The A to Z of the Cheltenham Festival, from Arkle to Zarkander

Here is all you need to know about the 2023 Cheltenham National Hunt Festival, one of the greatest sporting occasions on the calendar.


Arkle, the revered Irish racehorse after whom the second race is named; and Alice Fox-Pitt, the ebullient member of the ITV Racing team who conducts interviews with breathless and often unintelligible jockeys at the finish


Best Mate, three-time winner of the Gold Cup (2002–04), whose victories were marked by the headlong dash into each other’s arms of famously nervous trainer Henrietta Knight and her more bullish husband, Terry Biddlecombe. A racecourse enclosure is named after the horse and his bronze likeness stands outside the Tattersalls Owners and Trainers Pavilion


Constitution Hill, the handsome horse on which England’s Champion Hurdle hopes rest; and it’s also for Cross-Country race, where the twisting course is a test of jockeys’ orienteering skills — it takes place on Wednesday and is most fun when watched from the centre of the track; and the clerk of the course, who has no hope of pleasing everyone; and the Cheltenham Roar, the thrilling sound heard when the starter’s flag falls on the first race


Dawn Run, the heroic Irish mare who made history by winning both the Champion Hurdle (1984) and Gold Cup (1986); and Desert Orchid, the flamboyant grey who won the Gold Cup in a snowstorm in 1989. Dawn Run is immortalised in a racecourse statue by Philip Blacker that doubles up as a useful meeting point


Emotion, of which we will see plenty; Ed Chamberlain, the commanding — and diplomatic — lead presenter on ITV Racing, to which we shall all be glued; and for (stewards’) enquiry, which no one enjoys

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Foxhunters — the name for the prestigious hunter chase on Friday, may have succumbed to political correctness (unlike at Aintree), but it’s still a big day out; for amateur jockeys and point-to-point trainers — the applause tends to be slightly muted when a professional set-up wins. It’s also the biggest cup of the week


Galopin de Champs, favourite to win a third Gold Cup; for Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins after producing a dazzling spurt of speed on the run-in to take the recent Irish equivalent at Leopardstown by eight lengths; for Guinness Village — anyone who’s anyone goes there for a pre-race sharpener; and for greys: Snow Leopardess, bred by Mrs Fox-Pitt’s mother-in-law, Marietta, would be a popular winner of the Cross-Country race


the gallant bay mare Honeysuckle, dual winner of the Champion Hurdle, but going for the Mares’ Hurdle this time; for her popular trainer Henry de Bromhead; and for heroes, both humans and horses


the Irish, without whom the Festival would be a dull place


Jockey Club, owners of Cheltenham racecourse since 1964 and the largest commercial group in racing


Kim Muir, a cavalry officer who died in the Second World War; his sister, Mrs Evan Williams, started the race, for amateur jockeys, in 1946; and for Kauto Star, dazzling dual winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup (2007 and 2009)


Long shot (see N); and Love our Turf, a new community initiative to reduce the impact of anti-social (also known as drunken) behaviour on unfortunate Cheltenham residents and improve walking routes to the racecourse


McCoy, as in Sir Anthony, the most successful jump jockey of all time, whose blistering — and knowledgeable — verdicts on ITV Racing are always worth listening to; and for Mick Fitzgerald, his more loquacious fellow commentator


Norton’s Coin, in 1990 the longest-priced winner (at 100-1) of the Gold Cup, beating Desert Orchid — his trainer, Sirrell Griffiths, a Welsh dairy farmer, drove him there in a trailer; for Nicky Henderson, England’s most successful Festival trainer with 72 winners so far; and for his stylish stable jockey, Nico de Boinville


Owners, who are the lifeblood of racing and who must be looked after at all times; and O’Brien (Joseph), the Derby-winning jockey who has turned to training both jumpers and Flat horses to brilliant effect

Runners and riders take flight at the water jump during the Cheltenham Festival.


Patrick, patron saint of Irish racegoers; Paisley Park, the gallant staying hurdler having another crack at the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, which he won in 2019, and whose owner, Andrew Gemmell, is blind and has to rely on the commentary; for 13-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who always pulls something out of the bag; and for Prestbury Cup, racing’s Ryder Cup, which Britain trainers are hoping to wrest out of Irish hands


Queen Mother Champion Chase, Wednesday’s big race, a thrilling two-mile chase previously won by the likes of Badsworth Boy, Pearlyman, Sprinter Sacre and Altior; for Quevega, record six-time winner of the Mares’ Hurdle under brilliant jockey Ruby Walsh; and for Martin St Quinton, the businessman who chairs the Cheltenham Racecourse Committee


Rachael Blackmore, the queen of Cheltenham and the first female jockey to win the Gold Cup, and the Ryanair Chase, in which British hopes may rest on the Henderson/de Boinville entry Shishkin


Shopping and for staying power, which the humans need as much as the horses


Trip (distance), as in ‘will this horse get the trip?’; for tweed, which, despite the relaxation on dress codes, will be everywhere; and for trainers, the people in the paddock who look tense


Ukraine, which must not be forgotten — Tuesday’s amateur National Hunt Steeplechase is named for an appeal for the war-torn country; and unseated rider, an undignified result no jockey wants


Venetia Williams, the exquisitely dressed trainer of such good horses as L’Homme Presse, a Festival winner last year


Irish trainer Willie Mullins, the most successful Festival trainer with 78 wins, whose courteous, forelock-touching gesture at television interviews is a trademark; and for whip, which jockeys must use less and more judiciously in an effort to improve racing’s public image


X-rated, which is the language you may hear from a jockey spitting out mud after parting company with his steed


Noble Yeats — the 2022 Grand National winner, trained by Willie Mullins’s nephew Emmet, is ante-post second favourite for the Gold Cup


Zara Tindall, a member of the Cheltenham Racecourse Committee who always lends tone to proceedings; and Zarkander, winner, on only his second hurdling start, of the 2011 Triumph Hurdle

The Cheltenham Festival is on March 14–17; Gold Cup day (Friday) is sold out; see