The Cheltenham Festival is a four-day steeplechase event held at the historic Cheltenham Racecourse in England with the scenic vista of the Cotswolds hills in the background (click here to see the panorama).  The Festival attracts some 260,000 people and the Racecourse draws 700,000 visitors annually.  The Festival dates for 2017 are March 14-17.

Cheltenham Racecourse, about 95 miles from London (toward Oxford), is one of 14 racetracks owned by the British Jockey Club and it dates to the early 19th century.  The Cheltenham Festival is a social and racing extravaganza that attracts such blue-ribbon sponsors as Bentley, Guinness, Ryanair, and Netjets.

Cheltenham describes itself as follows:

“The Festival epitomises and encompasses everything that is great about Jump racing, whilst delivering an unbelievable occasion as the finest horses, jockeys, owners, and trainers battle it out for the highest racing honours.”

The feature race of the entire Festival is the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase held on the final day, which has a card of seven races in all that can be wagered on at Cheltenham Free Bets offers.  It is contested at a distance of 3 miles, 2 furlongs, and 70 yards.  The race has a purse of £575,000 (about $704,000 U. S. dollars).

Post time for the Gold Cup is 10:30 AM in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States.  Currently, there are 29 horses entered and the favorites are Cue Card, Native River, and Djakadam.

If you have been to Saratoga Race Course, you are likely to have watched a jump race, which is normally scheduled as the first race on the day.  Imagine a full card of jump races each day for four days, that’s what it is like at the Cheltenham Festival.  In the United States there are a number of one-day steeplechase events but they don’t have the draw of the Cheltenham Festival, as jump racing is far more popular in Great Britain and Ireland.

Jump racing is a rural tradition and an ambiance that takes one back to a bygone era when the horse was central to people’s lives and there were few competing sports to watch.

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