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Cheltenham Festival 2015

Rural Matters

Article written by 10 March 2015

The official title of the Cheltenham Festival is the National Hunt Meeting. This originated in 1860, when the National Hunt Chase was first held at Market Harborough and titled the Grand National Hunt, featuring the one race alongside other steeplechases.

After taking place at a number of locations, including Cheltenham in 1861, the race returned to Cheltenham in 1904 and 1905. It was staged over a new course established at Prestbury Park in Cheltenham in 1902, although racing had taken place there previously. The National Hunt Meeting was held at Warwick from 1906 to 1910, but returned to Prestbury Park in 1911 and has remained there to this day.

The centrepiece Cheltenham Gold Cup, established in 1924, was the original Championship race staged at the Festival, with the Champion Hurdle being introduced in 1927, the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1959, and finally the Stayers Hurdle, which was first run in 1972.

The festival takes place annually in March at Cheltenham Racecourse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The meeting usually coincides with Saint Patrick’s Day, and is particularly popular with Irish visitors.

Cheltenham is often noted for its atmosphere, most notably the “Cheltenham roar”. The 2015 festival is due to begin on 10th March, lasting four days. The last race of The Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse next week has been renamed to mark A P McCoy’s final opportunity to ride at The Festival following his decision last month to retire towards or at the end of this season.

The record-breaking feats of the 19-time champion jump jockey are recognised in the A P McCoy Grand Annual Handicap Chase for the Johnny Henderson Challenge Cup, which is due off at 5.15pm on Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 13.

The new name for 2015 has been made in agreement with the Henderson family and is for one year.

The jockey said: “I am honoured that Cheltenham has decided to have the last race of The Festival in my name. It is a privilege and I would also like to thank the Henderson family for sharing the title for this year. I am much looking forward to next week.”

McCoy, set to be champion Jump jockey for the 20th consecutive season, has ridden 191 winners to date at Cheltenham, the Home of Jump Racing. That total includes 30 at The Festival which makes McCoy the third most successful jockey ever at the event, which this year runs from Tuesday, March 10 to Friday, March 13 inclusive.

“What he has achieved over the past 23 years, not just at The Festival, is phenomenal and to round off The Festival in his name seemed like a fitting tribute.”

McCoy has been successful in the race three times, thanks to Alderwood (2013), Edredon Bleu (1998) and Kibreet (1996) who was his first winner at The Festival.

 With thanks to Cheltenham is a Jockey Club Racecourse © 2015

For more information and to buy tickets please visit: http://cheltenham.thejockeyclub.co.uk/events-tickets/whats-on/the-festival-2015

(Image by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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