Cheltenham: The April Meeting 2019

the april meeting

Every year, Cheltenham Racecourse comes alive for the month of March. It’s when the entire world of horse racing depends on that little spot in Gloucestershire in order to hear the famed ‘Cheltenham Roar’ and watch the best trainers in the business send their top horses out, guided by expert jockeys, to compete in the Cheltenham Festival. By April, the attention of the horse racing world has turned elsewhere. The half-drunk plastic cups of Guinness have all been swept away and those trainers, jockeys and horses trundle off to Aintree for the Grand National meeting. The flat racing season is nearly here, but Cheltenham isn’t quite done with horse racing just yet, as The April Meeting proves.

It doesn’t have the glitz and the glamour of the Festival, nor does it have the national appeal of the Grand National. Yet to those in the business, Cheltenham Racecourse will always be considered as an exciting one to race on. This is the penultimate meeting of the jump racing calendar at Prestbury Park, thanks to another set of races that are run on the bank holiday in May. On this page you can find out about what to expect if you head to the racecourse to see some action, as well as read about the races that take place across the two days. It might not hold the same place in the public’s imagination as the massive meeting in March or the Aintree race earlier in the month, but for those that like to have a wager there’s still a decent chance of picking up some winnings.

April Meeting Race Cards

aprilA race was cancelled at the 2018 April Meeting, so it’s entirely fair to point out that schedules can go out of the window at any moment depending on how the officials see things panning out. That said, things normally run fairly smoothly and what follows is a look at each of the races during the two days in April that we’re talking about, complete with timings and last year’s winners.

April Meeting Day One Race Card

There’s one standout race on the first day of the April Meeting, with four Class 2 races to bulk out the card. It’s a day that tends to be filled with races that boats a relatively large field, so it’s ideal for punters that like to bet on runs that can be a bit of a dice-roll in terms of results.

Race 1 - Novices' Hurdle - 14.05pm

2 05pm

Raced over two miles, four furlongs and fifty-six yards (2m, 4f, 56y), the day’s opener is for novices aged four and up.

There are ten hurdles that need to be negotiated before the horses get into the final stretch. It’s a Class 2 race, which can perhaps be viewed as a sign of things to come over the two days.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Diese Des Bieffes
  • Jockey - Noel Fehily
  • Trainer - Nicky Henderson
  • Overall Prize Pot - £20,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £12,512

Race 2 - Silver Trophy Chase - 2.40pm

2 40pm

This is widely considered to be the feature race of Day One at the April Meeting, thanks in no small part to the seventeen fences that must be jumped in order to get home as the winner. They are spaced out over two miles, four furlongs and one-hundred and sixty-six yards (2m, 4f, 56y). It’s a Grade 2 limited handicap race for horses aged five and over. This is the one that people will get most excited about, as evidenced by the fact that the winning money is double that of the first race, so listen out to what others are saying on the course and see if you can pick up any tips.

Established in 1986, this race was initially run over two miles and four furlongs and achieved Grade Two status five years after it first took place. The length was extended to its current numbers in 1993, becoming a limited handicap a decade later after having been a conditions race before that. Norton's Coin is the only horse to have won it more than once, with Tony McCoy and Ruby Walsh both earning themselves three wins in it over the years. The most successful trainer title is also shared, with Paul Nicholls and Martin Pipe boasting four wins apiece.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Traffic Fluide
  • Jockey - Joshua Moore
  • Trainer - Gary Moore
  • Overall Prize Pot - £60,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £34,170

Race 3 - Greatwood Handicap Hurdle - 3.15pm

3 15pm

Race three is close to being identical to the first race of the day in terms of what’s involved for the horses taking part in it. Run over two miles, four furlongs and fifty-six yards (2m, 4f, 56y), there are another ten hurdles placed around the course.

The big difference is that it isn’t limited to novices and it’s a handicap race, meaning that the Handicapper will decide how much extra weight each horse has to run with. As with the day’s opener, it’s a Class 2 race that hasn’t yet been upgraded to be given a Grade.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Champagne Express
  • Jockey - James Bowen
  • Trainer - Nicky Henderson
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £15,640

Race 4 - Chase (A Novices' Limited Handicap) - 3.50pm

3 50pm

If the previous races have all been about speed then this one is very much something of an endurance test for the horses taking part in it. It’s actually a fair bit shorter than the three races that have gone before, lasting for three miles, one furlong and fifty-six yards (3m, 1f, 56y). Yet it’s the amount of jumping that the competitors need to do that make it a race for anyone to take.

There are twenty-one fences to be negotiated before the finishing post comes into sight, meaning that the five-year-old and over horses racing in it will need to be on their game. As the name suggests, it’s a limited handicap race for novices that have a rating of 0-135, lending it its Class 3 certification.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Winter Lion
  • Jockey - Paddy Brennan
  • Trainer - Fergal O'Brien
  • Overall Prize Pot - £19,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £11,172

Race 5 - Handicap Hurdle - 4.25pm

4 25pm

Another handicap race follows straight on the heels of race four, though this one isn’t limited. It’s open to horses aged four and over and is another Class 2 race of the day. There are twelve hurdles present in this one, which jockeys and their steeds will have to get over during the relatively short two miles, seven furlongs and two-hundred and thirteen yards (2m, 7f, 213y) of the race.

