The New Year's Day Meeting At Cheltenham

Cheltenham New Years Day Race MeetingThere’s no question that Cheltenham Racecourse is known for one event above all others: the Cheltenham Festival. Run in March of every year, the Festival is the moment that the jump racing season truly kicks into gear. It’s such an important moment in the calendar that the start of it even has its own sound: the Cheltenham Roar. Yet it would be unfair to suggest that the racecourse sits in darkness the other eleven months of the year. Whether you’re looking at the November Meeting, the International Meeting or Trials day, this is one of the most famous venues in racing for a very good reason.

The November Meeting, which was previously known as the Cheltenham Open before changing its name to ensure it wasn’t mixed up with Golf’s Open tournament, is considered by many to be the official start of the jump racing calendar. But what of the year’s actual calendar? That’s where the New Year’s Day Meeting comes in. Hosted on January 1st, the races held at Cheltenham at the start of every year are the perfect way to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new. In this page we’ll tell you all you need to know about this exciting and interesting one-off occasion at Cheltenham Racecourse, meaning that you’ll be able to rock up to Gloucestershire armed with the sort of information you’ll need to ensure you have a brilliant time.

Cheltenham New Year's Day Meeting Race Card

new year meeting at Cheltenham racecourse

Nothing can cause a racing schedule to go off track quite as unpredictably as the weather! From horse boxes struggling to get onto the course through to spectators being delayed arriving after a large snowfall, they’ve seen everything at Cheltenham Racecourse. For that reason we’d exercise caution before suggesting that you can take all of these timings as gospel.

Nevertheless, if everything runs as smoothy as it’s supposed to then this the order the races will go off at and the times that they’ll get underway. You’ll notice that there’s a bit more information about the more prestigious races:

Race 1 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle - 12.15pm

12 15pm

The start of the day involves the running of this exciting hurdles race that entails ten different jumps. You can expect somewhere around ten horses to be lined up to start the race, though not all are guaranteed to finish with it being a race for novices.

This Class 1 Listed race is for horses aged four and up and is run over two miles, four furlongs and fifty-six yards (2m, 4f, 56y). It’s normally over within about five minutes, so try not to nip for a wee until it’s done!

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Tikkanbar
  • Jockey - Noel Fehily
  • Trainer - Neil Mulholland
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £14,238

Race 2 - BetBright.com Handicap Chase - 12.50pm

12 50pm

Sponsorship of this race changes a lot so the name you see above might not be in place by the time you come to watch the racing. This race is currently sponsored by BetBright, however, and they want to get one over on their competitors by giving the race a name that sells their goods!

This Handicap Chase is open to horses aged five and over and involves twenty-two fences that must be negotiated. It’s run over three miles, two furlongs and seventy yards (3m, 2f, 27y), usually lasting for about four minutes. You can expect a smaller field for this one, generally, in spite of its decent purse.

2018 Winners,

  • Horse - Vyta Du Roc
  • Jockey - Daryl Jacob
  • Trainer - Nicky Henderson
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £15,784

Race 3 - BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase - 1.25pm

1 25pm

The third race of the day is the first of three worthy of a little more information. This Grade 2 race is for novices aged five and older, taking place over two miles, four furlongs and one-hundred and sixty-six yards (2m, 4f, 166y). There are seventeen fences that the horses will have to get over in order to find themselves on the home straight and the race tends to last for about five minutes. The field is often quite small, mainly because it’s a race that lends itself to quick horses that know how to last the distance.

The race was first run in 1980 and traditionally called Newcastle Racecourse its home during the month of November. It was moved to mid-January in 1990 and it was switched to Cheltenham and run on New Year’s Day from 2005. Only Barry Geraghty, Brian Storey and Chris Grant have won the race more than once as jockeys, with each notching up two wins. The most successful trainer of all time when it comes to this one is Peter Easterby, who’s won it three times; though several trainers, including Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls, have won it twice to date. No horse has won it more than once, of course, as it’s for novices.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Yanworth
  • Jockey - Barry Geraghty
  • Trainer - Alan King
  • Overall Prize Pot - £35,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £20,167

Race 4 - BetBright Handicap Chase - 2:00pm

2pm

Nothing says ‘gearing up for the Festival’ quite like sponsors using these races to get people to think about using their services. As with the second race of the day, BetBright used their sponsorship of this race in 2018 to get up the noses of their rivals. This Grade 3 event takes place over two miles, four furlongs and one-hundred and sixty-six yards (2m, 4f, 156y), with its seventeen fences making it virtually identical to the race that’s run before it. Where that race is for novices, however, this race is run with handicaps, applied by the handicapper before the race gets underway. As with the novices chase, this is for five-year-old horses and up.

This race started life in 1990 as the Cleeve Hill Handicap Chase. It was awarded Grade 3 status in 2009 and in 2014 it was given the official name of the Fairlawne Handicap Chase, though it is normally ran under a sponsored title. The Fairlawne Handicap Chase was run at Windsor until 1997. No horse has won the race more than once, though Aidan Coleman, Jamie Bargary, Mick Fitzgerald and Timmy Murphy have all won it twice as jockeys. Josh Gifford and Venetia Williams have both managed two wins as trainers, though they trail some way behind Nigel Twiston-Davies and his four wins.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Ballyhill
  • Jockey - Jamie Bargary
  • Trainer - Nigel Twiston-Davies
  • Overall Prize Pot - £75,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £42,713

Race 5 - BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle - 2.35pm

2 35pm

BetBright once again used a race to let punters know what they’re all about by naming the fifth race of the day after their casino. It’s a Class 2 race that typically tends to feature one of the largest fields of the day at about ten horses.

