Cheltenham Festival Day Two: Ladies Day 11th March 2020

wednesdayAs the Cheltenham Festival continues apace there are many people amongst the uninitiated who want to wish it away in order to get closer to the moment the biggest race of them all. The Gold Cup, gets underway on Friday. That is unquestionably something of a shame, however, with every day of one of the racing calendar’s most famous meetings throwing up some brilliant entertainment.

On this page you’ll be able to read about what sort of thing Day Two of the Festival entails. It’s commonly referred to as Ladies Day, so does that mean that men aren’t allowed? What will happen off the course? More importantly, perhaps, what will happen on it? Hopefully by the end of this you’ll be able to head to Cheltenham safe in the knowledge of what to expect and complete with some info about each and every race that takes place on the second day of Cheltenham.

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Ladies Day Race Card

Things such as timing can change for all sorts of reasons, though the Cheltenham Festival tries to stick to a routine where possible. From the name of the race through to the winners from last year, complete with the time that things are supposed to get underway, here’s everything you need to know about Day Two:

Race 1 - Novices' Hurdle - 1.30pm

race1Named in honour of the man who organised the first Cheltenham Festival, Barring Bingham, the Novices’ Hurdle changes its official name each year depending on who’s sponsoring it. Run left-handed on the Old Course, as all races are on Day Two, it’s open to four-year-old novices and older. The weight of the horses is ten stone twelve points for those aged four and eleven stone seven pounds for horses of five years and older; there’s a seven pound allowance for both fillies and mares.

The Grade 1 race is run over two miles and five furlongs (2m, 5f), it features ten hurdles and has been won by an unfancied outsider on more than one occasion. The victor often goes on to compete in the World Hurdle, too, so have a look out for who wins this for that race next year. The most successful Jockey in the Novice’s Hurdle is Ruby Walsh and the most successful trainer is Willie Mullins, both winning four times with the same horses.

2019 Winners

  • Horse - City Island
  • Jockey - Mark Walsh
  • Trainer - Martin Brassil
  • Overall Prize Money - £123,000
  • For The Winner - £70,338

Race 2 - RSA Novices' Chase - 2.10pm

race2Again, this one is known by different names owing to sponsorship. It’s another Grade 1 race and it’s run over three miles and eighty yards (3m, 80y). It has twenty fences that need to be overcome, with novice chasers aged five years and older welcome to compete in it. The weight is eleven stone two pounds for five-year-olds and eleven stone four pounds for those aged six and older, with mares getting a seven pound allowance.

When it comes to using the result of this race to bet on another then you’ll want to bear it in mind when it comes to the Gold Cup; several previous winners have gone on to pick up that most prestigious of trophies. Pat Taaffe is the jockey who has won it the most with five victories, whilst both Fulke Walwyn and Willie Mullins have won it four times as trainers.

2019 Winners

  • Horse - Topofthegame
  • Jockey - Harry Cobden
  • Trainer - Paul Nicholls
  • Overall Prize Money - £172,000
  • For The Winner - £98,472

Race 3 - Coral Cup - 2.50pm

race3The Coral Cup has the dubious distinction of having been sponsored by the same company since it was run for the first time back in 1993, hence it having the name of Coral bookmakers as its official title. It’s a Grade 3 race and is run over two miles and five furlongs (2m, 5f), with ten hurdles to be jumped.

Open to four-year-olds and upwards, it’s a handicap race so the handicapper chooses different weights for each horse to ensure an even race. As it is such a young race there aren’t a whole heap of jockeys or trainers who have won it countless times. Instead Davy Russell holds the record of three wins as a jockey, with Martin Pipe having the same number of victories as a trainer.

2019 Winners

  • Horse - William Henry
  • Jockey - Nico de Boinville
  • Trainer - Nicky Henderson
  • Overall Prize Money - £98,000
  • For The Winner - £56,270

Race 4 - Queen Mother Champion Chase - 3.30pm

race4Day Two of the Cheltenham Festival has the Queen Mother Champion Chase at its centre. Formerly known as the National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase, it was renamed in 1980 in celebration of the Queen Mum’s 80th birthday. The Grade 1 steeplechase features thirteen fences over a distance of two miles (2m).

The feature race of Day Two of the Festival was first run in 1959 and is open to horses aged five and older. Weight-wise you’re looking at eleven stone ten pounds and there’s a seven pound allowance for mares. Both Pat Taaffe and Barry Geraghty have won it five times as jockeys and Tom Dreaper and Nicky Henderson are the leading trainers with six victories - five of Dreaper's victories had Taaffe on the horse’s back.

Altior won it back to back in 2018 and 2019, could he make it three to match Badsworth Boy's successive victories between 1983 and 1985?  Badsworth Boy was also 10 years old when he won the the third consecutive chase as Altior will be in 2020.

2019 Winners

  • Horse - Altior
  • Jockey - Nico de Boinville
  • Trainer - Nicky Henderson
  • Overall Prize Money - £394,000 
  • For The Winner - £225,080

Race 5 - Cross Country Chase - 4.10pm

race5One of three cross country chases which are held at Cheltenham Racecourse (the others coming in November and December), this the only race of the day not run on the Old Course. As the name suggests, it takes place on the cross country course and lasts for three miles, six furlongs and thirty-seven yards (3m, 6f, 37y). Thirty-two obstacles need to be jumped by the five-year-old and over horses that take part in the race.

