Cheltenham International Saturday

the cheltenham international saturday

Day one of the International Meeting gets things off to a flyer, with some really exciting and fascinating races to capture the attention of racegoers. The international feel to the day is given to it by the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase, which is the culmination of the Crystal Cup set of races that involves ten others and will have been underway since February. The racecourse takes on a very Christmassy feel at this time of year, so expect to see nicely decorated trees and a general feeling of fun and expectancy at the festivities coming in the near future.

International Friday is mostly about businesses entertaining clients, but the Saturday is very much the day of the people. The corporate feel of the first day of the meeting is replaced by a more festive vibe, with most punters enjoying some mulled wine and a good laugh. On this page you can learn all about how the day works and what you can expect from it, including information on the various races. If you’re only keen to know about the big one then feel free to skip straight down to the Unibet International Hurdle. Just don’t blame us if you then don’t know what to wear…

International Saturday Race Card

The schedule for horse races can be changed by any number of things, so don’t take this as written in stone. Even so, if everything goes to plan then you’ll find that the races take place in the following order and at the following times.

Race 1 - JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle - 12.10pm

12 10pm

The first race of day two is a series qualifier for the Novices' Championship Hurdle. Sponsored by JCB, the Triumph Juvenile Hurdle is for horses aged three-years-old.

The Class 2 race takes place over two miles and one hundred and seventy-nine yards (2m, 179y), with eight hurdles to be negotiated during that time. Because it’s for young horses it normally has quite a small field, so your bets are likely to have short odds unless you pick a three-legged horse.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Apple's Shakira
  • Jockey - Barry Geraghty
  • Trainer - Nicky Henderson
  • Overall Prize Pot - £20,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £12,512

Race 2 - Ryman Novices' Chase - 12.45pm

12 45pm

Sponsored by Rymans, race number two on day number two of the International Meeting is a chase for novices. It’s open to horses aged four and over, with the Class 2 race taking place over two miles, four furlongs and one hundred and sixty-six yards (2m, 4f, 166y).

There are seventeen fences that need to be negotiated by a field that’s usually quite small, so expect low odds but occasional surprises.

2017 Winners,

  • Horse - Kalondra
  • Jockey - Noel Fehily
  • Trainer - Neil Mulholland
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £15,640

Race 3 - Junior Jumpers Handicap Chase - 1.20pm

1 20pm

The third race of the day is a handicap chase for junior jumpers. It’s open to horses aged four and up and they’ll need to run around a course that’s two miles and sixty-two yards in length (2m, 62y).

The Class 2 race features fourteen different fences and normally has between five and ten horses running in it.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Gino Trail
  • Jockey - Harry Skelton
  • Trainer - Kerry Lee
  • Overall Prize Pot - £30,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £18,768

Race 4 - Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase - 1.55pm

1 55pm

We mentioned before that most meetings that take place at Cheltenham Racecourse have their own Gold Cup and this one is sponsored by Caspian Caviar. The handicapper assigns the weights that each horse has to carry as part of their handicap in this chase.

It lasts for two miles, four furlongs and one hundred and sixty-six yards (2m, 4f, 66y) and the horses need to get over seventeen fences before the final straight. The Grade 3 race is for horses aged four and up and is one of the key events of the day.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Guitar Pete
  • Jockey - Ryan Day
  • Trainer - Nicky Richards
  • Overall Prize Pot - £120,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £68,340

Race 5 - Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle - 2.30pm

2 30pm

Usually coming under the official name of The Bristol Novices' Hurdle, this Grade 2 race lasts for two miles, seven furlongs and two-hundred and thirteen yards (2m, 7f, 213y).

With twelve hurdles to be negotiated, the race’s field is often small and had just four horses running in it in 2017. It’s for novices aged for and up.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Kilbricken Storm
  • Jockey - Harry Cobden
  • Trainer - Colin Tizzard
  • Overall Prize Pot - £30,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £17,085

Race 6 - Unibet International Hurdle - 3.05pm

3 05pm

The big race of the day is also the one that lends its name to the weekend, the International Hurdle. Sponsored by Unibet, the Grade 2 hurdle is for horses aged four and over. It’s run over two miles, seven furlongs and one hundred and seventy-nine yards (2m, 7f, 179y) and features eight hurdles for the horses to jump.

It was first run in 1963 when Scottish Memories was the winner. The most successful trainer to date is Nigel Twiston-Davies with his four wins, whilst Richard Johnson’s five wins makes him the most successful jockey. If a horse completes the Unibet International /Champion Hurdle then it will be on the receiving end of a £200,000 bonus. Despite the prestige of the race, the field is normally limited to around five to ten horses.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - My Tent Or Yours
  • Jockey - Barry Geraghty
  • Trainer - Nicky Henderson
  • Overall Prize Pot - £130,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £74,035

Race 7 - OLBG Mares' Handicap Hurdle - 3.40pm

3 40pm

The miniature meeting comes to a close with this handicap hurdles that is open to mares aged four and up. It’s a Class 2 race that takes place over two miles, four furlongs and fifty-six yards (2m, 4f, 56y).

The horses will need to negotiate ten hurdles before racing along the home straight and there’s normally one of the largest fields at the meeting taking place in this race. Expect a few falls and the odd twist or two if the weather’s anything less than favourable.

2017 Winners

  • Horse - Momella
  • Jockey - Harry Skelton
  • Trainer - Dan Skelton
  • Overall Prize Pot - £30,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £18,768

What To Expect On International Saturday

Cheltenham home of jump racing

As we’ve already mentioned, there’s a slightly more serious feel to proceedings on day one of the International Meeting. You’ll still have fun if you choose to go on the Friday, but the Saturday is where it’s really at for those of you looking to let your hair down and truly get into the holiday spirit. Day two is normally a week before the start of Christmas, so attendees are usually ready to splash the cash and have a good time. None of that should give you the impression that you won’t enjoy the day if you’re a serious punter, of course. This might be the day when people rock up hoping for a good time, but it’s also the one with the most interesting and popular races running on it.

As well as the International Hurdle, which brings with it a host of visitors from far afield, day two also boasts a Gold Cup of its own. The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup doesn’t quite have the prestige of the Gold Cup run during the November Meeting, let alone the Gold Cup that is the centre of attention during the Cheltenham Festival. Nevertheless, it’s another race that will gain a fair amount of attention when it comes about so don’t be surprised if there seems to be a buzz about the place in the build-up to its start. This isn’t a day of straight-laced, buttoned-up seriousness, but there’ll be plenty of people studying the form guide and trying to figure out which way the breaks are going to go.

Because the meeting is taking place in the middle of December you’d be mad to do anything other than wrap up extremely warmly. You might get lucky and have a bit of sun to warm your extremities, but it’s more likely that there’ll be a freezing fog that descends and chills you to the bone. Because the weather isn’t exactly forgiving, you’ll be unlikely to see the same sort of members of the Royal Family or celebrities wandering around that you’d come across during the Festival. You can keep an eye out for some if that’s your sort of thing, though you’re likely to be disappointed. People well dress stylishly but sensibly, allowing for the majority of attention to be on what’s taking place on the racecourse rather than in the stands.

Final Thoughts

The beauty of day two of the International Meeting is that there are so many exciting races to whet your appetite. There are two Grade 2 races and one Grade 3 event, meaning that even the most discerning of punters will find something to pique their interest. Obviously we’re also spoilt by the fact that there are two top class races in the form of the Gold Cup and the International Hurdle. All in all, International Saturday is a great way to get yourself in the mood for the impending arrival of Christmas.