Cheltenham Festival Essential Guide

The Essential Guide to the Cheltenham Festival

An Introduction to the Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival has become arguably the most important date in the National Hunt racing calendar. While prize money remains second to the Grand National, and the National may still be considered the most famous race on the planet, the reputation of the festival has grown to such a degree in recent years that it now possibly usurps the great Aintree race in reputation. Certainly, the festival has become an absolutely critical date for bookmakers, with Cheltenham responsible for 10% of the Tote’s total annual on-course takings.

Particularly associated with the Irish in both participating and spectating capacity, Cheltenham plays host to four days of some of the greatest racing on the planet. The highlight of the festival is unquestionably the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the fabled double of Gold Cup and Grand National is still the preserve of a few truly legendary horses, with the last winner being the iconic Golden Miller in 1934.

The festival has a huge reputation for being the epitome of social racing, and gallons of beer and champagne are sunk by the tens of thousands of racegoers who flock to Cheltenham every year for this veritable feast of National Hunt racing.


It can be historically asserted that the Cheltenham Festival in 2016 will mark 201 years of racing in this attractive spa town. Racing in Cheltenham dates back to 1815, when the first recorded meeting was held on Nottingham Hill. However, it was three further years before the second meeting was staged, and some 46 years until the first event which resembled the modern Cheltenham Festival was held in 1861.

Over the next 60 years, the prestige and reputation of the event slowly grew, as racing became increasingly established as a populist sport. But it was when the jewel in the crown of the Cheltenham Festival, the Gold Cup, was established in 1924 that the festival begun to take on its present reputation. The Gold Cup was followed by the establishment of the Champion Hurdle in 1927, the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1959, and finally the Stayers Hurdle, which was first run in 1972. Each of these races now forms a critical part of the Cheltenham programme.

Growing Reputation

It is hard to believe in the present context, but the Cheltenham Festival has not always enjoyed the exulted reputation it embodies today. The event has steadily gained prominence within the racing calendar, and today is considered one of the blue riband sporting events in Great Britain, the equal of other such iconic occasions as Wimbledon, the British Open, the British Grand Prix and the FA Cup Final.

One event which particularly raised the profile of Cheltenham was the so-called Dickinson Famous Five in 1983, when Michael Dickinson trained the first five finishers in National Hunt’s premier steeplechase. Later that decade, probably the most popular grey in racing history, Desert Orchid, triumphed in inhospitable conditions to really cement the affection of the event in the British racing public’s heart.

Dickinson Famous Five

Michael Dickinson proudly parading his Famous Five

Since then most of the most famous horses in the British scene have been associated with Cheltenham. The achievement of Kauto Star to become the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2009 helped further promote what had already become a massive racing occasion. Other recent winners of the now iconic Gold Cup which belong in the National Hunt Hall of Fame include Best Mate, Dawn Run and Denman.

The first four day festival took place in 2005, and it is now unthinkable that Cheltenham would occupy any less of a significant place in the UK racing calendar. Attendances have grown year on year, with Cheltenham now attracting over 200,000 racegoers to every festival.

The unique social atmosphere of Cheltenham has further enhanced its reputation and aura, and the festival has today acquired a legendary reputation which will surely never be relinquished.

Recent Anomalies

In 2001, the Cheltenham Festival was cancelled owing to a deadly outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain. Initially the event was simply postponed for a month, but when foot-and-mouth turned into a national epidemic, the festival was ultimately cancelled completely.

The first decade of the 21st century was not a particularly fortunate one for the Cheltenham Festival, considering that further racing was cancelled in 2008. On that occasion, the second day of the festival was ruled out due to heavy storms. This led to an exceptionally cramped third and fourth day schedule for the event, as all races intended to run on day two were ultimately held over the final two days of the festival.

