Cheltenham Festival Shuffle Sees New Race Confirmed, One Loss and Race Day Changes



The Cheltenham Festival 2021 will have a slightly different look to it when we get around to next March, with the full changes announced today. We have one new race, a race which has been lost and then two-day changes to try and even things out.

Mares Chase Introduced to the Cheltenham Festival

The news about this new race came out at the festival in March, though there were no concrete plans in place, and nothing said about which race would be lost.

The new contest will be a Grade Two Mares Chase, aimed at improving the standard of Mares in racing, and trying to keep them there for longer.

Traditionally, Mares either did not race and went straight into the breeding barn or they won over hurdles to show their ability before going on to breed. Now they have a reason to stay on the track, with a strong Grade Two contest to aim for at the end of the season.

Whether this will be a strong race, remains to be seen and there is a real danger that for the first couple of years at least, we will see a small field for the contest. Having said that, this is a good experiment to see taking place, it could turn into a strong race, but we may need to be patient.

Novice Handicap Chase Removed from Festival

When it was announced that we would be seeing a new race in 2021 back in March, it was also announced that one would be dropped from the meeting, and we wouldn’t see an extra race added.

It has been confirmed that the race being cut from the Cheltenham Festival will be the Novice Handicap Chase, currently ran on the first day of the meeting.

This is usually a competitive race, although one that has become more and more like a Grade Two novice chase each year. The handicap weights have closed, as so many horses want to get into the race and that has taken away what the race was originally intended to be.

There won’t be many people too upset about losing this race, and on top of that, few trainers target it because it is so difficult to get into the final field.

Day Changes to Freshen Up 2021

We have a race added to day four and one taken away from day one, so for that reason, we have also seen few day changes.

Moving onto the first day from the second is the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, which leaves a space on day two for the Grand Annual Handicap to take place, which was originally scheduled for day four.

This leaves a space for the Mares Chase to drop onto the fourth and final day of the festival.

It will be very interesting to see how the days work out, in particular the final day. This has the Gold Cup centrepiece but aside from that, it has the potential to be a slightly lower quality day.

The Foxhunters divides opinion, the Triumph can have a big favourite and the Mares Chase is likely to start with a small field, which will put pressure on the Gold Cup to deliver.

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