How many races at the Cheltenham Festival are handicaps?
The ‘Olympics’ of National Hunt racing, the Cheltenham Festival, was from three to four days in 2005 and, nowadays, the schedule consists of seven-race cards each day, making 28 races in total.
Exactly half of those races are at the highest calibre, Grade One level and include the four main, ‘championship’ races, namely the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
However, nearly a third of the Cheltenham Festival schedule is made up of handicaps, four over fences and five over hurdles, strategically positioned throughout the four days. All nine handicaps have a safety limit of 20 or more and generally attract maximum fields, which makes them fiercely competitive and, by the same token, devilishly difficult to solve from the punters’ perspective.
The four handicap steeplechases are, in chrononological order, the Ultima Handicap Chase, on day one, Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup, on day two, and the Paddy Power Plate and Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup, both on day four. Similarly, the five handicap hurdles are the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, on day one, Coral Cup, on day two, Pertemps Network Final, on day three and the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle and Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, both on day four.