Cheltenham Festival ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of National Hunt Jump Racing
Few sporting occasions offer more excitement than the Cheltenham Festival Jump Racing extravaganza that takes place in March each year. Nothing in racing compares to the collective rush of adrenaline and the roar of the crowd at the start of the first race of each Cheltenham Festival. Spread out over 4 action-packed days of superb racing, with a feature Championship race scheduled as race 4 on each day’s racecard, each of the 4 Cheltenham Festival days delivers its own unique atmosphere and excitement.
Cheltenham Festival is most famous for the Gold Cup race; the world’s most prestigious National Hunt race which takes place on Day 4 of the Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse and the highlight of the Jump racing season. The Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup roll of honour reads like the ‘who’s who’ of racing including KAUTO STAR, DENMAN, 3-time winner BEST MATE, ARKLE, GOLDEN MILLER & MILL HOUSE. With a £475,000 prize fund the Gold Cup is the UK’s most valuable non-handicap chase. Run since 1819 when SPECTRE won 100 guineas by coming first over a 3-mile flat course on Cleeve Hill overlooking the Racecourse – the Gold Cup changed from a flat to a jump race in 1924 when a prize of £685 was awarded RED SPLASH; the first winner over jumps.
DAY 1: CHAMPION DAY
Day 1 of The Festival has 3 big races on the card: the Supreme Novices Hurdle, the The Arkle Chase and the Champion Hurdle, won in 2016 by Annie Power in a course record time to became the first mare since Flakey Dove in 1994 to win it and only the fourth in the race’s history.
DAY 2: LADIES DAY
Day 2 of the Festival features the 2 mile Queen Mother Champion Chase, won for the second time in 2016 by Sprinter Sacre, sadly now retired, marking him as one of the all-time greats. Ladies Day also features the best dressed lady competition.
DAY 3: ST PATRICK’S THURSDAY
Celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Day 3 of The Festival. With plenty of Guinness on tap and Irish music to get you in the mood for all the on-course including the two big races the Ryanair Chase and The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle – won in 2016 by Thistlecrack.
DAY 4: GOLD CUP DAY
Day 4 features the Cheltenham Gold Cup, won by the 9/4 favourite Don Cossack finishing 4 ½ lengths ahead of Djakadam and Don Poli, a further 10 lengths behind. The Triumph Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Hurdle are also really good races on Day 4 of the Cheltenham Festival.
CHELTENHAM RACECOURSE Gloucestershire
Cheltenham Racecourse, known as the ‘Home of Jump Racing’, has given so many great memories to race fans all over the world. All of the 13 Grade 1 races held at the track are done so during the world famous Cheltenham Festival in March, an event which draws hundreds of thousands of spectators each year who have been lucky enough to witness some of jump racing’s greatest triumphs.
The racecourse is set in a natural amphitheater in the shadow of Cleeve Hill, close to the village of Prestbury in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. The setting gives the racecourse a fantastic atmosphere, most notably the famous ‘Cheltenham Roar’ at the start and end of each race.
Flat horse racing at Cheltenham began in 1815, and at the current Prestbury Park site since 1831, with the addition of Steeplechasing at the course in 1898. The racecourse has had more than £80 million invested in racegoer and other facilities over the past 30+ years. Development of the original main grandstand was begun in 1979. The Panoramic Restaurant was added in 1997, followed by the Best Mate Enclosure and The Centaur conference & events facility in 2004.
In 2013, conscious of relentless competition from other sports and recent redevelopments at Ascot, Newmarket and York Racecourses, plus a planned major redevelopment at Newbury Racecourse, Cheltenham announced plans for a further £45 million investment in a state-of-the-art new grandstand. The spectacular new grandstand provides improved facilities for spectators, new views over the paddock and enhanced accommodation for owners and trainers.