Open to four-year-olds plus, the race has twelve hurdles and takes place over two miles, seven furlongs and two-hundred and thirteen yards (2m, 7f, 213y). As the name suggests, this is another race that engages the work of the handicapper.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Boyhood
  • Jockey - Paddy Brennan
  • Trainer - Tom George
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £15,640

Race 6 - Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle - 3.10pm

3 10pm

The final noteworthy race of the day is this Grade 2 hurdle open to horses at or over five years of age. There are ten hurdles that must be jumped over the course of two miles, four furlongs and fifty-six yards (2m, 4f, 56y). More often than not you’ll find the field for this one hovers somewhere between five and ten horses and the race will last for over five minutes only if the going is heavy. Sponsored by Dornan Engineering for the 2018 jump racing season, this race is officially named after the three-time winner of the Bula Hurdle, Relkeel.

That name is a recent addition to the race’s title, of course, originally run in 1988 as the Sport of Kings Challenge. In 1992 a horse trained in America and named Lonesome Glory won the race, so from 1993 it was known as the Lonesome Glory Hurdle. It earned its Relkeel moniker in 1990 and was only moved to New Year’s Day in 2016, having previously taken place during the International Meeting.

Oscar Whisky is the only horse to win the race more than once, earning back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2012. Barry Geraghty was the rider on both occasions, notching up two of his three wins in this one. A couple of jockeys have two wins, but it’s Tony McCoy who leads the way with five victories. Jonjo O’Neill has two wins of this race as a trainer, with Alan King and Nicky Henderson both having three. The outright leader in the field, however, is Martin Pipe with four victories.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Wholestone
  • Jockey - Daryl Jacob
  • Trainer - Nigel Twiston-Davies
  • Overall Prize Pot - £50,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £28,475

Race 7 - EBF Stallions & Pony Club Flat Race - 3.45pm

3 45pm

New Year’s Day’s racing on Cheltenham Racecourse comes to a close thanks to the EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club flat race. A Class 1 Listed race, The name should make clear that there are no hurdles that need to be negotiated with this one. Instead it’s a relatively quick race, with the competitors usually coming home in around three minutes.

It’s only open to four-year-olds and is run over one mile, five furlongs and two-hundred and nine yards (1m, 5f, 209y). This is the race that offers the largest field most years, often seeing between ten and fifteen horses lining up for starter’s orders.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Acey Milan
  • Jockey - Aidan Coleman
  • Trainer - Anthony Honeyball
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £14,238

What To Expect On New Year's Day at Cheltenham

horse race at Cheltenham

If you were doing anything else on New Year’s Day, what would you expect? Probably the site of a fair few people suffering from hangovers! Cheltenham is no exception when it comes to the New Year’s Day Meeting, with more than a few of the attendees nursing sore heads from the night before or even partying on through! It might not be the festival but you can expect a festive atmosphere, with complete strangers wishing each other a Happy New Year and one or two bottles of bubbly being popped as the afternoon wears on. If you’re not necessarily used to heading to the racecourse whenever possible then this event will give you the chance to do so, perhaps even seeing a more rigorous engagement with racing as your resolution for the year ahead! This is also a day that you can take the whole family to, with activity areas set up for children and special appearances from the likes of Paddington Bear.

The headaches and general sense of having felt better that you’ll notice in some of your fellow racegoers are part of the reason why you shouldn’t expect to see many celebrities or members of the Royal Family attending the New Year’s Day Meeting. It’s not unknown for some famous famous to attend the racecourse on other meeting days, but this one is more commonly the purview of your more typical racegoer. Some might well have been at a party nearby, however, so it’s always worth keeping your eyes peeled if that’s the sort of thing that you enjoy. At the very least you should expect to see some of the most loved jockeys, owners and trainers within the industry, rocking up to Cheltenham to get a sense of how the horses are going to run in the colder weather that it’s normal to expect for the next month or two.

That colder weather will dictate how you should think about your attire for the day, too. It’s not uncommon for the course to be touched by snow or frost around this time of year, so make sure you wrap up warm and wear some sensible football. This isn’t a day to expect a fashion parade as at other times of year. Instead you’ll see big furry coats, leather gloves and the sort of shoes that the wearers would feel comfortable if they had to go to war in. The weather can also influence the sort of going that you’re likely to see. If it has snowed or a frost as settled in the days leading up to the New Year’s Day meeting then any melting of that more inclement weather will result in a rather muddy racetrack. Something to bear in mind when you’re looking at the horses that are taking to the field and coming to place your bets

Final Thoughts

How would you like to start the New Year? Lying on your couch with a bucket next to you and some miserable re-run on the television? Or striding around Cheltenham Racecourse, taking in the fresh air and feeling as though nothing will be able to stop you?

This is a day that will be enjoyed by regular racegoers as much as those that have never even been to a racecourse before, especially if you’ve got a family. There’s an entire family enclosure where you’ll be able to take your kids and let them have some fun whilst you have a look at the race card and weigh-up your options. All-in-all, you’ll have a brilliant day at Cheltenham at the New Year’s Day Meeting, just as long as you remember your paracetamol….