Cheltenham Racecourse Guide

Welcome to our official guide to Cheltenham Racecourse. In this section we explore this great jump racing racecourse in detail, looking at its history, the Cheltenham Festival, a guide to the three race tracks, hotel picks, fixtures, travel information, betting guides and even the weather!

The Ultimate Guide to Cheltenham Racetrack

Overview

Known as ‘The Home Of Jump Racing’, Cheltenham is the headquarters of National Hunt racing and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Nestled in a valley of the Cotswold Hills, you’ll struggle to find a more picturesque racecourse in the world.

Owned and run by The Jockey Club, who boast fourteen British racecourses in their portfolio, and sits in Prestbury Park, not far from the beautiful town of Cheltenham. Surrounded by rolling hills, the racecourse is situated in a natural amphitheatre for the sport and has the capacity for 67,500 spectators.

A stunning natural location, informed crowds and the best racehorses competing at every meeting, makes Cheltenham the ultimate jumps racing venue for any racing fan.

Racecourse History

Cheltenham has a rich heritage and hosted its first flat race meet in 1815 on Nottingham Hill. Over the next decade, racing soared in popularity and the racecourse boasted over 3,000 attendees for its traditional 2-day July meet from 1818 onward. However, racing was not the favoured sport for all.

In 1829, local Parish Priest Reverend Francis Close preached to his congregation that he believed it to be evil. The following year members of his congregation disrupted the race meets and mysteriously, the grandstand was burnt to the ground in a major fire. To overcome this negative attention, the course was moved to Prestbury Park (where it still sits today) in 1831.

In 1961, The Jockey Club was launched and took over the management of the racecourse. A heavy round of investment was raised and saw the regeneration of the course, improving and expanding its capacity and facilities. Now, it’s considered a major venue within the South West and is used for a wide range of events.

Check out our guide video here to the home of the Gold Cup, Cheltenham:

Cheltenham Races and The Cheltenham Festival

Whilst the racecourse hosts a number of meetings throughout the year (explored further on), the biggest and most famous is undoubtedly The Cheltenham Festival. Held over four days in March annually, hosting 28 races, the prize fund exceeds £4.5m and over 265,000 racegoers attend to watch the spectacle every year. Currently sponsored by cider brand Magners, people travel from all over the world; it is the jewel in the crown of jumps racing and where champions are crowded. The feature races include:

  • The Gold Cup – a Grade 1 National Hunt race, a steeplechase of just over 3 mile with 22 jumps. The winner of The Cheltenham Gold Cup is normally considered to be the best chaser of the year. Previous star winners have included Kauto Star, Denman, Best Mate and looking further back, the supreme Arkle.
  • The Champion Hurdle – another Grade 1 race, this is the most prestigious hurdle race in the calendar, open to horses aged 4+. The winner of the Champion Hurdle is considered to be the best hurdler of the year. Previous greats have included Isabraq, Hurricane Fly and Faugheen.
  • The Queen Mother Champion Chase – the leading minimum distance chase in the racing calendar and another Grade 1, the Queen Mother Champion Chase is run over 2 miles with 13 jumps. A true test of speed and jumping. Previous great winners have included Viking Flagship, Moscow Flyer and the brilliant Alitor.
  • The Stayer’s ‘World’ Hurdle – the leading long-distance hurdle event in the calendar, with just under 3 miles to be covered and with 12 hurdles to be jumped it’s another superb Grade 1. The winner of the Stayers Hurdle is considered the best long distanced hurdler, previous notable winners have included Baracouda, Inglis Drever and the legend Big Bucks.

Other notable races the Cheltenham Festival include The Ryanair Chase, The Triumph Hurdle, The Racing Post Arkle, The Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle, The Grand Annual, The Cross-Country Race and The Supreme Novices Hurdle.

Cheltenham Racecourse Map

The racecourse boasts two main, separate courses which sit alongside each other: named The Old Course and The New Course, as well as a Cross Country track. Both courses are left-handed and undulating. Cheltenham is famed for its final uphill finish in front of the grandstand. The fences are known to be stiff and take some jumping, particularly the big ditch at the top of the hill and the tricky downhill third last.