Wet Day at Cheltenham

Don’t forget your umbrella if attending the Festival

2016 Cheltenham Festival Race Schedule

The 2016 Cheltenham Festival will take place between the 15th and 18th March. In total, 27 races will be held over the four day festival, and many huge fans of National Hunt racing attend all four days and witness every single event. This year’s program for the festival is as follows:

Tuesday 15th March – Champions Day

13:30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
14.05 Arkle Challenge Trophy
14.40 The Festival Handicap Chase
15.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle
16.00 Dave Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle
16.40 National Hunt Chase
17.15 Novices’ Handicap Chase

Wednesday 16th March – Ladies Day

13.30 Neptune Novices Hurdle
14.05 RSA Chase
14.40 Coral Cup
15.20 Queen Mother Champion Chase
16.00 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
16.40 Fred Winter Hurdle
17.15 Champion Bumper

Thursday 17th March – St Patrick’s Thursday

13.30 JLT Novices Chase
14.05 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle
14.40 Ryanair Chase
15.20 Ladbrokes World Hurdle
16.00 Byrne Plate Handicap Chase
16.40 Kim Muir Challenge Cup

Friday 18th March – Gold Cup Day

13:30 Triumph Hurdle
14.05 County Hurdle
14.40 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
15.20 Cheltenham Gold Cup
16.00 Foxhunter Challenge Cup
16.40 Conditional Jockey’s Hurdle
17.15 Grand Annual Chase

Nicky Henderson and Bobs Worth

The World’s greatest horses and trainers converge at Cheltenham

Let us now take a look at each of the four Cheltenham race days in greater detail, beginning with none other than the most spectacular opening race day to any global racing event, Champions Day.

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Cheltenham Champions Day

Cheltenham Champions Day is a spectacular opening to the Festival, which features the most important and prestigious race of the British racing season. The Stan James Champion Hurdle was won by a neck by Hurricane Fly last year, and there is no doubt that the 2016 running of the Champion Hurdle will be another highlight of this years Cheltenham.

With racegoers expected to pack the venue to the rafters, gates open for the day’s racing at 10.30am, with the first race at 1.30pm and the last being run at 5.15pm. Over the roughly eight hours that the course is open, there is plenty of opportunity for socialising, eating and imbibing.

Champions Day Events

Whilst the Gold Cup is the blue riband event of the Cheltenham Festival, it is arguable that the opening day, dubbed Champions Day, is in fact the highlight of the overall event. Certainly, the atmosphere of anticipation which builds during this opening day of one of the world’s most premier horse racing events provides a spectacular backdrop for some truly world-class racing.

Seven important races are run during the day, but the undoubted highlight is the number one hurdle race of the National Hunt season, which is currently named the Stan James Champion Hurdle due to an agreement with the well-known bookmaker.

The infamous Cheltenham Roar will first act knowledge the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, which is aimed at horses four years and older. The race is run over a challenging 3,319 metre distance, but the reward is quite a sizeable one; the winner scoops a £120,000 first prize. This can be an extremely testing event for horses that have never won such a race, but the rewards can be quite significant in terms of experience. Champagne Fever won in 2013, and has since put together a very impressive record.

Another novice race follows this, the Arkle Challenge Trophy, named after the legendary Irish Thoroughbred. This is a slightly shorter race than the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and is notable for being run over a left-handed course. This is an even richer race than the Novice Hurdle, with the winner netting £150,000. Tidal Bay won this race in 2008, a confidence booster which has led to a stellar career.

Davy Russell Cheltenham

Champion Jockey Davy Russell claiming the 2014 Champion Hurdle with Tiger Roll

The highlight of the day, though, is undoubtedly the fourth race of the day, the Champion Hurdle. Stan James remains the sponsor of this red letter event for racing for the fourth consecutive season. The £400,000 first prize attracts some of the very top hurdlers in racing, and there is simply no better grade 1 hurdle race anywhere in the UK, and arguably the world. The New One and Faugheen are currently joint favourites in the betting for this year’s edition, and it is sure to be a fantastic occasion once more.

Another special event which takes place on Champions Day is the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. This is not as lucrative as some of the big names, but it is notable for being limited to female horses aged four years and older. As soon as this is run, then spectators will be able to enjoy the National Hunt Chase, which will start at 4:40.