Originally a handicap chase, the rules changed in 2016 to make it a conditions race instead. That means that the weights placed on the horses depend on things such as their age, sex and weight. It is one of a number of races that was established when the Festival grew from a three day event to having a fourth day in 2005 and the most successful jockey since then is Nina Carberry, who has won it four times. All four of those victories came on horses trained by Enda Bolger, who is the most successful trainer of the race with five wins.

2019 Winners

  • Horse - Tiger Roll
  • JockeyKeith Donoghue
  • Trainer - Gordon Elliott
  • Overall Prize Money - £64,000
  • For The Winner - £40,235

Race 6 - Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Hurdle - 4.50pm

race6As with the race which precedes it, the Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle was established back in 2005 when the Festival was extended over four days rather than the previous three. The Grade 3 event is open to novice horses aged four and up and it is a handicap race. Run over two miles and eighty-seven yards (2m, 87y), it has eight jumps that need to be cleared if a horse is hoping to be crowned the victor.

The race is named in honour of Fred Winter, a man who picked up seventeen wins as a jockey at the Cheltenham Festival and who then went on to win twenty-eight times as a trainer. Interestingly, no jockey has ever won the Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle on more than one occasion and only Paul Nicholls has done so as a trainer, picking up three wins during his career.

2019 Winners

  • Horse - Band Of Outlaws
  • Jockey - J J Slevin
  • Trainer - Joseph Patrick
  • Overall Prize Money - £79,000
  • For The Winner - £45,016

Race 7 - Champion Bumper - 5.30pm

race7The Champion Bumper is open to horses between four and six years of age. It lasts for two miles and eighty-seven yards (2m, 87y) and there are no obstacles to overcome as it is a flat race. Four-year-olds should weigh in at ten stone eleven pounds, whilst five to six-year-olds can be eleven stone five pounds. Both fillies and mares get a seven pound allowance in this race, which was established back in 1992. As with pretty much all races at Cheltenham, the Champion Bumper has enjoyed numerous sponsorship agreements over the years.

Considered to be the National Hunt’s most prestigious flat race, horses that win this race will often go on to become prodigious winners over obstacles too. Ruby Walsh, one of the Cheltenham Festival’s best ever jockeys, has won this race more times than anyone else, picking up three wins in it since 1998. Willie Mullins, who holds the record for the most winners in one year at the Cheltenham Festival for the eight wins he picked up in 2015, has won this race nine times as a trainer.

2019 Winners

  • Horse - Envoi Allen
  • Jockey - J J Codd
  • Trainer - Gordon Elliot
  • Overall Prize Money - £74,000
  • For The Winner - £42,202

What To Expect On Ladies Day

festival 27

The Cheltenham Festival is, above all else, about the horse racing. Yet if any of the days of the week are about what happens off-course as much as on it then it surely Day Two. As the years have gone by Ladies Day has become more and more about the fashion of the women watching as it has about the horses that win - or lose - the races. It doesn’t quite have the full-on glamour of Ladies Day at Ascot or the all-out dress to impress nature of the same day at Aintree during Grand National week, but make no mistake - Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival is one of the most exciting and entertaining experiences that you can have.

As the most important race of Day Two is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, many members of the Royal Family have been known to rock up for Ladies Day. Zara Phillips, who used to own a property in Cheltenham with her husband Mike Tindall, is a regular on most days of the Festival, for example. Indeed, the race is named in honour of the Queen Mother because she would regularly be in attendance, being a keen racing lover as she was. Though celebrities are occasionally seen around the place, the truth is that Ladies Day is all about the general public and the women in particular.

ladies dressed for Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival 1

Though the Thursday of the Festival is normally the one most closely associated with the Irish - it is St. Patrick’s Day after all - there is a distinct feeling of competitiveness amongst the ranks of women who turn up on Ladies Day. Each year there is a Team Captain for Ireland and a Team Captain for Great Britain, both of whom are glamorous ladies such as Miss England Elizabeth Grant the Irish model Roz Purcell as it was in 2017. Why, you may ask, are there teams representing Ireland and Great Britain? Well there also happens to be a 'Best Dressed Competition' with a £10,000 prize for the lady that is judged to be the most fashion conscious on the day.

Obviously men are welcome on Ladies Day too, it’s just not about them. They are little more than the people making sure that their partners, wives or friends don’t get their heels stuck in the mud. When it comes to what to wear there aren’t really any rules, though it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not exactly the middle of the summer so not flashing too much flesh is always a good place to start. Favour comfort over style where possible as you’ll be stood up for a long time and being able to walk afterwards is probably more important than being admired. More than anything else, though, remember to enjoy yourself!

Final Thoughts

champagne bar at cheltenham festiva

The second day of the Cheltenham Festival could be a case of style over substance, but thanks to classic races such as the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle it ensures what takes place on the course is as important as what happens off it. If you’re lucky enough to be in attendance, though, look out for the dresses as much as the horses.