The Cheltenham Festival is the biggest and most famous jump racing meeting in the world. With 270,000 people attending the prestigious event and tens of millions watching on TV, the Festival is more than just a race meeting, it is part of British and horse racing culture.
Of course, a fair few of those tens of millions who watch Cheltenham also bet on it. Being the pinnacle of the National Hunt season the course attracts the absolute best horses, trainers and jockeys from the UK, Ireland and abroad. Almost every horse that runs at Cheltenham are winners at their peak and that can make picking winners bets more difficult.
On this page we hope to help you out a little with analysing Cheltenham Festival races by providing you with informative statistics and trends. We look at the average odds of the previous winners the percentage of favourites that win in all 28 races, helpful for knowing if a favourite is worth it or should should punt for longer odds.
We cover the percentage of mares’ that win races for those that like to back the girls, the average age of the winners, races with the multiple winners, and much more. You will also find key statistics breaking down races by distance, fences, prize money and record wins.
Race Winner Statistics
Premier Handicap Races Highest Average Winner Odds, Championship Races Lowest Average Odds
One of the best ways to look for the right horses to back in Festival races is to look at the results from previous years. We have compiled the average odds of the winners for all Cheltenham Festival races dating back to 2000 (or from when the race began) to highlight the races that generally produce longer odds winners against those where shorter odds favourites win more often. We have looked at data since 2000 rather than all-time to give a more representative sample that reflects racing at Cheltenham today.
You can find the full list on our average odds winners for the Cheltenham Festival page. What is immediately obvious is the races with the highest average priced winners are mostly Premier Gandicaps, in fact, all six out of the top seven are Premier Handicap races and there is only one race higher than Premier Handicap in the top 10 (Spa Novices' Hurdle in 9th place). Within that most of the races are hurdle races between 2-3 miles long. The current highest odds race is the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Novices’ Hurdle on Champion Day (22.95 in decimal odds).
That may be a natural assumptions given Premier Handicaps handicaps tend to have larger fields compared to grade 1 races, which means the average starting price is higher, even for the favourites. Still it is interesting to see that is born out in the data.
Conversely the big grade 1 races carry the lowest average winner odds, with all of the four Championship Races (Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayer’s Hurdle and Gold Cup) along with the Ryanair Chase in the top 10 (excluding the Mrs Paddy Power Chase, which has only been run once in 2021 and therefore does not have a representative data set). The Champion Chase is the race with the current lowest average odds for the winner with odds of just under 9/2.
The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (David Nicholson) on Champion Day comes out with the lowest average odds winners of the non-Championship races (6.28 in decimal), excluding Mrs Paddy Power Chase. That is thanks largely to Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh riding most of the winners since this race started in 2008, including 6 wins for Quevega in the first 7 years.
The Championship race with the lowest average odds is the Queen Mother Champion Hurdle (5.43) followed in succession by the Ryanair Chase (6.03) and the Cheltenham Gold Cup (6.30) in fifth spot.
The overall average odds for winners at the Festival is 11.75, for 2023 races only it is 12.07 (shown in the graph above) - demonstrating that last year was very close to the typical norm.
Mares' & Grade 1 Races See Most Favourites Win At Cheltenham, Handicaps Least Favourite Winners
As a general rule of thumb favourites win around 3 out of 10 horse races. This is, however, taking data from 1000's of races, what happens when we look at races one by one?
This is exactly what we have done on our page about how often favourites win Cheltenham Festival races. We have broken down all 28 races and looked at the percentage of winners that have been favourites since the year 2000 (or when the race first began if after 2000). If you plan to bet on the Festival, either on favourites or outsiders, it would be worth taking a look at this data first.
Interestingly if you take the middle value (the median) or all the races you find that favourites win 30% of the time, the average of averages is also 29% (shown in the chart here), which is almost exactly in line with the industry average. This suggests that Cheltenham Festival races follow similar trends to horse racing in general.
What does stand out is that top two enty for the highest % favourites that win is a mares' races (Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle - 56%). The Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle also shows up in 6th place with 38% favourites winning. The other mares' race, the Mrs Paddy Power Chase, only started in 2021 and so cannot be used for comparison yet. Therefore, if you plan to back a favourite then a mares' race could be a good starting point.
