The Cheltenham Festival is now behind us, with all of the stories from the week quickly becoming part of the meeting’s long-established folklore. It was a week filled with thrills and spill, though it was mainly the punters that left Prestbury Park with a feeling of true contentment, given the number of races that went their way. So many favourites won that the bookmakers will have left Gloucestershire wondering if they had actually made any money over the course of the Festival, but few tears will be shed on their behalf by anyone.
As much as it was pleasurable to see the bookies take a hit, there were other talking points from the week that you can read about in our Cheltenham Festival 2022 Review piece, elsewhere on this site. This piece is taking a closer look at the numbers from Festival week, seeing what we can learn from the best of the stats. With 68,567 people turning up for opening day, setting an all-time record, we should have guessed immediately that this was to be a Festival full of talking points and interesting stats, with the entire week also setting a new attendance record.
The Race Stats
Let us start with the thing that matters most to the majority, of people: the races. Each has a tasty little stat associated with it that we will want to think about when it comes around to placing wagers on them next year, so here’s a look at what we learnt in 2022:
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Of the past nine winners, six of them had an official rating of 153 or greater. Constitution Hill was only rated 148 before the race, but after it he was awarded the highest ever Timeform rating given to a novice when he was rated at 177.
Arkle Trophy – From 1998 to 2006, this race was won by a five-year-old four times. Dropping the five pound age allowance changed everything through, with older horses tending to do better. That theme carried on thanks to Edwardstone’s win as an eight-year-old.
Festival Handicap Chase – Nine of the previous ten winners of this race did so with a price of between 15/2 and 28/1. Even when that wasn’t the case, the winning horse was priced at 14/1, so yet more trends were booked when Coach Rambler came home with a Starting Price of 10/1.
Champion Hurdle – Not only did Honeysuckle continue her tremendous form when she won the Champion Hurdle, she did so by continuing the trend of seeing the winning horse be victorious on the back of an unbeaten season. That had happened in the previous seven campaigns, including her own win in this race last year.
Mares’ Hurdle – It was getting to the point where it felt as though this might as well have been called the Willie Mullins Hurdle, given that the Irishman had trained the winner in nine of the previous 13 runnings of the race. That was finally ended thanks to Nicky Henderson, who saw Marie’s Rock running home as the winner under Nico de Boinville.
Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – The sensible money for this race might have been on Iberique de Seuil, given that a horse trained in France had won nine of the previous 17 races. In the end, though, only a fool doubts the Irish trainers at Cheltenham, as proven by Brazil’s victory.
National Hunt Chase – If you accept that some of the horses run under Denise Foster’s care last year were really Gordon Elliott trained runners, you’d have to say that he had five of the previous 11 winners of the National Hunt Chase. Many in the industry still haven’t forgiven him for the actions that saw Foster take over their care in 2021, though, so there might have been a few wry smiles at seeing the Willie Mullins trained Stattler defeat his Run Wild Fred to the finish line.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Many will look to the Challow Hurdle for a clue as to horses that might come up short at Cheltenham. That might seem harsh, but winners of it stand at zero from the previous 18, with Wichita Lineman the last to taste Cheltenham success in 2007. Stage Star carried on that trend, getting pulled up as Sir Gerhard went on to win.
Festival Novices’ Chase – Only three horses have won this race with a 100% record over fences since the turn of the millennium. There was a hope that either Bravemansgame or Galopin Des Champs could alter that, but neither took part in it, allowing L’Homme Presse to win instead. It did extend his own 100% record for the season, however.
Coral Cup – Since 2000, only four winners of the Coral Cup had run more than nine times over hurdles. Lightly raced horses and those on their second-season of hurdles have been the ones to look out for, yet Commander Of Fleet bucked the trend by winning in his 14th race over hurdles.
Queen Mother Champion Chase – Over the previous 30 years, the winner of this race had won the Arkle Chase 12 months before on ten occasions. Shishkin was the red-hot favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, perhaps with that in mind, but was pulled up, stopping it from happening again. Instead, it was another win for Willie Mullins, this time with Engurmene.
Cross Country Chase – There is no room for sentiment in racing, but who wasn’t saddened to see Tiger Roll beaten to the line in this event this year? Of the previous 17 winners, 14 of them had has a run at the course earlier in the season. That wasn’t true of Delta Work, however, whose last run at Prestbury Park was in the Festival in 2020.
Grand Annual Handicap Chase – Nine of the previous 11 race winners were rated between 138 and 147 prior to this year’s event. If you’d placed your bet with that in mind then you’d have missed out on winnings thanks to Global Citizen’s official rating of 136.
