Cheltenham Festival creates a buzz, not just amongst horse racing fans, but in the whole sporting world. The four-day event has plenty of highlights including Friday’s Gold Cup, but this year’s classic race might take place on Wednesday.

Race of the year

Day two offers the Queen Mother Champion Chase where Sprinter Sacre and Altior have been the big names in recent years. In this year’s Cheltenham betting odds, British hope Shishkin starts as a favourite ahead of the Irish horse Energumene. The race could be one of the key races in deciding the Prestbury Cup, in which Great Britain and Ireland compete for the most Cheltenham winners each year. In 2021, the Prestbury Cup was dominated by Ireland, which landed 23 out of 29 winners.

Day two of the Cheltenham Festival is also referred to as Ladies Day. But Ladies Day is not just about fashion, there is also some fantastic racing action. Shishkin is the hot pick of the Ladies Day tips, and with good reason. The eight-year-old rode to victory over Energumene in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot back in January. It was one of the most thrilling races of the year and has added extra spice to the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Many are already describing the rematch as the race of the decade. To see two such talented horses go head-to-head in the space of just two months is a rare treat indeed.

Ladies Day is a tradition in many horse racing festivals to have one day where people (and ladies in particular) dress up in eye-catching outfits and headwear. This makes the day feel like a special occasion and is the highlight of the week for many racegoers, but with this calibre racing competition to boot this year, it should be a memorable one.

Britain or Ireland?

The Queen Mother Champion Chase will also pit trainers Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson against each other, adding an extra edge to this one. They have 148 Festival winners between them, with Irishman Mullins the most successful Cheltenham trainer of all time. Mullins finally won his first Gold Cup in 2019 but The Queen Mother Champion Chase remains a notable omission from his CV. Henderson has won the race six times including five of the last 10 renewals – two with Altior.

Royal pedigree

The Champion Chase is a Grade 1 race and is run over 2 miles (1 mile 7 furlongs and 199 yards, or 3,199 metres) and covers 13 fences. The race has been held since 1959. A win would make Nicky Henderson the race’s leading trainer with seven wins, ahead of Paul Nicholls and Tom Draper. Pat Taaffe and Barry Geraghty are the leading jockeys with five wins each. The most successful horse was Badsworth Boy who prevailed in 1983, 1984 and 1985. The race was known as the National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase until 1980 when it was renamed in the year of the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday. The Queen Mother was the owner of 1976 runner-up Game Spirit.

Whatever happens this year, all eyes will be on the Old Course at 15:30pm on 16 March as the Ladies Day punters get the opportunity to see history in the making.

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