The top half of the table is dominated by the big grade 1 races, and the Championship races in particular. The likes of the Champion Hurdle (52%), Gold Cup (48%), Champion Chase (39%) and Stayer's Hurdle (35%), all producing more favourite winners than average. You may say that is predictable but given the quality of the fields in these races and the fact that all the horses are 'winners' it is still interesting to see it born out.
Conversely it is the larger field Premier Handicaps and class 2 chases that tend to see the lowest average favourite wins. Some with less than 1/10 races won by the favourite (e.g. Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle - 7% and the Coral Cup - 9%), which is even less than the Grand National (15%).
What is interesting is the average winner odds do not always correspond to the % favourites that win, although roughly aligned. This means that there is still value to be found in backing the right horses at the right time.
What Is The Average Age Of Cheltenham Festival Race Winners?
There are many statistics that informed horse racing punters pay attention to and one of the most prominent is the age of the runners. Naturally longer steeplechases over 20+ fences will favour older runners with more stamina and shorter races with less fences will favour younger horses that can often be faster through longer straights.
To see if that is actually true we analysed the average age of Cheltenham Festival race winners in all 28 races since the year 2000, or if the race started later then 2000 from when the race first began.
Largely the data follows the pattern you would expect, with 2-3 mile hurdle races with a low number of fences having the lowest average age for winners. The nine races with the lowest average age are all hurdles and have less than 12 fences. Of course many of these are novices' races, which will naturally have a low average age by nature of the entrants.
Conversely the longer more involved steeplechases over 13+ fences dominate the top half of the races when it comes to the highest average age. It is not a surprise to hear it is the Cross Country Chase over 3m, 6f, 37y and 32 fences sits in second on the list with an average winner age of 9.47. Being on the cross country course it is the Cheltenham race most akin to the Grand National, emphasised by the fact Tiger Roll has won the National twice and the Cross Country Chase three times. Four of the top five highest age races are all over 3 miles with at least 20 fences. Naturally, horses require more stamina and experience to compete well in these races.
While the data follows a pattern you would expect based on the type of race the information is still useful and shows in general that the really big races at Cheltenham, like the Gold Cup and Champion Chase, favour older horses. These two races have an average winner age around 8 but are open to horses as young as 5. It goes to show that experience does shine through at Cheltenham.
Mares' And Fillies' Do The Best In Shorter Hurdle Races and Juvenile Races
You don't need to be a racing purist to know that in jump racing horses outperform mares' in general. This is thanks largely to the fact that National Hunt races take place over longer distances with lots of fences to be jumped that naturally requires a lot of stamina, a trait that, as with humans, is weighted towards the male of the species. With the Festival in particular we are also looking at elite fields of runners too and at this level it is hard for the mares' to compete as much.
For this reason we have dedicated mares' races at Cheltenham and this is, in part, to encourage the breeding of female horses for jump racing. Indeed, in 2021 a new mare's race was added (Liberthine Mares’ Chase) to do just that.
There are three mares' only races at Cheltenham but mare's can also enter most of the other 28 races across the week. Therefore, we wanted to look at for the races open to both sexes what are the ones that mares' and fillies' do the best in? Basically if you do plan to back a girl during the week in a non-mares' only race, what are the best ones to go for?
The top mixed race for female winners is the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices Hurdle, with 21% of winners being female, this is not much of surprise given this race is for four year old juveniles and the younger the horses are the more evenly matched they are between sexes. The joint-second on the list is the Champion Bumper, with 13% of winners being mares', and again this makes a lot of sense given there are no obstacles to jump and the race is weighted to younger horses and based on speed.
As may be expected the races that mare's perform the best in are pretty much all hurdles, which makes a lot of sense considering hurdles are easier to jump than fences in steeplechases. All of the top five races, with the exception of the Bumper, are hurdles and of the top four races all are under two and a quarter miles with 8 or less hurdles to be jumped.
The highest profile race that mares' do the best in is, predictably, the Champion Hurdle that sees around 1/7 mare winners. To discover more read our full page on how often mare's win at the Cheltenham Festival.