A spectacular day of racing ends with the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase, which has currently been renamed as the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap due to sponsorship. By the time this event finishes, the sun will be setting on an exciting day’s racing, as Champions Day draws to a conclusion.

Champions Day Schedule

In total, the opening day of Cheltenham comprises seven races. The 2016 schedule is as follows:

13:30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
14.05 Arkle Challenge Trophy
14.40 The Festival Handicap Chase
15.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle
16.00 Dave Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle
16.40 National Hunt Chase
17.15 Novices’ Handicap Chase

Champions Day History

The Champions Hurdle is one of the most historic races in Britain, first run in 1927, and the race has historically been run over two miles and ½ furlong. The horse most associated with this race is the prolific Hurricane Fly, which nabbed its second victory in 2013, ridden by the inordinately successful Ruby Walsh. This meant that the Irish horse became the first in 38 years to win the Champions Hurdle on two occasions, having previously triumphed in 2011 under Walsh’s tutelage.

Particularly associated with strong sprinters, there have been five horses who have won the race three times in a row over its 87 year history, although this feat has been extremely difficult to replicate in recent years. Hatton’s Grace was the first to do so and Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq have also pulled off this notable travel. Other famous winners of this iconic race include Bula, Night Nurse and Sea Pigeon.

Legendary trainer Peter Easterby has netted five Champion Hurdle wins. Tim Molony is the most successful jockey in Champion Hurdle history, having won on four occasions, whilst Tony McCoy is the most successful jockey in the race in recent times, winning three times on Make A Stand (1997), Brave Inca (2006), Binocular (2010).

AP McCoy Cheltenham

Tony McCoy cuts a familiar figure on the Cheltenham circuit

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Cheltenham Festival Ladies Day

The second day of the Cheltenham Festival is perhaps the most distinctive in any racing calendar anywhere in the world. Ladies Day is as associated with fashion as it is with racing, and is considered by many racegoers to be the highlight of the festival.

The top race of the day is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which was won stylishly by Sire De Grugy last year. This dramatic race between some of the best chasers in the business is a particular highlight of the festival for many aficionados. However, there is an extremely competitive seven race card overall, which attracts tens of thousands of people each year to the Cheltenham racecourse.

The gates open for Ladies Day at 10.30am, with the first race at 1.30pm and the last race last being run at 5.15pm.

Ladies Day Events

For many people, Ladies Day is as associated with what goes on off-course as the racing itself, and the event has come to be inherently associated with fashion. Attendees to the day’s racing at Cheltenham tend to wear some spectacular, high-fashion, and sometimes somewhat gaudy, outfits to the event. And in a festival which is very much associated with its social aspect, Ladies Day is certainly no exception to this rule.

Traditionally, the day has also attracted royal attendees, particularly given the fact that the highlight of the day is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Prior to her passing, the patron of the race would often be in attendance.

The second day at Cheltenham picks up the baton from day one with some outstanding racing. Aside from the Queen Mother’s event, a highlight of the Wednesday of Cheltenham is the National Hunt Steeple Chase. This race has particularly grown in stature and importance over recent years, and many eyes will be keenly trained on its 2 mile, 5 furlong course.

The RSA Chase is a race that particularly attracts hurdlers with stamina. Last year’s running of the Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle was notable for the dominant performance of Peddlers Cross for Donald McCain Jnr. This chase has grown into one of the highlights of Ladies Day in its own right over the past couple of years, considered by many to be almost an equal of the Queen Mother Chase. It can often be an indicator of Gold Cup pedigree, with Denman romping home in 2007, before upsetting Kauto Star in the 2008 Gold Cup.

Royaly at Cheltenham Ladies Day

The long-standing tradition of Royal attendees on Ladies Day lives on

Opening up the Ladies Day card is the Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle. This can be an unpredictable affair given that the horses are piloted by amateur jockeys. This is an extremely challenging race for novice chasers, and staying the trip in the Novices Hurdle has proved beyond many entrants over the years.

