There’s no doubt that Ladies Day at Cheltenham revolves around the Queen Mother Champion Chase. It is the premier race of Day Two at the Festival and everyone there can’t wait for it to get underway. It’s the job of the Festival organisers to let the excitement build to that race, which they’d been doing up to this point with the Novices Hurdle and RSA Chase, so whether you think the Coral Cup is a further cranking up of the excitement or a moment of calm before the storm is entirely down to how much you love your racing.
The race was inaugurated in 1993 when it was a listed race that was added to proceedings in order to flesh out the Festival a little bit. Unlike the majority of other races that take place during the week, this event was sponsored by the bookmaker Coral from the get go and has maintained its association with them ever since. For that reason the race doesn’t have a registered title and is officially known as the Coral Cup.
|Course||Grade||Fences||Distance (m)||Winner / Purse|
|Old Course||Grade 3||10||2m 5f (4225m)||£56,270 / £98,500|
The Coral Cup is run over a distance of two miles and five furlongs, with ten hurdles that need to be cleared along the route. Run left-handed on the Old Course, this race is open to four-year-old horses and over.
This is a handicap race, so there are no specific weight restrictions on the horses that enter. Instead some of them will be given extra weight by the handicapper in order to ensure that the field is fair and as equal as possible for the running.
When the horse trained by Jessica Harrington, Supasundae, won the Coral Cup in 2017 he made a little bit of Cheltenham Festival history. It was the ninth horse trained by Harrington that had won at a Cheltenham Festival meeting, making her the most successful female trainer ever at the venue. Prior to the race both Harrington and Jenny Pitman had achieved eight wins at the Festival, but Supasundae took Harrington to her record nine wins.
When Olympian won the first ever running of the Coral Cup back in 1993 he was given an additional £50,000 in prize money. That was because he had won the Imperial Cup at Sandown Park the weekend before and the organisers of that race offer an incentive of extra money if the winner of the Imperial Cup goes on to win a race at Cheltenham. Back then it was an unlisted race, gaining promotion to being a Grade 3 event in 1999.
Despite not being restricted to novices, no horse has ever won this race more than once. The same cannot be said for jockeys, with Davy Russell and Barry Geraghty having won it on three different occasions. Nico de Boinville is the only other jockey to have won it more than once, winning it in 2014 and then 2019.
Nicky Henderson has won the race four times as a trainer and Martin Pipe has won it three times. Pipe trained the inaugural winner of the race in 1993.
CBO Rating | 6/10
As we hinted at at the start, this is the starter before the main course than is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Because it’s not a race exclusively for novices it doesn’t offer the same hints about the future as either of the previous two races on Day Two, the RSA Steeple Chase or the Novices’ Hurdle. Even so, this is a race that offers plenty of excitement, with the fact that no horse has won it more than once and few jockeys have done much better meaning that it’s often an open field.
How much you’ll look forward to this race may well depend on whether or not you’re in it for the big events or just like your racing. If you’re actually at Cheltenham and find that you’re not too bothered about it then you could use it for two reasons: to get a decent spot ahead of the day’s premier race from which to view it and to suss out how the going is developing after the first two races. Coral take their sponsorship of this even pretty seriously, so don’t be surprised to see trainers and jockeys doing the same thing.
For many, Ladies Day is about the style off the course as much as it is about the action on it. It’s little wonder, then, that plenty see the Coral Cup as the appetiser to whet the whistle ahead of the main event that is the Queen Mother Champion Chase.