The Aintree Grand National may be the most famous British jumps race, but, for racing fans, the jewel in the National Hunt crown comes at Cheltenham Racecourse in March each year with the annual edition of the magnificent Cheltenham Gold Cup.
First held in 1924, this Grade 1 Chase contest represents the pinnacle of the sport for the most talented chasers in the game, as the runners and riders tackle 3m2½f and 22 fences in pursuit of glory.
Cheltenham Gold Cup 2023: Runners & Riders
- Ahoy Senor – Derek Fox
- A Plus Tard – Rachael Blackmore
- Bravemansgame – Harry Cobden
- Conflated – Sam Ewing
- Eldorado Allen – Brendan Powell
- Galopin Des Champs – Paul Townend
- Hewick – Jordan Gainford
- Minella Indo – Nico de Boinville
- Noble Yeats – Sean Bowen
- Protektorat – Harry Skelton
- Royale Pagaille – Charlie Deutsch
- Sounds Russian – Sean Quinlan
- Stattler – Patrick Mullins
The Home of Jumps Racing
Whilst Newmarket is known as the headquarters of flat racing, Cheltenham is recognised as the home of National Hunt racing. Nestled in a natural amphitheatre in the beautiful surroundings of the Cotswolds, the Prestbury Park venue has grown from small beginnings to become a 67,500-capacity behemoth of a track and one of the “must-visit” destinations for jumps racing fans.
The vast site at Cheltenham is home to three separate tracks: the Old Course and New Course, which run alongside one another, and the Cross Country Course, which weaves and criss-crosses across the site. Of the three tracks, the New Course, with its long uphill finish and trickier jumping challenge, is recognised as the toughest, and it is over this course that the track’s signature event of the Cheltenham Gold Cup takes place.
The Highlight of the Cheltenham Festival
Far from being a one-off stand-alone event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the biggest of several spectacular highlights at the Cheltenham Festival. Held over four days in March each year, running from Tuesday to Friday, this unparalleled meeting is the centrepiece of the entire jumps season. The National Hunt campaign may begin in October, but all roads lead to March, with the route to the Cheltenham Festival providing a compelling narrative throughout the year.
Regularly referred to as the Olympics of the jumps racing game, the Cheltenham Festival offers a major prize to aim at over a range of distances for the most gifted hurdles and chasers in the sport, including the fellow Grade 1 highlights of the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and Stayers Hurdle. It is, however, the Friday feature of the Cheltenham Gold Cup which captures the imagination more than any other.
Only the Most Talented Chasers Need Apply
Open to chasers aged five and older, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most valuable non-handicap chase of the British season – offering total prize money of £625,000 in 2023 – and never fails to attract the best of the best from both sides of the Irish Sea.
A quick glance through the list of previous winners illustrates the quality of horse it often takes to prevail in an event which demands brilliant jumping ability, tremendous staying power, heart, and, above all, class. Arkle, Kauto Star, Denman, and Best Mate are but a selection of the greats to have etched their names into racing folklore with one or more wins in this event.
Proven Class the Key Pointer
In what is almost always the classiest staying chase of the season, a proven ability to take on the best and win has been the number one key pointer to success. When looking at the 23 editions of the race between 2000 and 2023 (there was no race in 2001 due to the foot and mouth outbreak), no fewer than 22 Cheltenham Gold Cup winners had previously scored at least once in Grade 1 company.
Next to class, course form has also proved a useful pointer, with 14 of the 23 winners over this period having already proved their mettle around the demanding Cheltenham track. Included in that number are the multiple winners of this race – Best Mate (2002, 2003, 2004), Kauto Star (2007, 2009) and Al Boum Photo (2019, 2020).
In terms of the age of the winner, seven to nine was the magic window between 2000 and 2023, with all bar the six-year-old champ Long Run (2011) falling into this bracket. Irish-trained runners enjoyed a remarkable run of success with seven wins in the space of eight editions between 2016 and 2023, but overall, the score for the 2000-2023 period stood at Britain 12, Ireland 11.