Cheltenham Racecourse have announced some significant changes to the racing schedule for The Festival in 2009, which takes places from March 10 to 13.
On each day of The Festival, the feature race will now be the fourth race of the day, giving more of a sense of building to a climax. This change has resulted in a rescheduled race programme, as revealed below.
The totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup will remain the first race over fences on Friday and, to accomplish this, the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle moves from being the last race of The Festival to become the second event on Gold Cup day, meaning that it will be televised on Channel 4 for the first time.
The final contest of The Festival 2009 will be the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual, a handicap chase over two miles and half a furlong, while a new race, a conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle over an extended two and a half miles becomes the sixth race that day.
Explaining the change, Racecourse Managing Director, Edward Gillespie, said: "It was apparent from the experience of last season that a greater period of build-up to the biggest races was almost universally popular.
"On that basis, the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ladbrokes World Hurdle and totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup will be the fourth race on each day respectively, starting at 3.20pm. Because we are now starting racing at 1.30pm instead of 2pm, these races will only actually be run five minutes later than in the recent past.
“The movement of the County Hurdle away from its slot as the final race of The Festival will give Gold Cup day a different feel, but we are still ending The Festival with two ultra-competitive handicaps, so the battle between punters and bookies will still be alive until 5.15pm on the Friday!”
In other changes, The National Hunt Chase continues to be rejuvenated, with a new televised slot, opening the card on Wednesday, March 11, a day which will feature seven races for the first time since The Festival was extended to four days in 2005.
The David Nicholson Mares Hurdle moves to Tuesday (from Friday), and the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle to Wednesday (from Tuesday).
Prize Money for The Festival 2009 has risen to 3.59 million (3.42 million in 2008), an amazing average of over 138,000 for each of the 26 races.
Away from The Festival, it was announced that both the Paddy Power Gold Cup on November 15 and the boylesports.com Gold Cup on December 13 will have 48-hour declarations and reserves in place (if the races are over-subscribed) for the first time.
The 2008/2009 season at Cheltenham begins on Friday and Saturday October 17 & 18, the second staging of The Showcase, allowing racegoers to get behind the scenes of Jump racing and find out much more about many aspects of the sport.
Order of Running - THE FESTIVAL 2009
First Day - Tuesday 10th March (Old Course)
1.30 The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race 2m abt f
2.05 The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase abt 2m
2.40 The William Hill Trophy Handicap Steeple Chase 3m abt f
3.20 The Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy 2m abt f
4.00 The Cross Country Steeple Chase 3m abt 7f
4.40 The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle Race 2m abt 4f
Second Day - Wednesday 11th March (Old Course)
1.30 The National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup abt 4m
2.05 The Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle Race 2m abt 5f
2.40 The Royal & SunAlliance Steeple Chase 3m abt f
3.20 The Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase abt 2m
4.00 The Coral Cup Hurdle (A Handicap Hurdle Race) 2m abt 5f
4.40 The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race 2m abt f
5.15 The Weatherbys Champion Bumper (A Standard Open NH Flat Race) 2m abt f
Third Day - Thursday 12th March (New Course)
1.30 The Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase 2m abt 5f
2.05 The Pertemps Final (A Handicap Hurdle Race) Abt 3m
2.40 The Ryanair Steeple Chase 2m abt 5f
3.20 The Ladbrokes World Hurdle Race abt 3m
4.00 The Festival Plate (A Handicap Steeple Chase) 2m abt 5f
4.40 The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase 3m abt 1 f
Fourth Day - Friday 13th March (New Course)
1.30 The JCB Triumph Hurdle Race 2m abt 1 f
2.05 The Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle Race 2m abt 1f
2.40 The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Race abt 3m
3.20 The totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase 3m abt 2 f
4.00 The Christie’s Foxhunter Steeple Chase Challenge Cup 3m abt 2 f
4.40 The Conditionals’ Hurdle (A Handicap)(0-140) 2m abt 4 f
5.15 The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Steeple Chase Challenge Cup 2m abt f