Celebrating 155 years: why Cheltenham is the one sporting event you should attend this year

With humble beginnings in 1860, the famed Cheltenham Festival has come a long way since the reign of Queen Victoria. While big name sports like football, rugby and cricket continue to dominate in the media through sporting blogs and news reports, the world of horse racing is growing exponentially in popularity, and the Cheltenham Festival is a prime example of this.

Taking place at Prestbury Park Racecourse from 10th to 13th March, 2015 marks a particularly special year for the age old festival. With its 155th anniversary, one of the biggest events on the horse racing calendar is bringing in some changes to celebrate.

Good news for the jockeys taking part is that prize money for some of the most prestigious races is set to increase by a substantial amount. The Ladbrokes World Hurdle and Ryanair Chase prize money will go up from their 2014 total of £275,000 to £300,000. Of course, that’s not to come without its fair share of hard work.

New restrictions have now been placed for all riders, in particular, on weight limits. This year, the 3lb allowance for riders riding from their own stable and the 7lb allowance (for riders who have not ridden a winner) will be removed for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle race.

It’s a controversial change that will no doubt have an effect on the betting elements of the festival. With £250 million wagered in 2014 alone, this year, punters could see their decisions affected by the many amendments to the races which are set to take place.

A recent report by the British Horseracing Authority announced reductions to the maximum field size to some of the event’s biggest races. The Skybet Supreme Novice Hurdle, for example, will be reduced from 24 runners to 22, as will the JCB Triumph Hurdle and the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.

One of the biggest races at the festival, the Coral Cup, will be reduced from a ceiling of 18 runners to 26, together with the Vincent O’Brien Country Hurdle, in one of the biggest shake ups of the event’s 155-year history.

Regardless of the changes however, there’s a reason why the Cheltenham Festival is widely regarded as one of the racing greats along with Aintree and Ascot. With this year’s event promising 27 exciting races including the famed Queen Mother Champion Chase, which has attracted 33 runners this year, the 2015 Cheltenham Festival could just be the best one yet.

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