Irish Win Top Jockey 15 Out Of Past 16 Years
Most jockeys have a tough life, they don't earn as much as you might think and they have to travel the length of the country day after day in search of rides. Often the jockeys get little credit for their winners, with most people focusing on the horse and the trainer. There are some occasions, though, that jockeys do get the lime light and one of those is the top jockey award at the Cheltenham Festival each year.
The award should really be called the Ruby Walsh trophy, given Cheltenham's all time leading jockey has, naturally, won the most top jockey titles. No less than 11 wins between 2004 and 2017.
Of course, in its history the award has been dominated by men, and of late Irish men in particular. Therefore, what Rachel Blackmore did in 2021 was not just special it was ground breaking. She became the first woman jockey to win the title, that also included becoming the first woman to win the Champion hurdle.
Blackmore came second in the standings in 2022 to Paul Townend but did manage to win the Gold Cup, becoming the first female jockey to do so, and the Champion Hurdle again. She won't mind too much that she didn't win the top jockey crown again then.
Find out more about the top jockey award and previous winners on our dedicated page.
Ruby Walsh Way In Front As Top All Time Jockey
There have been some great jockeys in the history of the Festival, such as Pat Taaffe, who won 25 races before retiring in the 1970's and remains the all time record holder for the Gold Cup with four wins to his name, three of which were on the back of the legendary Arkle. He also won the Grand National, twice, and won the Gold Cup as a trainer too in 1974.
Unfortunately there were just less Cheltenham Festival races in the past and so despite being an obvious legend Pat Taaffe isn't anywhere near the all time leader. That would be, without question, Ruby Walsh who won 59 races before retiring in 2019. Ruby also won the festival top jockey no less than 11 times between 2004 and 2017, astonishing.
Ruby Walsh would often play second fiddle to Tony McCoy in general, who is on the list in third with 31 wins, but at the Festival it was Walsh that always won the day.
It is hard to see anyone toppling Ruby in the foreseeable future, although Barry Geraghty on 43 wins got close before retiring in 2020. Paul Townend, champion jockey in the last two years, currently has 28 Festival winners to his name. Rachael Blackmore currently has 14 wins. It will take a serious legend to take that top spot in the future. Discover more on our top 5 Cheltenham Festival jockeys page.
No One Touches Ruby Walsh When It Comes To Individual Race Win Records At Cheltenham
Ruby Walsh won the top jockey title at Cheltenham an astonishing eleven times between 2004 and 2017 and therefore it is not too much of a surprise to see he also holds 11 individual race records too, solely or jointly. Walsh is the record holder in a mind boggling 39% of Festival races and this includes the two biggest records, with 8 wins in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle and 6 wins in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. The fact the Supreme is the first race of the Festival and accompanied by the Cheltenham Roar has obviously suited Ruby, a jump racing legend confident in his abilities.
Even though Ruby Walsh has retired it will be a long time before anyone topples him from the top. It is not just the overall numbers either, Walsh holds the record on his own or with someone else in in the Stayers' Hurdle, Ryanair Chase and Champion Hurdle, three of the five top races of the week.
The closest to Walsh is Barry Geraghty who holds the record in 6 races, including jointly with Ruby in the Champion Hurdle (4 wins) and five wins in both the Triumph Hurdle and the Champion Chase. He won't be going after Ruby anymore though as he is now also retired.
Pat Taaffe needs a mention thanks to the fact he is the record holder with 4 wins in The Gold Cup, a record that has stood since 1968. He also holds the record in the Broadway Chase.
It is interesting to note that the top three races in terms of the most wins by a single jockey are all grade 1 hurdles and 5 of the top ten are hurdles races. See our dedicated record jockey wins page for a breakdown of all the races and insights into why certain races attract more individual winners than others.
Willie Mullins Has Been Top Trainer 10 Out Of Last 13 Years
You can't read any page about the Festival without Ireland's top name in training horses popping up somewhere. Yes, it is Willie Mullins who was the top trainer at the last Cheltenham Festival in 2023, a title he has won for ten out of the last thirteen years.
Mullins is responsible for a huge amount of the Irish dominance at the Festival in recent years and that is reflected by the fact he continually outperforms his rivals. In fact only Gordon Elliott, a fellow Irish trainer, has beaten Willie since 2012, doing so in 2017 and 2018. The last Brit to win the title was Nicky Henderson in 2012.
