All roads lead to The Cheltenham Festival

The introduction of summer jumps racing in the United Kingdom means fans of the sport can watch National Hunt action throughout the year.

However, many jumps followers will have Saturday, October 13, marked in their diaries as the date when the ‘proper’ racing gets underway in 2018.

Chepstow Racecourse hosts the first big meeting of the winter season on that day, with the £50,000 Grade 3 Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle the undoubted highlight of the card.

From that point, all roads lead to the prestigious Cheltenham Festival in March where the UK and Ireland’s top horses, jockeys and trainers do battle over four action-packed days.

The first big race of the season is the Betfair Chase, which takes place at Haydock in November and will give an early indicator of the early contenders for the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Sandown Park’s meeting in early December also features races that will provide important pointers for The Festival.

The Henry VIII Novices’ Chase will attract Arkle Chase hopefuls, while the Tingle Creek Chase often throws up the winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The Long Walk Hurdle just before Christmas will feature numerous Stayers’ Hurdle participants, but December’s schedule is undoubtedly dominated by meetings at Kempton and Leopardstown.

The Grade 1 King George VI Chase at Kempton assembles many of Britain and Ireland’s leading steeplechasers on Boxing Day, with the leading contenders likely to also be targeting the Gold Cup later in the season.

Over in Ireland, the Leopardstown Christmas Festival features four days of top class action which includes a warm-up race for the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Willie Mullins’ Let’s Dance has won the race for the last two years and will be amongst the favourites this time around, but check out these free horse racing tips from Mares’ Hurdle sponsor,, before wagering on the outcome.

Ascot’s Clarence House Chase is another important step on the road to the Queen Mother Champion Chase, while the Cheltenham Festival Trials Day at the end of January features a host of races that are often the final step before the main event in March.

Leopardstown, Ascot and Sandown are amongst the top courses staging meetings February, giving trainers one last opportunity to fine tune their team for The Festival.

The famous Cheltenham roar will signal the start of the pinnacle of the jumps season which gets underway on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.

The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle is amongst a stunning opening day which also features the prestigious Champion Hurdle.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase takes centre stage on the Wednesday, with the Stayers’ Hurdle the highlight on the following day.

The Gold Cup provides an unmissable spectacle on the final day of what is unquestionably the most important meeting in the National Hunt calendar.