However, as much as there are some other excellent races in the Ladies Day portfolio, the undoubted highlight of Wednesday’s racing at Cheltenham is the Queen Mother Champion Chase. An outstanding event for two mile chasers, the event tends to offer excitement on the track and value in the betting ring. This is a meeting of the very best in the class, and some recent winners over the years have had outstanding careers in the sports. Big Zeb won in style in 2010, while Sizing Europe was notably triumphant just one year later. Former champion Sprinter Sacre was bitterly disappointing for backers in 2015, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll run in the 2016 renewal of the Cheltenham Festival.

Once the big race of the day has been completed, there is still plenty for festival goers to enjoy. The Coral Cup may be something of a lottery, given its huge field, but it is also without doubt one of the most spectacular events during the four day festival. Punting on an outsider in this dramatic race can often reap reward.

The Fred Winter Handicap for juvenile horses follows this, which usually features a decent crop of improving horses. And the final race of the day is the Champion Bumper, an intriguing event as it is a flat race run under National Hunt Rules. We often see superstar horses of the future running in this event, and previous winners include such notable names as Dunguib and Cue Card.

Ladies Day Schedule

In total, Ladies Day at Cheltenham comprises seven races. The 2016 schedule is as follows:

13.30 Neptune Novices Hurdle
14.05 RSA Chase
14.40 Coral Cup
15.20 Queen Mother Champion Chase
16.00 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
16.40 Fred Winter Hurdle
17.15 Champion Bumper

Ladies Day History

Over the years, Ladies Day at Cheltenham has become one of the most notable social occasions anywhere in Britain, rather than a mere day’s racing. It is particularly associated with women dressing up, and over the years this aspect of the day has become increasingly prominent, particularly as the media has picked up on it.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase was established in 1959, and it was originally titled the National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase. It was named after its Royal patron in 1980, when the Queen Mother celebrated her 80th birthday. This was to acknowledge her support for the sport of jump racing. It has since become one of the most prominent hurdle races anywhere in the UK calendar.

Acknowledging its increasing importance, the Queen Mother Champion Chase has attracted a sponsor each year since 2007.

Ladies day hats

Ladies Day would simply be incomplete without the spectacular array of hats on display

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Cheltenham Festival – St Patrick’s Thursday

Although Cheltenham is an event which is already considered as much social as sporting, there is, nevertheless, no doubt that the third day of the Cheltenham Festival particularly stands out in this regard. The third day of Cheltenham is always associated with St Patrick’s Day festivities, and it is this coincidence of the calendar which has led to the events being so associated with the Irish as they descend upon the hallowed turf in their droves.

Attendees of the Thursday at the Cheltenham Festival can be ensured a celebration of everything that is good about horse racing, with a tremendous atmosphere, live music, world-class racing and a huge variety of social opportunities.

The Guinness Village which is open during the festival is particularly popular, and the bookmakers always report a particularly roaring trade on this very special occasion.

Gates open for St Patrick’s Day Thursday at 10.30am, with the first race at 1.30pm and the last race at 5.15pm.

St Patrick’s Day Thursday Events

Aside from the festivities off the track, the top-class racing continues on it during day three of the festival, with a magnificent card that will be attractive to all racing fans.

The first race of St Patrick’s Day Thursday is the JLT Novices Chase, which is run over a 2 mile 4 furlongs course. This is not a top class field in terms of quality, but can often be one of the most exciting races during the entire four day festival. Punters in particular can get good value from this novice chase, as was proven in recent years by such victors as Copper Bleu.

Next up is the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle, a particularly high-quality event given that all runners must qualify for the hurdle, which is based on their performances during the season. This is an extremely competitive race which has not been won by a favourite since 2003, so it often provides some extremely competitive, exciting and unpredictable action.

The first of the two main races on the day three card is the Ryanair Chase, witch is run over 2 mile 5 furlongs. This can be a critical stepping stone for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as proven by Imperial Commander, who won the race in back to back seasons in 2009 and 2010.