This is the one to bet on if you like horses with decent odds, considering even the starting price favourite back in 2018 was as long as 7/1..

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Monbeg Theatre
  • Jockey - Miss Page Fuller
  • Trainer - Jamie Snowden
  • Overall Prize Pot - £20,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £12,512

Race 6 - Handicap Chase - 5:00pm

5pm

The penultimate race of the opening day of the April Meeting is one that’s open to horses aged five and over that are rated between 0 and 150. It’s is the fourth Class 2 race of the day, so you can see what we’re talking about when we said that race one was a sign of things to come.

As with race four, this is a test of a horse’s jumping ability thanks to the twenty-one fences that they’ll need to cope with if they want to win. It lasts for three miles and two furlongs (3m, 2f). It normally boasts a field that stretches into double figures and if the going’s good will take around seven minutes for the competitors to complete. As the name suggests, this is another handicap offering.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Another Hero
  • Jockey - Barry Geraghty
  • Trainer - Jonjo O'Neill
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £15,640

Race 7 - Handicap Hurdle - 5.30pm

5 30pm

The final race of Day One sees the conditional jockeys and amateur riders given a run out. They’ll need to be on the back of horses aged four and up with a rating of 0 to 140.

As you’ll have now doubt inferred from the race’s title, this is a handicap running that the Handicapper will do their best to ensure is as fair as possible for all of those running in it. It’s the second Class 3 race of the day and features eight hurdles placed over two miles and one furlong (2m, 1f). Usually boasting a field of between ten and twenty competitors, it tends to last around four minutes on good ground.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Magic Dancer
  • Jockey - Richard Patrick
  • Trainer - Kerry Lee
  • Overall Prize Pot - £16,400
  • Winner Prize Money - £9,747

April Meeting Day Two Race Card

In 2018 the second day of the April Meeting became the first in racing history to boast a mare’s only racecard. All seven races that were run across the day were only for those that enjoy a Ladies Day, so to speak, with the contest boasting four mares-only races in 2017. That led the organisers to think about furthering their efforts and the all-mares race day was born. Sadly that means you’ll have been unable to bet on a mare winning one of the races, as you might have been able to do at a normal meeting!

Race 1 - Mares' Novices' Hurdle - 2.05pm

2 05pm

Race one on Day Two follows exactly the same format as the first race of the opening day of the meeting, with the obvious difference being that it’s only for mares. It’s run over the same two miles, four furlongs and one-hundred and fifty-six yards (2m, 4f, 156y), complete with another ten hurdles to negotiate.

This Listed race is for novices aged four and up. The field is a bit shorter than it might otherwise be on account of the fact that only mares can run in it, meaning you can expect around ten competitors taking part. If the ground is good then it should last for about five minutes, so don’t rip up your betting slip until you’ve heard the announcer’s call..

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Dame De Compagnie
  • Jockey - Barry Geraghty
  • Trainer - Nicky Henderson
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £14,237

Race 2 - Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase - 2.40pm

2 40pm

Race two on the second day of the April Meeting is one for novice mares to compete in. It’s a handicap chase, so the Handicapper will be doing their utmost to ensure that all horses go off with an equal chance of winning. That will be worth bearing in mind, especially if one of the favourites is carrying more weight than she’s used to.

Open to mares aged five and older, this is another Listed race and lasts for two miles, four furlongs and one-hundred and sixty-six yards (2m, 4f, 66y). There are seventeen fences to be jumped during that period, so it really could be anyone's when the winner crosses the line. Another relatively short field, it’ll last about five and a half minutes if the going’s good.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Midnight Target
  • Jockey - Lee Edwards
  • Trainer - John Groucott
  • Overall Prize Pot - £40,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £22,780

Race 3 - Mares' Handicap Hurdle - 3.15pm

3 15pm

We could almost be repeating ourselves when it comes to the details on offer for this race. It’s another Listed one and the Handicapper is once again called into action. As with race one, there are ten hurdles to be jumped, only these ones are based over two miles, four furlongs and fifty-six yards (2m, 4f, 56y). That means it comes in about one hundred yards shorter than the day’s opener, which probably explains the running time that’s about thirty seconds shorter.

It’s open for horses aged four and up, which allows it to boast a field that normally stretches to around the twenty mark. That’s good news for bettors, of course, given that the more horses take part in a race the longer the odds will be and the greater the chance of an upset.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Rejaah
  • Jockey - Tom Cannon
  • Trainer - Nigel Hawke
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £14,237

Race 4 - Mares' Handicap Chase - 3.50pm

3 50pm

Coming right slap-bang in the middle of the day, this was the race that was cancelled after a horse died in the wake of race one back in 2018. It was cancelled whilst the later ones weren’t because it’s a longer one, coming in at three miles and two furlongs (3m, 2f).