Cheltenham course map
Map Courtesy of Racing Post

The Old Course

The Old Course is the racecourse used for The Showcase, The November Meeting and the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival. It is sharper than the New Course and front runners and horses who race prominently tend to fare well, even though the final half-mile is a stiff uphill finish mentioned above.

The New Course

The New Course is used for The International, New Year’s Day, Festival Trials Day, the final two days of the Cheltenham Festival, and the April and May meetings. It is stiffer track than the Old Course, with a greater emphasis on stamina, for this reason, hold-up horses tend to performer better over the New Course.

The Cross Country Course

The cross country track is a relatively new addition to the course and is a track in the centre of the racecourse, it is used for one race each at The November Meeting, The International and the Cheltenham Festival each. The cross country course sees the horses jump a variety of obstacles fences, hurdles, banks and even a “canal turn” in honour of the famous jump at Aintree.

Cheltenham Racecourse Address

Cheltenham Racecourse
Evesham Rd
Cheltenham
Gloucestershire
GL50 4SH
Phone: 01242 513014

How To Get To Cheltenham

Cheltenham (Prestbury Park) is easily accessible from the spa town of Cheltenham. The most popular modes of transport to reach the course are:

  • By Car – just a 5-minute drive from the town centre, you can park either at the course or in the town and get a local bus out – it runs every 15-minutes on race days. If using your sat nav the Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham Gloucestershire and the postcode is GL50 4SH
  • Train & Park and Ride – Cheltenham Spa rail station the nearest station (there isn’t a racecourse station). It is also a 40-minute ride from Birmingham and Bristol and dedicated shuttle buses run directly from the station on race days – this is known as the Cheltenham Racecourse Park and ride.
  • Air – Surprisingly a good few race attendees choose to travel to the course by air – it’s the busiest temporary airfield in the UK! Helicopter arrivals are welcome on race days and over 400 arrivals are to be expected over The Festival alone.

Cheltenham Races

Hotels Near Cheltenham

Cheltenham isn’t a large town, but there are good hotel and hospitality options, and enough to suit most budgets. Our recommendations of the best hotels in Cheltenham Gloucestershire include:

  • The Holiday Inn Express – which sits in the centre of Cheltenham and has various room-and-breakfast packages which can be booked from £30+ (if done well in advance).
  • For a more upmarket option or to make an occasion of your visit, consider Ellenborough Park (a luxury manor hotel with all possible amenities).
  • Or The Hotel Du Vin – a cosmopolitan hotel set in the Montpellier district with a popular champagne bar and a beautiful bistro restaurant.

Also, check out the fantastic range of brilliant hotels available via Booking.com below but book early if you are planning on coming when the 5 day festival is on:
Booking.com

Best Cheltenham Races Betting Sites

At British Racecourses we often recommend betting online and via apps. This is because you can often get the best odds, great offers when signing up and you can place bets quickly and safely without having to queue.

If you are looking to bet online we recommend the following great deals with some amazing offers for new customers:

  • bet365 Horse Racing
    Bet365 Horse Racing
    GET UP TO £100 IN BET CREDITS

    New Customers Only. Min deposit £5. Bet Credits available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply. Full T&C's Apply

  • Betfred Horse Racing
    Betfred Horse Racing
    BET £10 GET £30 IN BETS

    New UK & NI customers only. 18+. Sign up using promo code ‘SPORTS60’. Deposit & place first sports bet at a minimum of £10 in one bet transaction at evens (2.0) +. £30 paid in free bets within 48 hours of bet settlement, expires 7-days after issue. Doesn’t apply to customers who place their first bet on the Virtual Grand National. E-Wallet & Prepaid Card restrictions apply. Your first bet must be settled within 60 days of bet placement. SMS validation may be required. Game restrictions apply. Maximum 30 Free Spins on selected games. Free Spins expire after 7 days. Full T&Cs apply. Full T&C's Apply