Cheltenham Guinness

The Guinness Village always proves a hit with the St. Patricks Day patrons

The second highlight of this outstanding day’s racing is the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, a race that particularly suits staying hurdlers, which has particularly grown in prominence over the last decade. Many iconic mounts have made their name in this race, with recent multiple winners including Baracouda, Inglis Drever and Big Buck’s.

The Byrne Plate Handicap Chase is another exciting and unpredictable affair that tends to win a lot of favour from on-course punters in particular. This is another race that tends to attract long odds winners, and many keen race fans believe they can make a killing on the outcome of this event.

Finally, the Kim Muir Challenge Cup is an intriguing way to finish the St Patrick’s Day festivities, as a raft of amateur jockeys are given the opportunity to participate in this lengthy race. This often particularly provides a good opportunity for young riders to get a taste of the Cheltenham Festival, and often brings the curtain down on an entertaining St Patrick’s Thursday racing with a very open and interesting romp.

St Patrick’s Day Thursday Schedule

In total, the St Patrick’s Day Thursday at Cheltenham comprises six races. The 2016 schedule is as follows:

13.30 JLT Novices Chase
14.05 Pertemps Handicap Hurdle
14.40 Ryanair Chase
15.20 Ladbrokes World Hurdle
16.00 Byrne Plate Handicap Chase
16.40 Kim Muir Challenge Cup

St Patrick’s Day Thursday History

It need hardly be said that the St Patrick’s Day Thursday racing at the Cheltenham Festival is intrinsically associated with the Irish. Race goers from the Emerald Isle will attend in their droves, and the Gloucester town almost becomes an Irish enclave for the day. The atmosphere at the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday is probably unequalled in any day of British racing, and experiencing it first hand is a must for any passionate racing fan.

But of all the races which are run on the third day of competition, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle is the most historic, although ironically it’s run on the New Course at Cheltenham over a distance of about 3 miles (4,828 metres). It is a race that requires a significant amount of stamina, but also some jumping skills, with 12 hurdles to be negotiated. This is considered very much the leading long-distance hurdle event in the National Hunt calendar.

The event was first introduced in 1972, replacing the Spa Hurdle. Initially, it was referred to as the Stayers’ Hurdle, and was originally sponsored by Lloyds Bank for many years. Another notable sponsor of the race was Waterford Crystal, and it was around this time that the event began to gain prominence in the British racing calendar.

The event really came into its own when it was moved to the Thursday of the festival in 1993. It also took on a certain unique characteristic when it was moved from Cheltenham’s Old Course, and the reputation of the event was cemented permanently when Ladbrokes began to sponsor the event in 2005, and changed its name to the World Hurdle to reflect the gravitas that it has acquired in British racing.

One horse that is particularly associated with St Patrick’s Day Thursday at Cheltenham is Big Buck’s who won the World Hurdle for four consecutive years between the 2009 and 2012. The Paul Nicholls-trained champion saw his last piece of St. Patricks Thursday action at the 2014 Festival.

Big Bucks St Patricks Thursday

Big Buck’s getting his last ever runout in the 2014 World Hurdle

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Cheltenham Gold Cup Day

While the entire Cheltenham Festival is a magnificent spectacle in every respect, the event really builds toward its fourth day climax, when one of the highlights of the British racing calendar takes place in the shape of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. This race is probably now the second most revered event in UK racing, possibly still ranking slightly behind the iconic occasion that is the Grand National.

Everyone associated with racing, whether jockey, trainer, owner, bookmaker or punter will be glued to the Gold Cup, and the event organisers will be hoping for another classic race to help enhance the already significant Gold Cup folklore.

The 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup Day will take place on Friday 18th March.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Day Events

While every day at Cheltenham features at least one particularly esteemed event, one race in particular dominates the Friday of the festival. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the blue riband event of the entire festival, and winners of the events are pretty much guaranteed a place in the British racing Hall of Fame.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 National Hunt horse race run on the New Course at Cheltenham, over a distance of 3 miles 2½ furlongs (5,331 m). The Gold Cup requires entrants to hurdle 22 fences during this demanding and tremendously high quality race.

