Cheltenham Festival Horse Racing Sport

What makes the Cheltenham Festival so special?

The roar was back as Marine Nationale, jockeyed by Michael O’Sullivan, pipped the favourite Facile Vega to the finish line in the first race of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival.

It started a week like no other in the area, as fields make way for parking spaces and the town sees its hotels and restaurants become fully booked.

You get a bit of everything over the course of the week, and sometimes the public’s behaviour can go too far when involved in the festivities.

There are plenty of meets that take place over the course of the year, so what is it about Cheltenham that entices punters so much?

“When I went to university I started getting into it then and going to different racecourses. It’s a good spectacle. It’s good fun and good entertainment,” said one fan.

“My favourite Cheltenham memory would have to be Faugheen winning the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy in 2015.

“I think the best bet you could have this week is Galopin Des Champs to win the Gold Cup.”

Obviously, the betting aspect dominates the build-up rather than the actual race itself. There are others who use the four days as an excuse to meet up with friends and family while perhaps having one too many to drink.

These create similarities to other sports such as a Test match in cricket, or a darts event where you have to question how many of the spectators are actually there to solely follow the races.

Nico de Boinville riding Constitution Hill celebrate winning The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy during day one of the Cheltenham Festival...
Nico de Boinville atop of Constitution Hill after winning the Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

That’s not to say it doesn’t mean as much to the trainers and jockeys, with a poignant moment coming after Rachael Blackmore won the Mares’ Hurdle with her nine-year-old horse Honeysuckle.

“We all wish a very special kid was here today, but he is watching down on us,” reflected Blackmore – referring to the tragic accidental death last year of Jack de Bromhead, the son of trainer Henry de Bromhead.

“She (Honeysuckle) was unbelievable. The way Henry has trained this horse is phenomenal. As a jockey I’m so grateful.

“She’s been incredible for my career. Henry does an unbelievable job with all the horses, credit to everyone.”

If ever you needed a reminder of how much horse racing, and sport, means to its competitors, have a watch of the Cheltenham Festival this week, you may be presently surprised.

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