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
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 Grade 3 handicaps, in fact, all of the first five are grade 3 races and there is only one race higher than grade 3 in the top 10 (Spa Novices' Hurdle in 8th 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 (23.88 in decimal odds).
That may be a natural assumptions given grade 3 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 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (David Nicholson) on Champion Day comes out with the lowest average odds winners of all races (5.59 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 (5.67) followed in succession by the Ryanair Chase (6.21) and the Cheltenham Gold Cup (6.59).
The overall average odds for winners at the Festival is 11.82, for 2021 races only it is 12.39 (shown in the graph above) - demonstrating that last year was very close to the typical norm.
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 29% of the time, the average of averages is 28% (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 both the top two entries for the highest % favourites that win are mares' races (Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle - 57% and the Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle - 50%). 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 (48%), Gold Cup (43%), Champion Chase (38%) and Stayer's Hurdle (38%), 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 grade 3 field 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 - 8%, Coral Cup - 10% and Festival Trophy Handicap Chase - 10%), 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.
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 that tops 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. The top four 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.
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.
Find out more about the top jockey award and previous winners on our dedicated page.
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 could get close. It will take a serious legend to take that top spot in the future. Discover more on our top 5 Cheltenham Festival jockeys page.
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 2021, a title he has won for seven out of the last nine 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.
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 78 wins, and Britain's best, Nicky Henderson, currently on 70 wins. Sandwiched in the middle of all of those is Paul Nicholls, with 46 wins to date. He is unlikely to beat Henderson and Mullins but certainly should be lauded for his achievements. Read more about the top 5 Cheltenham Festival trainers.
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.
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.
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 Grade 3 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.
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.
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.
UK v Ireland
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 2021 Ireland have won five out of six Prestbury cups, although one was tied with Britain in 2019.
Ireland haven't just been winning the cup through luck either, since 2016 the gap to UK trained winners has steadily grown larger. 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. 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.
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.