Willie hasn't always had it easy and has been pushed for the top trainer trophy a few times. Including in 2021 when with two races to go he was two wins behind Henry de Bromhead, what did he do? Yes, he went on to win the last two races and beat de Bromhead based on the number of 2nd and 3rd place finishes. Visit our top trainer page for more.
In 2022 Mullins broke his own win record, eight wins, by winning an astonishing ten races over the week, 36% of all races. In fact, he went into the last day with 5 wins and won 5 out of the 7 races on the final day. Legend.
Henderson vs Mullins: All Time Top Trainer Race
There is a tendency to focus on the modern day a lot in racing and forget that the Festival has been going since the 1860's and has witnessed some amazing trainers in that time. Whenever we think of the worlds biggest jump racing meeting we have to remember the likes of Fulke Walwyn, with 40 winners, and Martin Pipe, with 34 winners, who dominated at Cheltenham in the past and helped turn it into the spectacle it is today.
It would be fair to say that if both of those were around today they would be keeping up with the top trainers now. The fact is, though, that there are more races at the Festival today and that means the modern trainers have been able to kick on beyond what they were able to achieve.
When we look at the greatest trainers in history it is a straight battle that continues today between Ireland's best, Willie Mullins, currently on 94 wins, and Britain's best, Nicky Henderson, currently on 73 wins. Sandwiched in the middle of all of those is Paul Nicholls, with 48 wins to date. He is unlikely to beat Henderson and Mullins but certainly should be lauded for his achievements.
Gordon Elliott is also knocking on the door with 37 wins to date, since just 2011, that includes a Gold Cup win in 2016. He would already be higher up the list if he hadn't have received a 6 month ban in 2021 for the infamous photograph with the deal horse. Read more about the top 5 Cheltenham Festival trainers.
Mullins, Henderson, O'Neill & Nicholls Record Trainers In 24 Out Of 28 Festival Races
Let's face it in the recent past the Cheltenham Festival has been dominated by Willie Mullins, the legendary Irish trainer now owns the Festival in terms of trainer records. He is not only the Top Trainer in most years these days he also tops the list as the trainer to train the most winners in individual races.
The Champion Bumper tops the list with 12 winners to date for Mullins and in joint-second place it is, yeah you guessed it, Mullins again with 9 wins in the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle. Mullins holds the top trainer title, either solely or jointly, in 12 out of 28 races, that is 43%.
Once we take Mullins out of the picture it isn't exactly an open field. The third to fifth races on the list for record trainer wins are all held by the legendary British trainer Nicky Henderson; with record wins in the Champion Hurdle (9 wins), Triumph Hurdle and Arkle Challenge Trophy (both 7). He holds the trainer record, solely or jointly, in 6 out of 28 races, 21%.
Of the remaining races Paul Nichols has his name as record trainer on 4 races too (also 14%) and Jonjo O'Neill holds 2 races (7%) including the National Hunt chase with 6 wins in 7th place on the list.
Special mention needs to be given to Tom Dreaper who still holds the record for the number of winners trained in the Gold Cup, five, which he has held since 1968. Fred Rimell and Fulke Walwyn also still show up on the list having stood the test of time.
New blood is coming through, however, and Mullins has to retire some day. Fellow Irish trainer Gordon Elliott is the brightest prospect with 37 wins since 2011 and only born in 1978 he has time to remove Willie's name from a good few of those races - although, perhaps not the Champion Bumper, which really should be renamed the Willie Mullins Champion Bumper. See the record trainers for all 28 Festival races on our dedicated page.
Arkle and Golden Miller Stand Test Of Time As Best Ever Cheltenham Festival Horses
Most of the stats and trends you read about on this page are dominated by modern day winners so it is a testament to the quality of Arkle and Golden Miller that those two still stand out as the greatest ever Festival horses.
Arkle rightly has a Festival race today named in his honour, the Arkle Challenge Trophy, and given the quality of the Irish born winner perhaps they should name a whole day after him. He is the only horse in history to carry a Timeform rating of 212 as a steeplechaser.
Despite having his career cut short through injury the incredible Arkle won three back-to-back Gold Cups between 1964 and 1966 before being injured in the 1966 King George VI Chase at Kempton. He fractured his pedal bone in that race and still went on to finish second. If he hadn't have injured himself in that race it is possible he would have gone on to break the record for the number of Gold Cup wins.
