Cheltenham International Friday

the cheltenham international friday

There are many reasons why the International Meeting is different from any other event held at Cheltenham Racecourse, with one of the more amusing ones being that it doesn’t revolve around a race named the Gold Cup. There is one, of course, with the December Gold Cup being run on the Saturday of the weekend, but it’s not the dominant race of the meeting and is unlikely to ever have that honour. Instead it’s the International Hurdle that is considered to be the most prestigious event of the two day meeting and so that’s what everything seems to revolve around.

International Friday is certainly not just a time-filler, though. There are a number of exciting and interesting races that take place on the first day of the meeting, with more and more interest developing in them with every passing year. Your interest for the main day’s racing will be piqued by the events of day one, so have a read through this page to find out all of the important information. As well as rough timings for the day, we’ll also tell you as much as we can about the individual races. The main thing to bear in mind is that the information we can give you isn’t as exhaustive as with the more popular meetings like the Festival, so don’t think of this page as being definitive.

International Friday Race Card

Racing is a funny old beast, with horses getting spooked for seemingly no reason and jockeys sometimes taking longer that necessary to get themselves ready to ride. It’s entirely possible, then, that timings for each individual race might be a bit different than advertised when the day itself comes about. Nevertheless, presuming everything is running like clockwork, these are the timings for the races on International Friday.

Race 1 - British Stallion Studs Novices Hurdle - 12.10pm

12 10pm

Day one of the International Meeting kicks off with the British Stallion Studs National Hunt Novices Hurdle. It’s run over two miles and one furlong (2m, 1f) and is open to stallion studs aged between four and six.

It features eight hurdles and is a Class 3 race, usually featuring a field of around ten horses.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Western Ryder
  • Jockey - Richard Johnson
  • Trainer - Warren Greatrex
  • Overall Prize Pot - £12,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £7,798

Race 2 - Horse Comes First Novices' Chase - 12.45pm

12 45pm

The Horse Comes First Novices’ Hurdle is, as the name suggests, a hurdle race that’s open to novices aged four years or older. It features an impressive twenty-one fences, which is the equal second-most number of jumps horses need to make on day one.

It’s run over three miles, one furlong and fifty-six yards (3m, 1f, 56y) and is a Class 2 race. It’s common for this one to have a small field, so don’t be expecting massive odds on your chosen horse.

2017 Winners,

  • Horse - Sizing Tennessee
  • Jockey - B J Cooper
  • Trainer - Colin Tizzard
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £17,373

Race 3 - Catesby Handicap Hurdle - 1.20pm

1 20pm

Taking place over two miles and one hundred and seventy-nine yards (2m, 1f, 79y), this is a handicap hurdle race in which the handicapper decides the weight that the horses will need to carry according to their ability.

It’s a Class 3 race for horses aged three years of age and older and has eight hurdles that they need to negotiate. The race usually features around ten runners, which means the field can open up if things work in your favour.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Smaoineamh Alainn
  • Jockey - James Best
  • Trainer - Robert Walford
  • Overall Prize Pot - £12,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £7,507

Race 4 - Mares' Handicap Chase - 1.55pm

1 55pm

Thanks to the sponsor, this race’s title is one hell of a mouthful. Cut out half the words, though, and you’ll realise that it’s a handicap chase for mares. They need to be four or older and will be required to jump seventeen fences over a distance of two miles, four furlongs and one hundred and sixty-six yards (2m, 4f, 166y).

It’s a Class 3 race that often features somewhere between five and ten horses.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Ms Parfois
  • Jockey - Noel Fehily
  • Trainer - Anthony Honeyball
  • Overall Prize Pot - £12,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £7,798

Race 5 - Unicoin Group Handicap Chase - 2.30pm

2 30pm

Sponsored by the Unicoin Group, race five is another handicap chase but this one isn’t just for mares. It is still for horses aged four years of age or older, though. Run over three miles and two furlongs (3m, 2f), it features the joint-second most jumps of the day at twenty-one.

Regularly boasting a small field of about five horses, you’ll be lucky to get particularly long odds on this Grade 3 race.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Robinsfirth
  • Jockey - Robbie Power
  • Trainer - Colin Tizzard
  • Overall Prize Pot - £45,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £25,628

Race 6 - Cross Country Handicap Chase - 3.05pm

3 05pm

The culminating race of the Crystal Cup that we’ve mentioned already on this page, the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase is the longest race of the day. It’s a handicap chase run on the cross country course at Cheltenham.

The race normally welcomes a field of around ten and is run over three miles, six furlongs and thirty-seven yards (3m, 6f, 37y). That means it’s a real test for a horse’s endurance, especially when you add in the thirty-two fences that need to be negotiated before it’s over. For that reason the Class 2 race is only open to five-years-olds or over and is a fun one to place an outside bet on.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Bless The Wings
  • Jockey - Davy Russell
  • Trainer - Gordon Elliott
  • Overall Prize Pot - £35,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £21,896

Race 7 - Citipost Handicap Hurdle - 3.40pm

3 40pm

International Friday comes to a close with the Citipost Handicap Hurdle, a hurdle race in which the horses are given weights chosen by the handicapper before the event gets underway. It’s run over two miles, seven furlongs and two hundred and thirteen yards (2m, 7f, 213y), with twelve hurdles for the participants to negotiate.

It often features one of the largest fields of the day around twelve horses, with the Class 2 race being open to horses of four years of age or older..

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Arthur's Gift / Jockey
  • Tom Humphries / Trainer
  • Nigel Twiston-Davies
  • Overall Prize Pot - £22,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £13,763

What To Expect On International Friday

festival 5

Day one of the International Meeting is usually populated with office part types; businesses that have decided now is the time to wine and dine their clients as an early Christmas present or in order to impress them without having to spend the money needed to go to the Festival. That’s not to suggest that you’re going to be swamped by people in suits having power lunches and talking about takeovers. Far from it in fact, with everyone who turns up on International Friday ready to get into the swing of the party season and have a fair few drinks.

Christmas decorations will be up all around the course, so don’t be expecting to be welcomed too readily if you’re not yet in the holiday mood. One of the big races of the day is the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase, the culmination of the Crystal Cup competition that has been taking place throughout the year since February. Ten races will already have been completed by the time International Friday rolls around, including those at venues such as Pau, Fontainebleau and Lion-d’Angers in France, Wroclaw in Poland, Waregem in Belgium, Merano in Italy and Pardubice in the Czech Republic. That means that there are numerous guests from across Europe at the course, possibly for the first time. It only adds to the sense of excitement and thrill at everything taking place around the racecourse.

Whilst the Cheltenham Festival tends to attract minor celebrities and members of the Royal Family, few other meetings during the year quite have the same appeal for the jet-set crew. You can keep an eye out for some, of course, but you’re likely to be disappointed so don’t hold out too much hope. You don’t need to worry too much about dressing to impress, therefore, and can instead concentrate on picking some sensible outfits out of your wardrobe. We’re talking about days in the middle of December here, so the temperatures will have dropped to uncomfortable levels. Enjoying a few Christmas drinks will help with that, but you’re likely to be stood around for long periods of time with not much to do, so make sure your clothes help with that.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of decent races on day one of the International Meeting for you to get your teeth into, with a number of the races offering either a reasonably sized field or else a fair amount of hurdles to cause an upset or two. The day unquestionably has more of a ‘corporate’ feel to it than the Saturday, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be bored if you’re turning up for a fun day out with friends.