  • Coral Horse Racing
    Coral Horse Racing
    GET £20 IN FREE BETS

    18+ New UK+IRE customers. PayPal and certain deposit and bet types excluded. Min first £5 bet within 14 days of account reg at min odds 1/2 = 4 x £5 free bets valid for 7 days on sports, stake not returned, restrictions apply. T&Cs apply. Full T&C's Apply

  • Ladbrokes Horse Racing
    Ladbrokes Horse Racing
    BET £5 GET £20 IN FREE BETS

    18+ New UK+IRE customers. Paypal and certain deposit types and bet types excluded. Min £5 bet within 14 days of account reg at min odds 1/2 = 4 x £5 free bets. Free bets valid for 4 days on sports, stake not returned, restrictions apply. T&Cs apply. Full T&C's Apply

  • William Hill Horse Racing
    William Hill Horse Racing Logo
    BET £10 GET £30 IN FREE BETS

    New William Hill online customers only. Min. unit stake of £10/€10 at odds of 1/2 or greater. Only the “win” part from EW bets will count. Free bet terms, payment method & country restrictions apply. Free bets credited as 3 x £10/€10. Free bet stakes are not returned as part of the settlement of successful free bets. All Free Bets must be wagered within 30 days. Full T&C's Apply

  • Unibet Horse Racing
    Unibet Horse Racing Logo
    MONEY BACK AS A BONUS UP TO £40

    New customers only. 18+, BeGambleAware.org. Min deposit £10. Money back as bonus. Wagering requirements: Sportsbook 3x at min. odds of 1.40 (2/5), Casino 25x. Only one bonus can be used at a time, Sportsbook bonus must be wagered before using the Casino, unless the bonus has been forfeited. Bonus will expire after 7 days of opt-in. Full T&C's Apply

Cheltenham Races Fixtures

  • October – The Showcase Meeting – the main races include The Randox Health Handicap Chase and the Randox Health novices hurdle. The Old Course is used for this meeting.
  • November – The November Meeting – the main races are the Bet Victor Gold Cup, The Glenfarclas Cross-Country and the Unibet Greatwood Hurdle (which is a great trail for the main Unibet Champion Hurdle). The Old Course is used for this meeting.
  • December – The International Meeting – The Betvictor Handicap Chase, The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and The International Hurdle. The New Course is used for this meeting.
  • January – New Years Day Meeting – the main race is the Dippers Novices Chase. The New Course is used for this meeting.
  • January – Festival Trials Day – the main races on the big trials day includes The Paddy Power Chase and The Cleeve Hurdle. The New Course is used for this meeting.
  • March – The Festival over four days in March is the main event – stand-out races include the Grade 1 trio of The Gold Cup, The Champion and The Champion Chase, as well as a host of top novices hurdle races.
  • April – The April Meeting.
  • May – Hunter Chase Meeting.

Cheltenham Weather

Punters and race-goers love to keep up with the weather to predict going conditions, as well as making sure what they wear is suitable. Here’s the current weather forecast for Prestbury Park:

CHELTENHAM WEATHER

Fun Facts

  • It is home to The Centaur, one of the largest auditoria found in the South West of England. It can hold 4,000 people standing or 2,000 seated, it is used for events and conferencing when not in use for races.
  • The Jockey Club have previously engaged in talks with Cheltenham Town FC about a possible venue move there, and there are often rumours swirling in the local area in regards to a partnership, but this is no longer considered viable for either party, so is unlikely to now happen.
  • The course and stadium has seen extensive redevelopment over the last 20 years, which was completed with the £45m Princess Royal Stand opening in 2015.