Which brings us on nicely to Golden Miller, who also has a race named after him, the Golden Miller Novices' Chase. The record holder with five Gold Cup wins consecutively between 1932 and 1936. You would think from the fact he won 5 Gold Cups that he raced for a long time, in fact his career only lasted from 1931 to 1939. In that time he won 29 out of 52 races (56%) that included a Grand National win in 1934.
It's not all about the old ones, though, there are plenty of other legendary Cheltenham horses, such as Cross Country master Tiger Roll and others that you can read more about on our top 10 Cheltenham Festival horses page.
Only 7 Festival Races Have Horses That Have Won 3 Times Or More
Winning a race at Cheltenham is a massive achievement, these are some of the most difficult jump races to win in the world with the best runners, constantly improving year on year. Therefore, those horses that not only win a race but go on to win the same race multiple times deserve a special mention given how hard it is to do. It is akin to an Olympian winning multiple gold medals at different games.
The list is topped by the Mares' Hurdle that has been won six times by Quevega between 2009 and 2014. Those wins were in consecutive years too, which is only more impressive. The Gold Cup is second on the list with a 5 time winner who needs no introduction, Golden Miller, who won the race five times in a row from 1932-1936. Despite being nearly a century ago the horse is still honoured as one of the greatest. Big Bucks is the top stayer to visit Cheltenham over the years totting up four wins in the Stayers' Hurdle.
Four races have three time winners but it is the Champion Hurdle that tops that list given it has five horses that have won the race three times each. Each one of those five horses won the race in three consecutive years, the most recent being Istabraq who won in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The Champion Chase (Badsworth Boy), Cross Country Chase (Tiger Roll) and Final Handicap Hurdle (Willie Wumkpins) are the only other races with horses to have won three times.
Apart form those seven races the remaining 21 races have all been won on two or less occasions by the same horse. This actually goes to show how competitive Cheltenham is and how hard it is for a horse to maintain the form required to win these elite races year after year. It should also make us celebrate those few horses mentioned here given how rare it is to see a runner win 3+ times.
Who Are The Leading Cheltenham Festival Owners?
There is a tendency in horse racing to focus on the horses, trainers and jockeys, usually in that order, but what about the owners? Owners are the ones that take most of the prize money when a horse wins and there are those that think more credit should be given to those owners that have the knowhow to breed and buy future winners, and of course find the right stables to train them at.
When it comes to owners of jump racing horses there is nothing bigger (and more profitable) than winning Cheltenham Festival races. As with the general trend at the Festival in the last couple of decades it is the Irish owners that dominate in the modern age. Top of that list being J.P. McManus, who has been winning Festival races since 1982, only four years after his first trip there in 1978. A man who by the end might hit 100 Festival winners and has undoubtedly earned millions in the process.
Gigginstown House Stud is one of the more famous ownership names thanks to the fact that is owned by Michael O'Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, who can be described very much as a marmite character. This is another Irish owner that has come to dominate Cheltenham races of late, including with the famous Tiger Roll.
It would be unfair, however, to focus solely on the Irish and despite the fact British owners have largely taken second place in recent years there are many owners from the UK that are on the up. Such as, Cheveley Park Stud, based in Newmarket, who have trained several winners in recent years.
Find out more about the leading owners, past and present, on our top Cheltenham Festival owners page.
Cheltenham Festival's Oldest Races Still Running Today
The old ones are not always the best but generally in horse racing if a race has lasted 100 or more years it is because it is a good race. In days gone by jump racing was something that was done on more open courses, taking advantage of natural obstacles and features. They tended to be long steeple chases and therefore it is no surprise that the oldest races at Cheltenham pre-date the Festival itself by a fair way.
The Grand Annual Chase has been going since 1834, 26 years before the Festival began. It was originally contested over open country at Andoversford, near Cheltenham, although was discontinued in the 1860's before being brought back in 1913. Today the race is Premier Handicap run over two miles on the old course. Despite its history it has only ever been win twice by the same horse and four times by the same jockey/trainer.