Cheltenham Racecourse hosts 16 race-days over the winter between October and April. The highlight of the National Hunt Calendar is the Cheltenham Festival , featuring the World Hurdle, Champion Hurdle, Champion Bumper, Champion Chase and the Gold Cup. The other big race meetings at Cheltenham Racecourse include The Open in November, The International in December and Festival Trials Day in January.
|Address:||Cheltenham Racecourse, Evesham Road, Prestbury, Cheltenham, GL50 4SH|
|Tel:||0844 579 3003|
|Admission:||Varies according to meeting. Under 18s are admitted free, except at The Festival|
|Road:||1 mile north of the town off the A435|
|Rail:||To Cheltenham Spa station, taxi or bus to course|
|Car park:||£10 at The Festival, £5 on Open Saturday. Free at other meetings|
With a capacity for 67,500 spectators each day and some 230,000 spectators over the 4 days of the Cheltenham Festival, estimated gate receipts total around £7 million. Gold Cup Day is especially popular with the Irish who cross the water to attend Cheltenham Festival in their thousands. The famous rivalry between British and Irish horses contributes to the atmosphere.
The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle meeting on the National Hunt calendar and vitally important to UK racing. £600 million will be wagered on racing during the Cheltenham Festival. Without Cheltenham, Jump Racing simply wouldn’t be the same. Betting on all 27 Cheltenham Festival races is followed by thousands of racing enthusiasts. The volume of bets wagered during the Festival is staggering, with millions of pounds changing hands between bookmakers and punters on every race.
Experience for yourself the roar of the crowd on Champion Day with the Champion Hurdle, the glamour of Ladies’ Day and the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the ‘craic’ of St Patrick’s Thursday and the incredible finale of the big feature race on Day 4 of the Cheltenham Festival; the Cheltenham Gold Cup. For The Open Saturday and over the four days of The Festival, Cheltenham operates three separate enclosures – Club, Tattersalls and Best Mate. Detailed below are the facilities that are available in the three different enclosures.
|Views opposite the finishing line||X||X||X|
|Access to food outlets||X||X||X|
|Access to bars||X||X||X|
|Access to disabled facilities||X||X||X|
|Side view of the final furlong||X||X|
|Side view of the final fence/furlong||X||X|
|Covered grandstand seating||X||X|
|View of the pre-parade paddock, paddock and winner’s enclosure||X||X|
|Access to the tented village||X||X|
|Access to Guinness Village (festival only)||X||X|
|Access to themes and children’s entertainment||X||X|
|Access to Final Flight Bar||X|
|Access to Quevega’s (tapas and wine bar)||X|
|Dress code – see website for details||X|
|Access to restaurants||X|
|Access to the centre of the racecourse||X|
|Access to Vesty Bar in The Princess Royal Stand||X|
|Access to Big Buck’s Champagne Bar in The Princess Royal Stand||X|
|Access to steps on the front of The Princess Royal Stand||X|
|Head-on views of the racecourse||X|
Enclosures & Stands
There are 3 main enclosures to choose from with different ticket prices. These give you access to different enclosures around Cheltenham racecourse. The more you pay for your Cheltenham Festival tickets, the less crowded the enclosure and the better the view of the racecourse.
There are plenty of mobile catering units in all enclosures, which do change from meeting to meeting, but typically offer fare such as fish and chips, hog roasts, burgers and hots dogs, sandwiches, teas and coffees and doughnuts. In addition there are a number of bars that offer food in addition to drinks. Please note that the food served may change from meeting to meeting, with the latest details contained in the official racecard each day:
BEST MATE ENCLOSURE
Best Mate Enclosure is situated is opposite the main grandstand with extensive betting facilities. Views of the racing are good, but as tickets are cheaper here it is also the most crowded and views of the finishing straight can be difficult. There is a variety of food and drink facilities including full draught bar facilities in the Desert Orchid and Dawn Run bars in the betting hall + Tea and coffee, sandwiches, Cornish Pasties, Burgers and chips, Toasted Sandwiches and a Carvery. Additional facilities within the Best Mate Enclosure include music during and after racing.
