Recently we posted a brief preview of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival. It outlined some of the spectator activities and attractions for each day and focused primarily on the Gold Cup, which is effectively the marquee event of the weekend.
However, with the spring racing season growing closer every day, and Cheltenham once again marking one of the most exciting parts of the calendar, we thought it worthwhile to expand on our preview with a look at each day’s biggest race.
Here’s what Cheltenham racegoers will be tuning into next March along with the horses expected to compete for their top prizes!
Stan James Champion Hurdle
Last year’s Champion Hurdle was a strange and sad race that saw Jezki seize the title over a few popular favourites. BBC Sport recalls the fall of Our Conor during the race. It wasn’t just a great tragedy in racing—Our Conor had to be put down due to a severe back injury—but also something that had a major impact on the outcome.
The New One, one of the horses many thought could win, was held up behind Our Conor during the fall while Jezki was able to take advantage. Memories of the race are understandably somber, but the stage is set for a thrilling affair in 2015 as The New One is looking to return to claim first place. Jezki will defend the title, and past winner Hurricane Fly is expected to race as well, but in early betting previews The New One is co-favourites with Faugheen.
Queen Mother Champion Chase
The 2014 Champion Chase may have provided the best moment of the festival. Not only were crowds upset over the fall of Our Conor on opening day, but dominant favourite Sprinter Sacre was forced to sit out because of health issues.
As The Guardian reported after, however, the race itself was exciting enough that fans were able to celebrate in the wake of tragedy and forget about missing out on Sprinter Sacre altogether.
Sire De Grugy, one of the favourites in Sprinter Sacre’s absence, put together a wonderful race, and he’ll be back to defend the title in 2015.
He’s now beloved by the crowd at Cheltenham. As if that isn’t enough intrigue for the Champion Chase in the coming year, try this: Sprinter Sacre is expected to be back vying for the title his health denied him in 2014.
Ladbrokes World Hurdle
In 2014, this St. Patrick’s Day race offered one of the densest fields of competitors, and one of the biggest surprises, at Cheltenham.
More Of That was mentioned almost as an afterthought to these contenders, a strong competitor who didn’t look to be quite able to win in such a stellar field.
In the end, that’s just what More Of That did however, and now he’ll enter 2015 as the betting favourite. There was some doubt as to whether More Of That would still be hurdling in the coming year, but the word from the team is that he will in fact defend his title.
As mentioned in our prior preview, Lord Windermere was the winner in the 2014 Gold Cup. However, the defending champion likely won’t be considered a favourite at the coming Cheltenham Festival, largely due to the quality and form of some of the rival contenders. Frankly, this one appears wide open.
As of now, though, the likeliest horses to win appear to be Bobs Worth (who won in 2013), Silviniaco Conti, and Holywell. If none of these three emerges as a clear favourite, Cheltenham’s signature race in 2015 may be a truly unpredictable event!
In the end, one of the thrills of attending an event like the Cheltenham Festival is soaking up the atmosphere and attending some of the many races that occur in between the headline competitions. But these are absolutely the four races that define the festival, and each has an exciting storyline heading into 2015.