What time does it start, what channel and everything you need to know about the Cheltenham Festival

THE roar will rattle the tea cups across the Cotswolds signalling the start of the Cheltenham racing festival.

he biggest week in the diary of National Hunt, and over 68,000 spectators are expected to send them on their way on Tuesday.

Four days of top-quality racing. The best that the sport can offer. Over a quarter of a million spectators will come through the turnstiles.

For many, it’s the annual pilgrimage across the Irish sea. Dublin Airport bustling with anticipation. And the wisdom gained from the many preview nights around the country that add so much to the build-up.

It’s Ireland v England. With its history set deep in the rural beauty of Gloucestershire in South West England.

Stories that will live forever. The legendary Arkle. Like the great Christy O’Connor, simply known as ‘Himself.’

There was Dawn Run with Jonjo O’Neill winning the Gold Cup in 1986. Trained by Paddy Mullins, the father of Willie, now the festival’s great champion trainer.

There was Peter O’Sullevan commentating on Desert Orchid’s Gold Cup triumph three years later. “Dessie has done it.”

The atmosphere crackles from first race to last. The card schools extend long into the night. Pals gathering for drinks and dinner. Sharing tips and banter. The way old friends do.

Cheltenham is one of those sporting events that captures the public’s heart. The working day would pause for those few minutes as all gathered around the office television. In the bookies’ shops, each of the four days has that Grand National Saturday feel to it.

They’ll talk of Henry de Bromhead, Gordon Elliott, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson. And of Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty and Tony McCoy. And the modern-day heroes like Paul Townend, Davy Russell and Rachael Blackmore.

This week, Rachael was asked if she minded punters constantly coming up to her with their Cheltenham advice and questions.

“Not at all,” she quipped. “Sure, that goes on all year. Right from the Saturday after Friday’s Gold Cup!”

It’s one of those occasions that everyone looks forward to. Continuing the chapters from the likes of Istabraq, Best Mate and Kauto Star.

To Facile Vega, Constitution Hill, Delta Work, Galopin Des Champs, and the great Honeysuckle.

Jumping the last, climbing that hill, stretching every muscle, people on their toes, cheering, hats in the air, crumbled dockets on the ground.

Nobody captured the essence and joy of Cheltenham like broadcaster Colm Murray. Val Joyce wrote a song about Dawn Run. It’s a place that is full of poetry. It will always inspire. And this time every year, for the horse racing community, it’s Christmas in the Cotswolds.

When does the Cheltenham Festival start?

The racing kicks off on Tuesday and finishes on Friday.

Where is it on?

Prestbury Park

What is the schedule?

Seven races each day. The first at 1.30 and the last at 5.30.

How many people can attend?

Cheltenham capacity has been set at 68,500.

What is the prize money on offer?

£4,590,000 is up for grabs across the four days.

How much is admission?

Tickets range from £55 to £100.00.

Where can I watch it?

Racing TV will broadcast every race. Virgin Media 1 and ITV 1 will broadcast the first five races each day.

What is the one race not to miss?

Friday’s Gold Cup

Ted Talk

Ted Walsh has been going to Cheltenham for half a century. “Every year, it keeps getting better. They keep improving things. Some places lose their charm, but not here. I love Cheltenham. I love everything about it. I have been racing all over the world, but there’s nowhere like Cheltenham. It’s such a magical place.”


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