The entire jumps calendar revolves around, and is geared towards, the Cheltenham Festival when, for four days in March, the best horses from Britain and Ireland bid to become champions of their individual disciplines. The festival features 26 races in total, 12 of which are Grade 1s.
The Champion Hurdle is the feature race on Tuesday, with the best 2m hurdlers competing in the race, which is usually run at a break-neck gallop. Hurricane Fly last year became the first horse to regain the Champion Hurdle since Comedy of Errors in 1975, and is favourite to win it for a third time this year.
The day starts with the Supreme Novices' Hurdle - run over the same course and distance as the Champion Hurdle - which is the traditional 'curtain raiser' to the four-day extravaganza. The start of the Supreme is met with the 'Cheltenham roar' as the crowd celebrates the start of the festival following months of anticipation.
A race for the stars of the future, the Supreme has an impressive role of honour. Day one hosts a third Grade 1 with the Arkle for the top 2m novice chasers.
Wednesday (Ladies' Day) hosts four Grade 1s, with the National Hunt Chase for amateur riders getting the day off to an often exciting start. The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the feature race and one of the most exciting of the festival, as the best 2m chasers fly down the hill before fighting it out up the famous home straight, with Sprinter Sacre coming out on top in 2013.
The other Grade 1s on the card include the Neptune Investments Novices' Hurdle over 2m5f, the RSA Chase - a 3m½f race for future Gold Cup horses - and the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, which is a 2m½f Flat race .
The World Hurdle is the feature race on St. Patrick's Thursday. Solwhit won last year, ending a four year domination by Big Buck's. Big Buck's had however missed much of the preceding season through injury, but is now chasing a comeback, trainer Paul Nicholls intends to use the Cleve Hurdle as a starting point on January 25.
The Ryanair Chase, recently awarded Grade 1 status, supplements the World Hurdle and proves a fascinating melting pot for those that don't quite have the speed for a Champion Chase or the stamina for the Gold Cup.
The highlight of Friday (Gold Cup day), and indeed of all four days, is the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The 3m2½f contest is the most prestigious prize in jump racing.
The Triumph Hurdle, for four-year-olds, starts the day while the 3m Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle is the other Grade 1 on the card.
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