While the Annual Chase is technically Cheltenham's oldest race the Festival's oldest race is the National Hunt Chase that has run pretty much continuously since 1860. In its early years it jumped around a lot, held first at Cheltenham in 1861 before becoming a firm fixture since 1911. It is run over three and three quarter miles and is a gruelling grade 2 race requiring 23 fences to be jumped. The race is the leading jump race for amateur jockeys and novice chases and, naturally, has never been won by a horse more than once, although, Jamie Codd has won it 3 times as a jockey and Jonjo O'Neill six times as a trainer (since 1946).
For more about those races and other races with a long history take a look at about Cheltenham Festival's oldest races still running today.
Cheltenham Festival's Newest Races
The Cheltenham Festival is steeped in history with some of the oldest jump races in the world still run each year at the meeting. You can't just always rely on history though and so every now and again you need to add some new challenges to keep things fresh and also to keep up with the times.
The addition of the 4th day at Cheltenham in 2005 was the biggest occasion when new races were created and some of these races have already become prime features of the meeting. The Ryanair Chase, added in 2005, is arguably the biggest race outside of the four Championship races today and the Spa Novices' Hurdle is an excellent Grade 1 run on Gold Cup Day.
Of course, there is the Cross Country Chase, that was also added in 2005, which has become one of the most loved races at the meeting. This is thanks to the fact it is a long race on the cross-country course over 32 fences. It is a lot like the Grand National and like the Grand National it was dominated by Tiger Roll winning three times. It already has a fair bit of prestige that will only continue to grow.
Since 2006 we have seen a further races added. Three of these are Mares' races, which shows why new races are added to adapt with the times and what people want to see. The most recent race, the Liberthine Mares' Hurdle (Mrs Paddy Power Chase), was added in 2021 and it actually replaced a race that was only added back in 2005, the Novices' Handicap Chase, which goes to show that even the new races are immune to change if they don't fit the bill.
What Are The Longest Distance Races At The Cheltenham Festival?
It is a fact that in jump racing the longer races tend to be the biggest draw for the masses, just think of the Grand National. Long races are not necessarily good for betting on, most tend to be larger field handicaps and that can make picking a winner more difficult. For those that love the spectacle, however, nothing beats a 10+ minute long race over 20+ fences. If your horse does win or place in races like these there is generally a greater sense of achievement too on having picked the right horse.
Being the pinnacle of the National Hunt season it is no surprise that the Cheltenham Festival boasts a number of races of 3 miles in length or more. These are the races that attract older more experienced horses, with the stamina to compete over these distances. The horses in these races have raced for years in many cases and that only increases the draw for the fans who will often recognise more horses in these races.
The longest race at the Festival used to be the National Hunt Chase, which is also the oldest race at Cheltenham. In 2019, however, the race was shortened due to so many horses failing to finish. That means it is the Cross Country Chase that now holds the crown at a length of 3 miles 6 furlongs taking place over 32 fences. It has been made famous of late thanks to Tiger Roll's three wins and by the fact that it is the race at Cheltenham that is most like the Grand National.
Third on the list is the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which needs no introduction. Held over 3 miles, 2 furlongs and 70 yards, it is not only the pinnacle of the Festival it is also a tough slog over 22 fences. Find out more about the longest races at the Cheltenham Festival.
What Races Have The Most Fences To Be Jumped At The Festival?
It is a fact that in jump racing the races with the biggest draw for the average Joe are those that involve the most obstacles to be jumped. You only need to think of the Grand National and the famous fences there to prove that point. Cheltenham's fences are not quite as famous as the Aintree versions but they are still formidable and a serious challenge for even the best National hunt horses.
The races with the most fences typically produce the most drama, it is possible to watch a horse lead from the front over 20 or more fences only to mess it up over the final few jumps. That can be heart breaking if you bet on that horse, but one persons loss is another persons gain and therefore these races are rarely bland. This is why we have created a page looking at the races with the most fences at the Festival, for those that want to find the races that are often the best to watch.
Of course, naturally, the races with the most fences are steeplechases and align with the longest races at the meeting. These races also tend to have a high average age for the winners due to the level of stamina and experience required to jump 20+ obstacles over 3+ miles.