Cheltenham Festival Runners

Events at Cheltenham Racecourse

As well as the racing and the famous Cheltenham Festival, the Gloucestershire course hosts a whole variety of events, these include “The Greatest Show Christmas Party” which is a festive celebration like no other and is open to all. It’s a brilliant themed seasonal night out for ‘works dos’ and friendship groups alike – but there won’t be any horses in sight! Previous events have included:

  • PSDA PetLife which included performances from the Kaiser Chiefs and Jessie J.
  • The British Heart Foundation’s Cotswold Bike Challenge
  • Cheltenham Race For Life

Frequently Asked Questions about Cheltenham

  1. “We are coming to the Cheltenham Festival on the opening day, what are the main races on this first Tuesday?” Lucky you, you are in for a treat and will hear the ‘Cheltenham Roar’ typically going up after the start of the first race and a host of Grade 1 races. The main race on the first day is The Unibet Champion Hurdle but the other main races include the Supreme Novices Hurdle and the Racing Post Arkle. All the races are ran over the Old Course for the first two days before going on the New Course over the last two days.
  2. “Who are your favourite Cheltenham Gold Cup winners and general Festival winners?” Hard question, some of our favourite Cheltenham Gold Cup winners include Kauto Star, Native River and looking back Master Oats. A personal favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase was Viking Flagship and a favourite hurdler was a brilliant little mare called Mysilv who won the Triumph Hurdle (one of the main novices hurdles) before running in both the Champion Hurdle and Stayers Hurdle on the same week the following year – where she finished second! Tiger Roll is an obvious favourite winner of the Country Handicap Chase, Sprinter Sacre winning the Arkle novices chase and the tough Un De Sceaux winning The Ryanair chase. Too many to choose from!
  3. Are there any lucky jockeys or trainers that we should follow at Cheltenham?” In our opinion probably the best jockey at Cheltenham was Ruby Walsh, maybe people may deem him an unlucky jockey after a few falls (namely Annie Power in the Mares Hurdle) but we believe that his outstanding record of 11 times top jockey at The Festival shows – we would say he was the greatest. Other great Cheltenham jockeys include Tony McCoy, Mick Fitzgerald and Charlie Swan. In terms of trainers, Willie Mullins is hard to get past and dominate in recent years, whilst Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliott are always feared.
  4. Many people say that Cheltenham is the ultimate test for horses and jockeys, do you agree?” Yes we do, it’s a tough track. Galloping, big fences and then a stiff uphill finish – no race is easy to win there and competition is always tough. There are also three courses – The New course, the Cross country and the Old Course. Season after season, from the October meeting through to the Hunter meetings in May we think every race is joy and normally behind every winner there is a story, which is what the sport is all about.

Summary

Cheltenham is the racing mecca for any National Hunt enthusiast. A natural stunning location, superb jump racing including the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup and in set a beautiful part of England, it’s a place where dreams come true and champions are made. It is a racecourse enjoyed by people from all walks of life and all ages, whatever the weather and whatever the meeting. We couldn’t recommend it more highly. A British Racecourse Guide top pick.

Other Racecourses

Our team as of August 2020 have reviewed the other following racecourses, all of them definitely worth a visit:

Question and Answers

🏇What TV channel is Cheltenham on?

Cheltenham racing is normally covered by ITV Racing and their expert jump racing team which includes AP McCoy, Alice Plunkett and Mick Fitzgerald. It is covered by the main ITV channel as well as the dedicated Racing TV channel on Sky 426.

🏇What is the dress code for Cheltenham races?

Officially there is no dress code for Cheltenham races so people are asked to dress for the weather. If possible, however, men are advised to wear suits and ladies cocktail dresses. Hats are not required. Jeans are advised against.

🏇How far is Cheltenham Racecourse from Cheltenham Train Station?

2 miles. So you can travel there by foot, taxi or Park and Ride.

🏇What are the main races at Cheltenham?

The main races as part of the Cheltenham Festival include The Champion Hurdle, The Champion Chase, The World Hurdle and The Gold Cup.

🏇What dates are Cheltenham 2021?

The confirmed dates for the Cheltenham Festival 2021 are Tue 16 March – Friday 19 March. Early booking is highly recommended.

🏇What is the capacity of Cheltenham Racecourse?

The capacity is 67,500 people, thanks to new and improved facilities. All of which are sold out during the annual Cheltenham Festival.