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Cheltenham Races

Last Updated: October 23, 2018

Cheltenham Racecourse is situated in the Cotswolds and is often referred to as Prestbury Park. It is universally regarded as “The Home of National Hunt Racing” and the four-day Cheltenham Festival in March is the place that most owners, trainers, and jockeys dream of having winners. The festival uses both courses at Cheltenham, which are the New Course and the Old Course, and the festival highlights include the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, and the Blue Riband event the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Cheltenham Festival attracts around 260,000 visitors each year, whilst Cheltenham’s 16 annual meetings attract a total of around 700,000 racegoers each year. 

Cheltenham is also a place that evokes some fantastic memories of some even better horses, including multiple Champion Hurdle winners include See You Then, Istabraq, Hardy Eustace, Hurricane Fly, and Buveur D’Air. Meanwhile, Badsworth Boy, Pearlyman, Barnbrook Again, Viking Flagship, Master Minded, and Sprinter Sacre have all powered up the Cheltenham Hill to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase on more than one occasion. Multiple winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup have been harder to find recently but who can forget Kauto Star becoming the first horse to regain his Gold Cup crown and, in doing so, adding his name to a list of multiple Gold Cup winners that includes Golden Miller, Arkle, and Best Mate.  

Key Facts

Below are some key facts about Cheltenham Racecourse.

Established: 1815, current course established 1898

Course Type: National Hunt

Current Owner: Jockey Club Racecourses

Layout

The famous Cheltenham Hill continues to provide racing with some of the best finishes ever seen, with many horses agonizingly running out of stamina on the ascent to the finishing line and being run down by a closer. Therefore, tactics are always important, but the competitive nature of races run at the big meetings means races are often run flat out from start to finish.

Cheltenham actually has two racecourses, the New Course and the Old Course. The Old Course is considered the quicker of the two courses, meaning it is better suited to horses that travel easily in their races. Both courses are undulating and quite stiff, with just two hurdles in the last six furlongs of the hurdles course increasing the emphasis on stamina. The fences on the chase course are also stiff and will catch out any jumping frailties a horse may have.

Notable Races

Cheltenham hosts 16 race days a year, and most are immediately pencilled into the diary of any National Hunt enthusiast. The season kicks-off in late October with the two-day Showcase Meeting. The highlight of the Friday card is the Ryman’s Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novice’s Steeple Chase. Meanwhile, Saturday’s card includes the Randox Health Handicap Steeple Chase and the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Novices’ Steeple Chase. 

It’s then on to the three-day November Meeting. The Friday is called Countryside Day and the day is used to help raise funds for the Countryside Alliance and Injured Jockey Fund. Racing highlights include the BetVictor Handicap Chase and the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Steeple Chase. Saturday is the main day of the meeting and it features the JCB Triumph Hurdle as well as the meeting’s showcase event the BetVictor Gold Cup. Meanwhile, Sunday features the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Novices’ Steeple Chase, the Grade 2 Shloer Chase, and the Unibet Greatwood Hurdle. 

December sees Cheltenham host its two-day International Meeting. The highlight of the International Friday card is the Grade 3 December Handicap Chase. Meanwhile, the highlights of the International Saturday card include the Grade 3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and the Unibet International Hurdle. 

Racing also traditionally takes place on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham and you can welcome in the New Year with some of the day’s highlights such as the Grade 3 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle and the BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase. 

Festival Trials Day then takes place in January, when the Grade 2 Cotswolds Steeple Chase gives Cheltenham Gold Cup hopefuls the chance to get a run at Cheltenham a few weeks before the big occasion.  

Cheltenham Races

Photo © Carine 09

The Cheltenham Festival then takes place in March and the four days of this annual extravaganza are called Champion Day, Ladies Day, St Patrick’s Thursday, and Gold Cup Day. The Champion Hurdle is the highlight of Champion Day, and the opening day of the festival has some excellent supporting races with the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle getting the meeting underway. This is followed by the Arkle Chase, and the Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase. There’s also the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, the National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup, and the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.

The highlight of Ladies’ Day is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, with the main event preceded by the Ballymore Novice’s Hurdle, the RSA Chase, and the Coral Cup. It is followed by the Glenfarclas Cross Country Steele Chase, the Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, and the Weatherby’s Champion Bumper.

Many Irish punters frequent the Cheltenham Festival, so it’s fitting that the third day of the festival is known as St Patrick’s Day Thursday. The Guinness consumption is enormous on a day that features the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase, as well as the JLT Novices’ Chase, the Pertemps Network Final, the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate. The Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle, and the Fulke Walywn Kim Muir Challenge Cup. 

Meanwhile, Gold Cup day need little introduction as it attracts the best three-mile+ chasers to try and win National Hunt’s most prestigious prize the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup. The final day of the festival kicks-off with the Triumph Hurdle, which is followed by the County Hurdle, and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. The Gold Cup is followed by the Cheltenham Foxhunters and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle, before the festival is brought to a close by the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup.  

The Cheltenham Fixture list also includes a two-day April Meeting, whilst Race Night is the final meeting and takes place in May. 

Dress Code

Surprisingly, given its standing in the racing community, Cheltenham Racecourse does not operate a dress code. This is mainly because most of its races take place in Autumn, Winter, and early Spring, when the unpredictability of the weather means racegoers are encouraged to dress appropriately for the conditions. That means you’ll see a lot or racegoers fitting in with the Tweed Jacket brigade. However, when the weather forecast is good, many visitors dress to impress. This is especially true at the Cheltenham Festival when many ladies wear one of their best outfits and even a hat, whilst many men turn-up in a suit, especially if having a ticket for the Club Enclosure, other hospitality enclosures, or any of the restaurants. (Fancy dress is not permitted in these areas). When it comes to footwear, please bear in mind that two-thirds of the car parks are grass.

Interesting Facts

The first race meeting that took place in Cheltenham in 1815 was actually flat racing. 

In 1829, Reverend Francis Close preached about the evils of horseracing to the Cheltenham Parish congregation. His preaching aroused the congregation into disrupting a race meeting in 1830, whilst the grandstand was burned down the following year. 

In 2003/4, Cheltenham invested £3 Million to create the Best Mate Enclosure, to commemorate Best Mate’s hat-trick in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. 

Cheltenham underwent a £45 Million redevelopment which was completed in 2015.

The tented village at the Cheltenham Festival is thought to be the largest tented village constructed at any sporting event in the world.

Address and Contact Details

Cheltenham Racecourse, Evesham Rd, Prestbury, Cheltenham GL50 4SH
01242 513014

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