Which horse recorded the most consecutive wins at the Cheltenham Festival?

For nearly eight decades, the record for the most consecutive wins at the Cheltenham Festival was held by the legendary Golden Miller, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup an unprecedented five years running between 1932 and 1936. However, in 2013, the French-bred mare Quevega, trained by Willie Mullins, won the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle for the fifth successive year, thereby equalling the feat of Golden Miller. In 2014, as a 10-year-old, Quevega returned to the Cheltenham Festival to win the same race for the sixth consecutive year and take the record outright.

Originally acquired by Willie Mullins from France, as a 4-year-old, in 2008, Quevega was lightly raced throughout her career and, between 2010 and 2014 only ever contested the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the World Series Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, which she also won four years running between 2010 and 2014. The daughter of Robin Des Champs started favourite for all six attempts at the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle and odds-on favourite for the last four. All in all, she won 16 of her 24 races and just over £536,000 in win and place prize money. Unsurprisingly, Quevega was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cheltenham Racecourse in 2016.

Which jockey holds the record for the highest number of Cheltenham Festival winners in a single year?

The jockey who holds the record for the highest number of Cheltenham Festival winners in a single year is Rupert ‘Ruby’ Walsh. Walsh retired from the saddle on May 1, 2019, just two weeks shy of his fortieth birthday but, by the end of his career, had ridden a total of 59 Cheltenham Festival winners and become leading jockey at the Festival on 11 occasions between 2004 and 2017. Walsh rode his first Cheltenham Festival winner on Alexander Banquet in the Champion Bumper, as an 18-year-old amateur, in 1998 but, as a professional, rode seven winners over the four days of the Festival not once, but twice.

His first record-breaking haul came in 2009, when his notable winners included Master Minded in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle, now the Stayers’ Hurdle, and Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, all for Paul Nicholls. Of course, Walsh and Nicholls parted company in 2013, with Walsh choosing to concentrate on riding for Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins. However, the end of one of the most successful partnerships in the history of National Hunt racing did Walsh little harm as far as the Cheltenham Festival was concerned. Indeed, in 2016, Walsh equalled his own record by riding seven winners, all trained by Mullins, at the Festival. Notable winners that year included Douvan in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle and the ill-fated Vautour in the Ryanair Chase.

Who trained Arkle?

For the uninitiated, Arkle was arguably the greatest steeplechaser of all time. In a four-year period between 1962 and 1966, Arkle won 22 of his 26 races over fences – including the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years running in 1964, 1965 and 1966 – and finished behind just six horses. His Timeform Annual Rating, of 212, is the highest ever awarded to a steeplechaser and 20lb superior to any other steeplechaser in history, with the exception of his stable companion, Flyingbolt. Arkle was owned by Anne Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster, and trained by Thomas William ‘Tom’ Dreaper at the family farm in Greenogue, Kilsallaghan, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Is a Five-day Cheltenham Festival a good idea?

Historically, the Cheltenham Racecourse Committee always insisted that the addition of a fifth day to the Cheltenham Festival, which was extended from three to four days in 2005, was not on the agenda. However, in an interview with ITV Racing, Martin St. Quinton, who was appointed Chairman of the Cheltenham Racecourse Committee by Jockey Club Racecourses in May, 2019, stated, ‘I wouldn’t rule anything in, but I wouldn’t rule anything out’, rekindling press interest in a five-day Festival.

Indeed, Willie Mullins, the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, with 65 winners to his name, dismissed speculation as merely ‘a press thing’. He told the Irish Times, ‘You would be talking about filling up on handicaps, which devalues the whole thing, I think’. Nevertheless, the Cheltenham Festival currently consists of four days with seven races on each day or, in other words, a total of 28 races. Other high-profile trainers, including Philip Hobbs, argue that, if six, rather than seven, races were staged on each day, just two extra races would need to be added to create a five-day programme. In fact, an additional Grade Two mares’ steeplechase is due to be introduced to the Festival programme in 2021, in which case just one extra race would be needed to create five, six-race cards.

One popular suggestion for an extra race is a Grade One hurdle over the intermediate distance of two-and-a-half miles, which seems logical enough granted that similar contests – namely the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Marsh Chase and Ryanair Chase – already exist for all the other divisions of National Hunt racing. Opponents of such a race argue that it would dilute the quality of existing ‘championship’ races, such as the Champion Hurdle and Stayers’ Hurdle.

Nevertheless, the reduction in the maximum stake allowed on fixed-odds betting terminals, from £100 to £2, implemented in April 2019, has led to a spate of betting shop closures, with a knock-on effect on horse racing prize money. In difficult times, a five-day Cheltenham Festival would generate extra revenue so, like it or not, Martin St. Quinton may be subject to further scrutiny on the subject in due course. It would also of course increase the number of betting opportunities going forward, and there will be no shortage of tips for Cheltenham 2020, that’s for sure.

At RacingQuestions.co.uk we’re always looking to hear your input too. So what’s your take on a five day Cheltemham Festival? Is the existing and long standing four day format the way to go (in an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach) and do you share Phillip Hobbs outlook that it wouldn’t take a great deal of alteration to change the current format? Or perhaps Mullins concerns about a potential watering down of the quality on offer offers pause for thought? As recently as January 2020 Best Mate’s trainer Hen Knight shared these sentiments, saying a five day festival would “lose the quality”.

I’m sure we’ll all soon be watching every second of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and so it’s as good a time as any to ponder these questions. Whatever your view, feel free to let us know and of course it goes without saying that if you have any burning racing questions that you want answering fire those our way too!

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