Tattersalls Enclosure is situated within the grandstand providing tiered steps for an improved view of the course plus access to the paddock & winning enclosure. There are plenty of eating facilities, bars and access to betting. Tattersalls racegoers also have access to the Centaur, Paddock and unsaddling enclosure, Hall of Fame, trade stands in the Tented Village and to bookmakers in the betting ring. Tattersalls Enclosure food & drink outlets include the Pre-Parade Ring , North Entrance, Guinness Village, See You Then Bar, Winged Ox Bar & Terrace, The Centaur, Festive Bowl and Sovereign Bar.
Club Enclosure is the most exclusive enclosure with the best viewing and refreshment facilities. Situated within the main grandstand you get the best views of the finishing line, the paddock, winning enclosure and out onto the beautiful Cotswold hills in the distance. Club Enclosure food & drink facilities all those within Tattersalls, plus the Mandarin Bar, Tommy Atkins Grill, Final Flight Bar, Quevega’s Bar, Arkle Bar, Golden Miller Champagne Bar and the Cottage Rake Bar all of which also serve food to go. The Final Flight Bar has fast become the post-racing destination at Cheltenham. The Final Flight Bar is open on all four days of The Festival™ and continues until 7.30pm. There is live music to keep the party flowing and a cocktail bar. The perfect way to end a day at Cheltenham.
TATTERSALLS AND CLUB ENCLOSURE TICKET HOLDERS
Racegoers also have access to the Centaur, Paddock and unsaddling enclosure, the Hall of Fame, trade stands in the Tented Village and Guinness Village near the final fence, where extra viewing steps, bars, bands and entertainment are provided. Access to all betting ring bookmakers. Located opposite the Mandarin Restaurant in the Club Enclosure, the AP McCoy wall celebrates the historic achievement of this legendary jockey. Signed by thousands the wall is a unique feature of Cheltenham racecourse.
FINAL FLIGHT BAR
The Final Flight Bar has fast become the post-racing destination at Cheltenham. The Final Flight Bar is open on all four days of the Cheltenham Festival and continues until 7.30pm with live music after racing from the Chip Shop Boys to keep the party flowing and a full cocktail bar offering premium products. The perfect way to end a day at Cheltenham. There is a charge for admission and tickets must be bought in advance online. Available to Club Badge holders only.
Situated on the fifth level of the grandstand overlooking the Winning Post, Cheltenham’s premier restaurant provides the most stunning views over the racecourse. Seated at your table you can enjoy first-class cuisine, excellent table service, totepool betting and a spectacular view of the racing action. Available at all fixtures.
GOLD CUP RESTAURANT
Located close to the Hall of Fame, the popular Gold Cup Restaurant offers family and friends a great value day out. An ideal base for the day, with easy access to the main viewing grandstand. Please note that this facility is not course facing.
FINAL FENCE RESTAURANT
This elegant, modern restaurant is situated at the heart of The Village, next to the buzzing Guinness Village and as its name suggests, overlooks the final fence the horses jump before racing up the hill to the Winning Post. Positioned on the second floor, it offers a buffet lunch with numerous food options for guests to enjoy.
The Istabraq Restaurant is a stylish and modern facility. Located in the heart of The Centaur near the Hall of Fame, it provides easy access to the main grandstand viewing area and betting ring.
THE FESTIVAL RESTAURANT
This newly refurbished restaurant is located close to the Hall of Fame and next to the Gold Cup Restaurant, providing an excellent base for the day with easy access to the main grandstand. Please note that this facility is not course facing.
CHAMPIONS WALK RESTAURANT
After the success of last year, the Champions Walk Restaurant returns to The Festival™. Located opposite the horse walk, offering fabulous views of the horses as they move between the Parade Ring and the course, the menu at the Champions Walk Restaurant is full of quality, local ingredients in a modern and fresh environment.
All the dishes are served as grazing and bowl food.
HORSESHOE PAVILION RESTAURANT
With a sophisticated feel, the Horseshoe Pavilion Restaurant retains its status as Cheltenham’s premier restaurant in the Tented Village. Located near to the Parade Ring and main viewing areas. Please note that this facility is not course facing.