This chase is handicapped, as the name suggests, and it’s for mares that are five-years-old and upwards with a rating of 0 to 130. It’s a Class 3 race that is a decent challenge for those that get to run in it.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Race Cancelled
  • Jockey - N/A
  • Trainer - N/A
  • Overall Prize Pot - £21,400
  • Winner Prize Money - £12,996

Race 5 - Fillies' Juvenile Handicap Hurdle - 4.25pm

4 25pm

Another race that asks for the Handicapper’s abilities to be put to good use, this one is only open for juveniles that are aged four exactly. It’s a Class 2 offering that usually has a smaller field than most of the other races on Day Two.

It’s run over two miles and one-hundred and seventy-nine yards (2, 179y), featuring eight hurdles for the horses to jump. The shorter distance allows for the race to take a shorter amount of time to be completed, normally lasting for around four minutes if you presume that the going’s good.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Stylish Dancer
  • Jockey - Harry Skelton
  • Trainer - Dan Skelton
  • Overall Prize Pot - £40,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £25,024

Race 6 - Thoroughbred Breeders' Mares' Handicap Chase - 5pm

5pm

Day Two’s penultimate race usually sees the smallest field of the day taking part in it, with just four horses running in 2018, for example. It’s a Class 2 offering and is open to mares aged five-years-old and up. Taking place over two mile and sixty-two yards (2m, 62y), it squeezes in fourteen fences over that distance and asks a lot of the horses running in it.

Regularly taking about four minutes to complete on good ground, you’ll often find the odds on this one are a little disappointing because of that small field just mentioned. As the name suggests, this race is another handicapped one, the last of the day.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Sister Sibyl
  • Jockey - Tom O'Brien
  • Trainer - Hughie Morrison
  • Overall Prize Pot - £25,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £15,640

Race 7 - Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race - 5.30pm

5 30pm

As if to prepare us for the season that’s about to take over from jump racing, the final offering of the final day of the April Meeting is a flat race. Most of the National Hunt flat racers turn up for this one, therefore, leading to one of the largest fields of the day at around twenty horses.

Obviously there are no fences to be negotiated here and, as suggested earlier, it’s run over another short track. This time it’s two miles and one-hundred and seventy-nine yards (2m, 179y), with the winners usually coming in in under four minutes if the going is good. It’s a Class 2 race and is only open to mares aged between four and six, which tends to give it a relatively youthful and vibrant feel.

2018 Winners

  • Horse - Hawthorn Cottage
  • Jockey - Lucy K Barry
  • Trainer - Amy Murphy
  • Overall Prize Pot - £15,000
  • Winner Prize Money - £9,747

What To Expect At The April Meeting

bookmakers on the tattestalls at chetlenham racecourse

The April Meeting is held during the week, meaning that the guests who tend to turn up at Cheltenham are either far more knowledgeable about the sport or else families looking for something to do with the kids. This meeting doesn’t hold the same level of attention as the Cheltenham Festival, meaning that the chances of spotting a celebrity or bumping into members of the Royal family are significantly reduced.

On the flip side, you’ll also find that there are far fewer Johnny-Come-Latelys turning up; the sorts that only tend to watch any horse racing twice a year and tend to spend more time in the bar than the Winner’s Enclosure. This is a much more intelligent crowd, with people hoping to get a glimpse of some decent horses that might burst onto the National Hunt scene in a big way over the following twelve months. If intelligent horse racing crowds is your thing then the April Meeting is for you.

In terms of the weather, the Spring sunshine will almost certainly be bursting through from behind the clouds, meaning that those warm coats and Wellington boots you wore the last time you were at Prestbury Park can be left in the closet. Indeed, during the 2018 meeting the weather was so hot that officials chose to cancel one of the races for the safety of the horses. It’s also worth noting, given what’s been said above, that you’ll still be able to enjoy a drink or two. It will just be without the pressure to see it off quickly and then buy another one that you might experience if you go the Festival’s busiest days

Final Thoughts

There are two absolutely fantastic days of racing to be seen if you head along to Cheltenham during the April Meeting. No, it will never claim the glamour of the Festival and there’s plenty of racing taking place at Aintree during the month of April that will act as a distraction to most, but if you want to check out Cheltenham in all of its glory and the Festival is a bit too busy for you then this is the time to do it.

When it comes to betting, there are a few races that you might consider taking a pass on thanks to the smaller field, but there are also loads of excellent opportunities where the favourite will be given a run for their money, due in no small part to more horses running and more fences or hurdles to jump. One for the connoisseurs rather than those with just a passing interest, this is an opportunity for you to learn about some of the younger horses to watch out for once jump racing gets back under way later in the year.