Champion Bumber – Willie Mullins had won the race 11 times since its inauguration in 1992, but the victorious horse has often not been the one people expected. Facile Vega once again gave him the win, but was very much favoured to do so with a Starting Price of 15/8.
Novices’ Chase – Mullins was once again the name being spoken about for this race, having won four of the first six times that it was run. Over the previous four years, however, he failed to get close with all but one of his 11 runners. He had to settle for missing out again here, with El Barra finishing third and seeing his barren run in this event go on.
Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle – Gordon Elliott has seen one of his horses win three of the past four renewals of the Pertemps Final, with Bosses Oscar finishing second last year, albeit under Denise Foster’s name. Despite having six entries in 2022, none got anywhere near the places.
Ryanair Chase – Allaho’s impressive win in this race, repeating the feat from last year, means that 14 of the past 18 winners of the Ryanair have won at Cheltenham before success in this event.
Stayers’ Hurdle – Three of the previous four winners had run in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle 12 months prior. That wasn’t the case for Flooring Porter, however, who defended his crown and bucked the trend.
Handicap Chase – Prior to this year’s outing, eight horses in succession had won the Handicap Chase with a rating in the 140s. Coole Cody made it nine out of nine when he won with an official rating of 145.
Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Willie Mullins won this race five times in succession when it was first introduced to the Festival, only failing to deliver success last year thanks to Henry De Bromhead. This time it was Harry Fry who spoilt the party, winning with Love Envoi.
Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – Only one of the previous 17 winners had won in the race it ran before taking part in the Challenge Cup Handicap Chase. On top of that, just three winners since 1992 were ten or older when they won. Chambard will have annoyed stats lovers by winning its race before running in this one and enjoying success here as a ten-year-old.
Triumph Hurdle – Vauban made it seven wins out of ten in this race for horses that had run in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown the month before coming to Prestbury Park.
Handicap Hurdle – Of the previous 15 winners of this race, seven of them had been trained by the Mullins family. Willie Mullins made that eight out of 16, with his own personal record being extended to six of them.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – The Nice Guy won this race with odds of 18/1, becoming the eighth of nine previous winners to do so with a Starting Price in the double figures.
Gold Cup – Only one horse has ever regained the Gold Cup after losing it, which was Kauto Star. There was a belief that Al Boum Photo might be able to do it, but who can deny Rachael Blackmore her success with A Plus Tard?
Festival Hunters’ Chase – Of the previous 33 winners, 28 of them had begun their career on the point-to-point circuit. Billaway made that 29 from 34, so it’s very much something to think about next year.
Mares’ Chase – In its second year, the Mares’ Chase saw a curious trend continue: of the races run at the Festival exclusively for mares, a French-bred horse had won 14 of 21. That’s now 15 of 22, so keep your eyes pealed for a French-bred runner here in 2023.
Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Banbridge saw a brilliant Festival for the Irish reach its natural conclusion, with every single race on the final day being one by a horse trained on the Emerald Isle.
Some Other Random Stats
Now that we’ve had a good look at each of the races, it’s time to take a bit of a deeper dive into the stats from the Festival overall:
- 5,000 bundles of birch were used to make the fences
- The shortest distance run was two miles
- There was over £1 million in prize money available every day
- More than 134,000 people went through Cheltenham Spa Train Station
- Each day saw in excess of 100 helicopter movements as people came and left Prestbury Park
- 45,000 bred rolls were served, which is the same number as afternoon teas sold
- More than 220,000 pints of Guinness were drunk
- That beats the 125,000 or so pints of lager, showing the Irish influence
- 30,000 bottles of win were sold, as well as 18,000 bottles of champagne
- 40,000 or so guests were served by hospitality
- 350 chefs helped to serve up nine tonnes of potato, five tons of salmon, and five tonnes of cheese
- Every day saw about 3,800 catering team members get to work
- Over 9,000 gallons of tea and coffee were drunk
- Eight-year-olds were the most successful, with nine winning horses at that age from 75 entries
- 213 horses were bred in Ireland, with 15 of them winning
- It was a close-run thing when it came to headgear. 205 runners had some form of it, with 13 winners, whilst 200 had none and 15 of them won
- 170 horses had had two runs in the previous three months, with 12 of those horses winning
- It is perhaps no surprise that the Irish won the Prestbury Cup, given that they had 223 runners compared to Great Britain’s 182
- The Willie Mullins and Paul Townend partnership was the most successful trainer / rider combination, enjoying five wins from 18 starts
- The least successful was Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell, who saw no wins from 12 starts
- More people attended the Festival than ever before, with 68,567 attending on Day One, 64,431 coming on Day Two, 73,754 being there on Day Three and a total of 73,875 arriving to watch the racing on Gold Cup Day