, is Nicky Henderson's star chaser Altior. Like Tiger Roll he isn't getting any younger but he's a former Champion Chaser and a four-time Festival winner. He's available to back at 9.08/1 to win a third Champion Chase.
And maybe not as famous now, but horses like Envoi Allen and Shishkin will do their tall reputations no harm with victories in their respective races.
Where can I get daily tips?
Right here >>> Cheltenham Tips.
There's already a plethora of content on our dedicated Cheltenham Festival page, including the championship races previewed, antepost tips, a look at the handicap races, a feature on Willie Mullins, and much much more.
Each day of the meeting we'll have exclusive insight from our ambassadors Paul Nicholls, Joseph O'Brien and Olly Murphy, and we'll have recommended bets and an extensive look at the afternoon's action from our resident tipster Tony Calvin.