Early Birds: who’ll stun at the Cheltenham Festival Trials?
From now until March, every horse-racing enthusiast will be on the lookout for the next showstopper horse to take the Cheltenham Festival by storm, and with six races running on the last Saturday in January, the Cheltenham Festival Trials are the event to watch if you’re thinking of watching the Cheltenham Festival in March. More than once, the Cheltenham Festival Trials have been early predictors for March winners, so let’s break down what’s happening on the day and why it’s important.
- Betbright Trial Cotswolds Chase
It’s been running since the 1980s, then named the Tote Doublechase, and after that, the Timeform Hall of Fame Chase, and serves as a test run for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the most prestigious event in the March Cheltenham Festival. Run over a distance of 3 miles and 1 ½ furlongs, the race also features 21 fences to be jumped. Last year’s victor, Definitely Red, claimed the winner’s seat despite exceptionally soft ground and considerable competition.
As it’s the closest thing to the Cheltenham Gold Cup before the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Betbright Trial Cotswolds Chase is 100% the sole match to watch even if you’re not interested in the rest of the race day.
- JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle
The opening event of the Cheltenham Festival Trial races is the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle, a Grade II race open to horses aged four years with a distance of 2 miles and 1 furlong with eight fences to be cleared. It serves as an important stepping stone for any juvenile racers on their way to Cheltenham and previous participants in this even have gone to do well in future Cheltenham Races; is it going to show you a victor? Maybe not – the horses running in the Juvenile Hurdle are all two years old, and have a lot of race-running to catch up on, but amongst themselves, it’s good to see which horse cuts above the rest.
That said, usually victors of the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle have gone on to claim a first or second place at the JCB Trail in March.
- Ballymore Classics Hurdle
Open to horses over four years old, this race takes place over 2 miles and 4 ½ furlongs and has ten hurdles to clear, and remains one of the most important events of the Cheltenham Festival Trial day as it tends to attract the best racers in the novice category, and a single good run in the Ballymore Classics Hurdle – whether they’re winners or not – can open up the path to better future races for hurdlers.
- Cleeve Hurdle
In March, the Stayers Hurdle gets all eyes shining, but in January, there’s the Cleeve Hurdle, the main trial event for the Stayers Hurdle. Open to horses aged five and over, the Cleeve Hurdle has a distance of 3 miles and three obstacles to clear, and was initially a Grade I race before it was downgraded to a Grade II.
This is the key race for horses to run if they want to maintain good hurdling technique, and previous winners have gone on to do well in other hurdling events.
So is it worth the watch?
Horses who participate in the Cheltenham Trial Day can give a little precursor to the big event all the way down in March, so we definitely recommend that you tune into the Cheltenham Trial Day and see which racers look promising this year. If you’d like to keep track of the odds, Mr Green Sport is your sure-fire way to make sure that you stay up to date with how your favourites are faring and to place your bets.