MOSCOW FLYER RESTAURANT
The perfect atmosphere for anybody looking to be in the heart of the action. Located close to the Guinness Village, this facility provides a cost effective way to enjoy excellent food with a base for the day. Please note that this facility is not course facing.
DON COSSACK RESTAURANT
Offering fantastic value for money, Denman Drive is situated next to the vibrant Guinness Village, a must do for many of those attending The Festival
PADDOCK VIEW RESTAURANT
Located next to the Pre Parade Ring and overlooking the Paddock, this elegant marquee provides a great and accessible base from which to enjoy the day.
CHALETS AND PRIVATE BOXES
Be at the heart of the action, adjacent to the parade ring in a chalet, or take in the breaktaking panorama of the course from a box. Located in the Long Run boxes and overlooking the final two fences of the course, the Cleeve Suite serves a delicious four course lunch to enjoy whilst taking in the breath-taking views of Cleeve Hill.
CLEEVE SUITE RESTAURANT
Located in the Long Run boxes and overlooking the final two fences of the course, the Cleeve Suite serves a delicious four course lunch to enjoy whilst taking in the breath-taking views of Cleeve Hill.
CHEZ ROUX RESTAURANT
Chez Roux at Cheltenham can be found on the third floor of the Long Run boxes, with a balcony from which guests can enjoy the view of the horses thundering up the hill on their way to victory. The stunning backdrop of Cleeve Hill tops off what has to be one of the best views in British sport.
Cheltenham Racecourse - Old and New Racetracks
Cheltenham is considered a stiff, tricky racecourse due to its undulations and big fences, providing an extreme physical challenge for competitors. Both Old &New courses feature well-built fences that demand jumping ability. The courses are hilly with a steep uphill run in to the finishing line of around 240 metres, that can often result in a leading runner being caught by a fast finisher.
The Old Course is 1m 4f long and is used for the Showcase meeting in October, the Open meeting in November (including the Paddy Power Gold Cup) and the first two days of March Cheltenham Festival for the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Arkle Chase, Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and RSA Chase.
The course runs left-handed and is undulating, testing and stamina sapping, with an uphill climb as the course turns away from the stands, then a downhill section along the back straight before a stiff climb up to the highest part of the track at the furthest point from the stands. The Old Course runs around the outside of the New Course down the back and undulations require a horse to be balanced, as it needs to jump uphill and downhill, plus whilst on the turn.
The main difference is that the Old Course swings away from the New Course earlier along the back straight, meaning that it is far tighter and quite a bit sharper. The Old Course swings into the finish straight and has around 2f to the winning post up the ‘Cheltenham Hill’.
Racing is staged on the New Course for the December International Gold Cup meeting, the New Year’s Day meeting, end January Festival Trials Day and the last two days of the March Cheltenham Festival, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup run over 3 miles 2½ furlongs with 22 fences, plus the World Hurdle, Triumph Hurdle and Ryanair Chase. The New Course is also used for the April Meeting and the final meeting of the year at the end of April or start of May.
The New Course is slightly longer at 1m 5f and was introduced at the 1967 Festival. The new course has has a tricky downhill fence and a longer steeplechase run-in than the Old Course.
The New Course tends to be more galloping and stamina sapping, with a longer climb up the back straight to the highest point and also a longer climb up the “Cheltenham Hill” on the finish straight.
The galloping nature of the hurdles course on the New Course plus the distance between each hurdle does tend to suit ex-flat horses. The New Course has nearly 3f to the finish line once the horses swing into the straight. You will often see horses held up and coming from off the pace up the hill, as those in front tire and fall back.
CROSS COUNTRY COURSE
The unique Cross Country Steeplechase course runs for 3m 7f in the centre of both ovals of the Cheltenham old and new tracks, twisting and turning over banks, ditches and rails. The Cross Country was introduced in 1985 as part of the Glenfarclas Series of races and there are three races held at Cheltenham at the November Open, the December International and March Festival.