Do you know your furlong from your fences? Or your saddle from your steeple chase? With our blaggers guide to this year’s Cheltenham Festival, we will help ensure you are prepared for the biggest week in the racing calendar.
Ahead of the ‘greatest show on turf’ getting underway tomorrow, we take a look at some of the key terms and phrases you will need to know in order to hold your own in the stands, in the betting ring or even the comfort of your own home. Take note, it’s not time for horsing around!
Cheltenham festival key terms and phrases:
Bumper: This is a type of race where there are no jumps or obstacles, it is a straight 2-mile dash that follows the form of the National Hunt Flat Races. Dominated by prolific owner Willie Mullins, Wednesday afternoons’ race will see him look to add to his best-ever record of 10 winners at last year’s Festival, and his astonishing record of 34 winners in the last five meets at Cheltenham.
Dead Heat: A dead heat occurs when two horses tie for first-place, something that is very rare in racing. In the event of a dead-heat for first place, when a winning bet has been made the stake is split in half. If more than two horses dead-heat, the stake is proportioned accordingly.
Fences and hurdles: Don’t make the rookie error; these are not the same thing! Fences are the bigger of the two obstacles, providing a more challenging jumping test for both horse and the jockey. Hurdles however, are smaller and are meant for less experienced jumpers.
Furlong: This is a length of measure, one eighth of a mile to be exact, and is the most common way you will hear commentators refer to the distance between the horses and the finish line as you anxiously wait to see if your colours cross the line in first place!
Handicap: This is a race where the number of the horse indicates the weight that it’s carrying and the higher the number of the horse indicates the better the horse in theory. The best horse gets more weight added to it in order to make it more competitive.
Going: This term refers to underfoot conditions on the track itself ahead of the race. This can vary from firm, to good, to soft depending on how dry or wet the conditions are, and with the heavens having opened this week, you can be sure to inform your fellow racegoers that the going will be soft when the gates open on Tuesday.
Left-handed track: Another one of racing’s quirks, as courses can vary in which direction they run. Some courses will run ‘left-handed’ as Cheltenham does, meaning the riders will run anti-clockwise and finish from left-to-right as you watch on from the Club enclosure at the course.
Length: Another length of measure, this is more specific however as it refers to the length from the horses head to is tail. For instance, “he leads by three lengths.”
Steeplechasing: Something very novel about this type of race as it involves fences, open ditches and water jumps, and will be watched at 4:10pm on Thursday afternoon as the only steeplechase of the week.
Stewards enquiry: As if there wasn’t enough drama already on race week, this would really add to the occasion! A stewards enquiry occurs when there is suspicion that the rules have been broken during a race, for instance if their have been accusations of excessive whip use by a jockey on their horse.
Two separate courses: Cheltenham is home to two separate courses, the old course is used on Tuesday and Wednesday and is a slightly shorter course, whereas the new course is used during the later half of the week on Thursday and Friday for races such as the Stayers Hurdle and The Gold Cup as it holds a more challenging climax. The horses will come over the famous Hill on the final stretch.
Enjoy the week, and keep your newly found horsey knowledge off the hoof!