St Patricks Day at The Cheltenham Festival Day Three
Cheltenham becomes a swaying sea of green on day three of the March Festival as the punters celebrate St Patrick’s Day in style. The Irish have a long affinity with the Cheltenham Festival and thousands will head over the Irish Sea to attend, turning it into a raucous party on the Thursday.
There is also a fantastic array of top-notch races to look forward to, including the Stayers’ Hurdle, brought to you by your good friends at Sun Bets, as it marks our second year of sponsoring the race. This is the feature race on day three of the famous Festival and it is also the leading long-distance hurdle event in the National Hunt calendar.
Which races take place on Cheltenham day three?
The action gets underway at 1.30pm with the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase, a 2 mile and 4 furlong contest taking in 17 fences. Next up is a Listed handicap, the Pertemps Final, which was won by Presenting Percy last year.
The Grade 1 Ryanair Chase is at 2.50pm. This was introduced in 2005 when the Cheltenham Festival expanded from three days to four, and it is now one of the most important races at the Festival.
The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle is the centrepiece of the day and gets underway at 3.30pm, followed by the Grade 3 Festival Plate.
At 4.50pm the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle returns for a second year after proving popular when introduced in 2017 and the day ends with the Grade 2 Kim Muir Challenge Cup, a 3 mile and 1½ furlong chase for amateur riders.
Which are the feature races?
The feature race of the day is the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle, which is one of a handful of key races taking place during the Cheltenham Festival. It carries prize money of £325,000 and that figure has been rising in recent years as the race becomes ever more prestigious.
As the leading long distance hurdle race in the entire National Hunt calendar, it is eagerly anticipated by the horse racing industry. It becomes a fascinating war of attrition and typically results in a close finish.
Last year Nichols Canyon powered up the hill under Ruby Walsh to defeat Lil Rockerfeller by three quarters of a length. It was a huge shock as Unowhatimeanharry was the huge favourite, but Nichols Canyon displayed a tremendous turn of pace.
It has catapulted recent winners to fame, notably Inglis Drever, who won it in 2005, recaptured it in 2007 and successfully defended the crown in 2008, and Big Buck’s, who won it four years on the trot between 2009 and 2012.
The Ryanair Chase and JLT Novices’ Chase are important races too, but the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle is the big one on the Thursday.
What are the big duels of day three?
The Stayers’ Hurdle could come down to a battle between the fascinating Sam Spinner and the in-form Supasundae.
Sam Spinner has enjoyed a fairytale rise in the racing world after Jed O’Keeffe’s low-profile outfit snapped him up for a modest £12,000. O’Keeffe is predominantly a flat trainer and only has six jumpers in his yard, but one of them is now a Grade 1 winner after Sam Spinner soared to victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle ahead of L’Ami Serge and Unowhatimeanharry.
He could cap a meteoric rise by winning the Stayers’ Hurdle, but faces a spirited challenge from Supasundae, who beat the legendary Faugheen to win the Irish Champion Hurdle.
Another intense duel will take place between the Irish and the English as the nations’ trainers compete for the Prestbury Cup. England were favourites last year but the Irish annihilated them by winning many more races, so it will be a heated battle this time around and the intensity will surely ramp up on St Patrick’s Day.
Who is the ante post favourite to win The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle?
O’Keeffe has never had a runner at the Cheltenham Festival before, but now he has the ante post second favourite at one of the most important races. Sam Spinner is 4/1 to win the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle, but the favourite is Supasundae at 3/1 after that strong Irish Hurdle win.
Who is the ante post favourite to win The Ryanair Chase?
Right now Un De Sceaux is the 3/1 ante post favourite for the Ryanair Chase, ahead of Fox Norton and Top Notch at 5/1, and then Min, Waiting Patiently and Yorkhill are all 8/1.
However, it is worth noting that all of these horses have been entered into other big races at the Cheltenham Festival. We will know closer to the time which horses are going for the Ryanair Chase. Final declarations are now made 48 hours before the race, but several trainers will indicate their preferences before that.