The Cross-Country Chase stands out way in front with 32 fences to be jumped, that is 9 more than the National Hunt Chase in second with 23 obstacles. The Gold Cup comes in third with 22 fences, along with its amateur cousin the Foxthunter Challenge Cup, which helps to explain why everyone loves these races.
What Cheltenham Festival Races Have The Highest Prize Money?
Each year the Festival pays out around £5 million in prize money across 28 races, making it one of the richest meetings in horse racing and in jump racing especially. Given Cheltenham is the pinnacle of the National Hunt season all of the races pay out very good prizes compared to other meetings, but of course there are some races, like the Gold Cup, that can pay significantly more than a handicap race on the same card.
Of course, the best owners and trainers want to win the biggest races so they enter the best horses, ridden by the best jockeys. This isn't just for the prestige of winning these races, it is also very financially rewarding too. Even a place in a race like the Champion Hurdle will pay more than winning most other races.
It is logical that the top of the table is dominated by the four Championship races, with the Gold Cup in first as expected (£615k), followed by the Champion Hurdle (£441k) and then the Queen Mother Champion Chase (£392k). Fourth place is not taken by the final Championship race, the Stayer's Hurdle (£346k), instead this is in fifth behind the less prestigious but newer and richer Festival Trophy Chase in fourth, known as the Ryanair Chase (£369k). This has been the case for several years now and is thanks largely to sponsorship.
The richest race for novice chasers, the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase, comes in 6th (£178k) and the richest race for novice hurdlers, the JCB Triumph Hurdle (£137k), is up in 9th. The top thirteen races are all grade 1, which is again to be expected, although the Grand Annual and Ultima Handicap Chase in 14th & 15th are the richest handicaps of the week (£123k). Read our biggest prize money races page for more about these races along with information for how prize money works and how it is decided upon.
UK v Ireland
Prestbury Cup Firmly In Irish Hands
In the mid-2000's Irish trainers started to do much better at the Cheltenham Festival going from a handful of winners each year to regularly getting ten or more. By 2014 winners trained in Ireland were starting to get near parity to those trained in Britain, creating a competitional element. This, therefore, led to the creation of the Prestbury Cup. A trophy handed out each year to the nation that trains the most winners at the Cheltenham Festival.
While it is possible for other countries to win the cup in reality it is a contest between Britain and Ireland. The first two editions in 2014 and 2015 were won by Britain, who expected they would win most years with Ireland having the odd good year. In hindsight that was a naïve viewpoint as from 2016 to 2023 Ireland have won seven out of eight Prestbury cups, although one was tied with Britain in 2019 they still retained it as holders.
Ireland haven't just been winning the cup through luck either, since 2016 the gap to UK trained winners has steadily grown larger. In the last eight years Ireland have trained 141 winners to Britain's 82. In 2021 Ireland trained 23 out of 28 winners. A good chunk of this swing in fortunes has been down to Willie Mullins dominating the festival over the last decade. In 2022 Mullins won a record 10 races making up 56% of the 18 Irish winners that year.
That wouldn't be telling the whole story, though, as Ireland has become the place to go to get winners trained for elite jump races with plenty of other leading trainers like Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead. They will be hoping that even when Willie moves on they will continue to fly the flag for the Emerald Isle.
Dark days lie ahead for British trainers, although, following recent years the only way is up. Head over to our Prestbury Cup page for more.
Irish Trainers Now Dominating The Cheltenham Festival
Prior to the fourth day being added at the Cheltenham Festival in 2005 Irish trainers would say they had a good year if they got five winners at the meeting. From 2005 onwards, however, that all began to change and by 2021 Irish Trainers were winning over 80% of races.
This is thanks in large part to one man, Willie Mullins. The man who will likely go down in history as the greatest trainer Cheltenham has ever has dominated so many races and turned the tide for the Irish against the British, almost single handily. We say almost because other trainers such as Gordon Elliott and more recently Henry de Bromhead have pitched in more than their fair share.
On that evidence you might think that once Mullins moves on that the balance will be restored. This isn't, however, very likely as the current dominance of Irish stables means that Britain's best horses are now moving over the North Sea to be trained on the Emerald Isle. In the same way that prior to the 2010's most of Ireland's best horses were moved over to British stables - it takes time to reverse these trends.
Find out more about the history of the British vs the Irish at Cheltenham and why the Irish do so well.