What Is Cheltenham Festival Trials Day?
Have you ever wondered – what is Cheltenham Festival Trials Day? Well, this article is going to explain exactly what it is and why it’s run.
We are all familiar with the Cheltenham Festival and how important it is in the horse racing calendar. In January you might start to hear the term ‘Festival Trials’ mentioned quite a lot.
So what are the Cheltenham Festival Trials? Is it part of The Festival? And what is the purpose of it all? These are all great questions and if you want the answers then just keep reading.
What Is Cheltenham Festival Trials Day?
Cheltenham Festival Trials day is the last time we see racing at the famed Cheltenham racecourse before the prestigious Cheltenham Festival. This day of racing at Cheltenham is a traditional staple in the horse racing calendar.
The Festival Trials day takes place each year on the last Saturday in January.
What Is The Point Of Cheltenham Festival Trials?
The purpose of the Cheltenham Festival Trials day is for horses, trainers and jockeys to get a ‘trial’ run at the famous racecourse one last time before the Cheltenham Festival begins in March. The Festival Trials day is the last day of racing at the course before the festival.
It is also a great opportunity for horse racing fans and punters to get a look at what horses are running well at the Cheltenham course which can help for handicapping races at the Cheltenham Festival.
How Important Is Cheltenham Festival Trials Day?
We enlisted the help of King George VI Chase and Champion Hurdle winning jockey Noel Fehily to explain just how important Cheltenham Festival Trials day is.
Here’s what Fehily had to say:
“Trials Day is important for the horses that are going to the Festival, they have to go there and perform. If you have a blip there then you are probably on the back foot for Cheltenham, which is not ideal. You need these trials and you need them to go right.“
For instance, the Cleeve Hurdle has provided a winner at Cheltenham Festival 11 times in the past 22 years, so it’s a big pointer.
“The whole idea is that you have to get your horse to the Festival in the best condition.“
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Cheltenham Festival Trials Traditional Races
There are seven races at the Cheltenham Festival Trials Day. Some of these races have been run for 30+ years on trials day which makes them tradition at this point.
Race 1 – The JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle
The JCB Triumph Hurdle is a Grade 2 race that takes place on the Cheltenham New Course over a 2 mile and one furlong trip. Competing horses must be four years old and novice hurdlers.
There are eight hurdles that the horses have to jump during the course of this race. This race has been run since back in 1985 and is supposed to be an indicator of form ahead of the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Race 2 – The Timeform Novices’ Handicap Steeple Chase
The Timeform Novices’ Chase is a Class 2 race that is run over two miles, four furlongs and 127 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham. As you can probably tell from the name, this race is handicapped and for novice chasers.
Horses must be five years and older to be eligible for this race where they will encounter 17 fences between the start and finish line. This race is most closely tied with the handicap chase races at the Cheltenham Festival.
Race 3 – The Cotswold Chase
This is the feature race of Festival Trials Day and there is always plenty of interest in it as it is supposed to be a good indicator for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The race is run on the New Course over a trip of three miles, one furlong and 56 yards by horses of five years and older. During this Grade 2 race the runners will have to navigate their way past 21 fences. Not only is the Cotswold Chase said to be a good point of reference for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but is also tied to performance at the Grand National too.
Race 4 – The Cleeve Hurdle Race
The Cleeve Hurdle is run on the New Course over two miles, seven furlongs and 213 yards by horses of five years and older. In this Grade 2 race there are 12 fences for horses to jump in total.
This race is heavily linked to the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with horses that do well here typically going on to compete in that race.
Race 5 – Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle
The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle is another race that is run on the New Course. This is a Grade 2 race that takes place over a little over two miles and four furlongs by horses of four years and older.
During this 2+ mile trip the runners will be tasked with 10 fences to successfully navigate. This race is most closely related to the Spa Novices’ Hurdle on Gold Cup Day of the festival.
Race 6 – SSS Super Alloys Handicap Hurdle
Finally we have the SSS Super Alloys Handicap Hurdle to round out the list of traditional races at the Cheltenham Festival Trials Day. This is a Class 2 race open to four year-olds and over.
The competing horses and jockeys will be faced with eight fences over two miles and 179 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham.
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