Cheltenham Festival Trials Day: Race List & Meeting Info

This next Cheltenham Festival is now beginning to take shape in terms of the likely favourites and which horses will go where. The next piece of the jigsaw fits into place this coming Saturday, as the home of the greatest racing festival on the planet lays on its official “Trials Day”.

The name of this meeting would suggest it is merely a preliminary for the big one back here in March, but that is possibly a little misleading. There is plenty of prize money up for grabs across this seven-race card, and no doubt a few of these runners will have a win here as a major target, with any further success at the Festival coming as an added bonus.

In terms of pointers towards Festival winners, this meeting has something of a mixed record. Some years have fared better than others, and this remains a fixture well worth a watch both in its own right, and with an eye to those ante post punts. Here we take a closer look at exactly what we have in store.


Trials Day Races

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle Grade 2 2m1f £22,500 4 Years Old
Novices' Handicap Chase Class 2 2m4½f £18,500 5 Years Old +
Cheltenham Trophy Handicap Chase Grade 3 2m4½f £50,000 5 Years Old +
Cotswold Chase Grade 2 3m1½f £63,000 5 Years Old +
Ballymore Novices' Hurdle Grade 2 2m4½f £22,500 4 Years Old +
Cleeve Hurdle Grade 2 3m £37,800 5 Years Old +
Handicap Hurdle Class 2 2m1f £27,500 4 Years Old +

Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle

Grade 2, 2m1f

Officially known as the Finesse Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle, this race was first run back in 1985. It is the preliminary race for likely runners in the Triumph Hurdle during the Cheltenham Festival. One thing that is worth noting at the time of writing is that just two horses have actually gone on to win the race in March after winning this one first.

The first to do it was Katchit in 2007, ridden in both races by Robert Thornton and trained by Alan King. The second came exactly ten years later when Barry Geraghty rode Defi Du Seuil for Philip Hobbs in the Trial before Richard Johnson took over at the Festival. With winners of the Triumph Hurdle often going on to do well in the Champion Hurdle at future Festivals, you could look upon the Triumph Hurdle Trial as a glimpse into the future of both if you wanted to.

Open to four-year-olds, the Grade 2 race takes place on the New Course and features eight hurdles during its running. It lasts for around two miles and a furlong, with novice hurdlers being the horses that are entered into it, as the race’s original name suggests.

Novices' Handicap Chase

Class 2, 2m4½f

Sponsored by Timeform, this handicap chase features seventeen fences. It’s for horses aged five-years-old and over, with the best performing competitors often going on to do well in the Novices' Handicap Chase during the Festival.

The race lasts for two miles, four furlongs and a little over one hundred and fifty yards, with the name of it telling you all of the vital information. It’s a chase for novices, with no weights in place on account of the fact that it’s a handicap.

Cheltenham Trophy Handicap Chase

Grade 3, 2m4½f

This race was run for the first time in 1993, becoming a Listed offering nine years later. It’s for horses aged five and over that can handle the seventeen fences that need to be jumped during the two miles and five furlongs that its run over.

Awarded Grade 3 status in 2005, the race has enjoyed numerous sponsors over the years with Paddy Power the latest to back it. One hint of what winners of this race might get up to in the years that follow its running comes in the form of Papillon, who won it in 1998, being victorious in the Grand National two years later.

Three horses have won the race more than once. The Sawyer did so in 2009 and 2010, with Wishfull Thinking winning it in 2011 as an eight-year-old before winning it again as an eleven-year-old in 2014. Annacotty also achieved this feat by winning back-to-back title in 2015 and 2016, so having a look to see who won it last time out might give you some helpful information.

Cotswold Chase

Grade 2, 3m1½f

If there was to be a standout race of the day then there’s a strong argument for it to be the Trial Cotswold Steeple Chase. It’s for horses aged five and up and features twenty-one fences during the three miles, one and a half furlong course. It’s neither the length nor the number of fences that makes this Grade 2 race the most popular of the day, however, but rather the fact that it is considered by many to be an indicator of how a horse might do in the Gold Cup and the Grand National.

The race has been taking place since 1980, with the event taking on numerous sponsored names since then to join its registered name of the Cotswold Chase. Just two horses have won it more than once, with See More Business doing so in 1998 and 2001 before Many Clouds repeated the trick in 2015 and 2017.

Many Clouds’ story is a tragic one, though, with the Irish-bred horse winning the National in 2015 but dying in 2017. There was much excitement about the battle between the thoroughbred and Thistlecrack ahead of the 2017 Cotswold Chase, with Many Clouds ultimately prevailing. Unfortunately he suffered an exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage in the immediate aftermath of the race, putting a sad spin on his incredible achievement.

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

Grade 2, 2m4½f

Another Grade 2 offering, another hurdle for the punters to watch and learn from. Set over two miles and four and a half furlongs, the race is open to horses aged five and over. It’s one of the most exciting hurdle races for novices during Trials Day and there ten of the obstacles to jump before it’s over.

It’s one of the youngest races, having only been run since 2005. That it’s open for novices means that no horse has won it more than once, though the same cannot be said of jockeys. Barry Geraghty racked up three wins between 2005 and 2016. This is a race for those of you that like to play the long-game with your note-taking; Bobs Worth won this race in 2011 before winning the Gold Cup at the Festival two years later.

Cleeve Hurdle

Grade 2, 3m

Cleeve Hill is the highest point in Gloucestershire, so there’s an argument that it’s entirely appropriate for this race to be named after it. Open to horses aged five and up and with ten hurdles to be jumped over during the two miles, seven furlongs and two hundred and thirteen yards of its running, the race first took place in 1983.

The Festival’s Stayers' Hurdle is the race that this one often points towards, with the aforementioned Thistlecrack winning them both in 2016. He also went on to win the King George VI Chase that season, so you’d do well to keep hold of the names of previous winners for future reference. Big Buck’s is the most successful horse in the Stayers’ Hurdle’s history, winning it on four consecutive occasions between 2009 and 2012 and combining that with wins in the Cleeve Hurdle in 2009 and 2011.

Inglis Drever is another horse that has won both races, doing so in 2008. Interestingly, though, Lady Rebecca is the Cleeve Hurdle’s most successful runner thanks to her three wins between 1999 and 2001, but she never went on to win the Stayers’ Hurdle. Evidence, were it needed, that not every winner will go on to finish first in the Festival’s race.

Handicap Hurdle

Class 2, 2m1f

Trials Day usually comes to a close with the SSS Handicap Hurdle, another handicap offering. It’s run over a distance of two miles and one hundred and seventy-nine yards, with eight hurdles to be negotiated.

It’s another race that has a title that gives you the important information, being a handicap race for hurdlers. It’s for horses aged four and up and sees the day concude in style.