Guide to all the races at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday
The Guinness is flowing on day three at Prestbury Park which is another quality day of racing on St Patrick’s Day and here we guide you through all the races at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday.
Turners Novices’ Chase
Distance: 2m 4f
A Grade 1 novice chase open to horses aged five years or older kicks things off on the New Course on Thursday with 17 fences to be jumped.
It was first run in 2011 and upgraded to Grade 1 three years later. The official name of the race is the Golden Miller Novices’ Chase but it has always carried the name of a sponsor.
Ruby Walsh enjoyed a hat-trick of wins on Willie Mullins horses from 2015 to 2017 while Rachael Blackmore was the first female jockey to win this race riding Bob Olinger (below) in 2022.
Pertemps Network Final
The second race is a stamina test for horses aged five years or older and is a Grade 3 over 12 hurdles on the New Course.
Established in 1974, it was first sponsored by Coral and was initially called the Coral Golden Hurdle Final.
A series of qualifying races are held in the months leading up to the Festival, with horses required to be placed in the first six of one of these to be eligible for the final.
Willie Wumpkins was the winning horse for three successive years starting in 1979, while Presenting Percy is just one of the previous winners who went on to bigger and better things.
Distance: 2m 4 1/2 f
The Festival Trophy Steeple Chase, which takes its sponsor’s name, was added to the Cheltenham Festival schedule in 2005 when a fourth day was introduced.
It was a Grade 2 race initially but was upgraded to Grade 1 in 2008. The race over 17 fences is open to horses aged five years or more.
Jockey AP McCoy had his final Cheltenham winner in this event when riding Uxizandre (pictured below) in 2015, which was his third win in the race. That record has since been beaten by Ruby Walsh who reached four Ryanair Chase winners with Un De Sceaux in 2017.
Bryony Frost was the first female jockey to win the race in 2019 riding Frodon.
This Grade 1 race is run over the same course and distance as the Pertemps Network Final earlier in the day and is the most prestigious long-distance hurdle race of the National Hunt season.
Introduced in 1972 as a replacement for the Spa Hurdle, it is – as the name suggests – a test of stamina for horses aged four years or older who have 12 hurdles to jump on the New Course.
It became the Stayers’ Hurdle in 1972 and was moved to the Thursday of the Festival in 1993, while it has also been known as the World Hurdle.
There have been plenty of multiple winners down the years, most famously Big Buck’s who made it four wins in a row in 2012 for Walsh and trainer Paul Nicholls.
In 2009, Big Buck’s stormed up the Cheltenham hill for the very first time.
The rest, as they say, is history…pic.twitter.com/ttKgBdoOv3
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 11, 2019
The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. Plate
Distance: 2m 5f
Race five at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday is a Grade 3 over 17 fences which is for horses aged five years or older.
The handicap was first run in 1951 and there have been many sponsors down the years. Two horses have won the race twice – The Tsarevich and Elfast – while jockey Fred Winter was on board three winners in the 1950s.
Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
Distance: 2m 1f
This Grade 2 for fillies and mares aged four years or older was only introduced to the list of Cheltenham Festival races in 2016 as the number of events was increased to 28.
Officially named the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, it is run over eight hurdles on the New Course and is for novice hurdlers.
Willie Mullins trained the first five winners of the race before his domination was ended by Henry de Bromhead’s Telmesomethinggirl, ridden by Blackmore, in 2021.
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
Distance: 3m 2f
The last of Thursday’s races is over 21 fences on the New Course and is for horses aged five and older but all the jockeys are amateurs.
It was first run in 1946 and named after Kim Muir, who was a cavalry officer who died during the Second World War.
Fulke Walwyn’s name was added to the title of the race in 1991 in memory of a trainer who had 211 Cheltenham winners, including 40 at the Festival.
An exception to the amateur jockey rule was made in 2021 and only professionals competed that year due to the restrictions around the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jamie Codd leads the way as top jockey in this race with four wins between 2009 and 2016.