The roll of honour that the Cheltenham Gold Cup has accrued over the years features the names of such legendary chasers as Arkle, Best Mate, Golden Miller, Kauto Star and Mill House, and the prize fund was £550,000 in 2014; the second biggest payday in UK racing. Since 2014, the event has been sponsored by Betfred, succeeding the Tote, which it purchased from the UK government in 2011.

Cheltenham Gold Cup trophy

The coveted prize which every jockey, trainer and owner dreams of lifting

However, although the Gold Cup naturally dominates the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, there are plenty of other interesting races that also take place. The day opens up with the Triumph Hurdle, another grade one event for horses aged four years exactly. This is also run over the New Course, but over a shorter 2 mile and a furlong distance, and is generally considered to be the supreme National Hunt event for juveniles in the UK calendar.

Later in the day is another grade one event. The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is open to 4 year olds and older, and can be considered an event for stayers given its course distance of 3 miles. This race was first introduced into the Cheltenham Festival in 2005, when the current Cheltenham portfolio was established by the addition of a fourth day. Always a tightly contested affair, this is an excellent appetiser for the Gold Cup itself.

The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle is also run on the final day of the festival. This is another relatively new event that named after the hugely successful trainer Martin Pipe, who retired in 2006. Pipe’s record at Cheltenham was simply outstanding, with the 15-time Champion Trainer picking up 34 Cheltenham Festival victories.

Finally, the last event in the Cheltenham Festival is fittingly the oldest in the entire event. The Grand Annual has been running since 1834, and although it was discontinued during the 1860s, it was to be revived at the turn of the century and has been run annually ever since, with its permanent base at Cheltenham since 1913. Punters typically stake of fortune on this event given that it is the curtain drawer on four days of exceptional racing and excitement.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Day Schedule

13.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle
14.05 County Handicap Hurdle
14.40 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
15.20 Cheltenham Gold Cup
16.00 Foxhunter Chase
16.40 Conditional Jockeys Hurdle
17.15 Grand Annual

Cheltenham Gold Cup Day History

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a historic race, having taken place since 1819. However, originally the event was contested over 3 miles on Cleeve Hill, before later switching to its present venue.

The Gold Cup was first run over the jumps in March, 1924, with a price of £685 awarded to be winning owner. At this time, the race took place on what is now considered to be the Old Course at Cheltenham, and the race did not have the prestige it enjoys today; the National Hunt Chase was in fact the biggest race at the Cheltenham Festival at that time.

The Gold Cup switched to the New Course in 1959, and was to become almost intrinsically associated with the name of Arkle, who won three consecutive runnings from 1964 to 1966. In the latter of these years, Arkle was such a resounding favourite that he was given a starting price of 10/1 on; still the lowest priced winner in the race’s entire history.

However, the leading horse in the history of the Gold Cup is the iconic Golden Miller, who won five times consecutively between 1932 and 1936. In recent years, the likes of Kauto Star and Denman have become synonymous with the race, as trainer Paul Nichols has enjoyed a huge amount of success at Cheltenham.

The race has become a jewel in the crown of the National Hunt season, and plays a huge role in the reputation and prominence of the Cheltenham Festival.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Infographic

(Click to Enlarge our Cheltenham Gold Cup Infographic)

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Booking Tickets for the Cheltenham Festival

Booking tickets direct from the Cheltenham Festival is quite straightforward, and there are also a wide variety of tickets agents offering Cheltenham passes. It is worth bearing in mind that shopping around is likely to produce the best deal, and also that there are several different ticket types for each day of the festival. Additionally, it is possible to purchase tickets for all enclosures on the actual day of the event, although given the demand this is obviously not the most reliable way to attend, nor the cheapest.

Numerous booking opportunities are available via the Internet, or tickets can be purchased on the course on the day. Entry to the esteemed Club Enclosure costs £65 per person, or £80 on the day, a Tattersalls Enclosure ticket will set you back £35 or £49 on the day, and the Best Mate Enclosure is available for £22, or £35 on the day.

A Royale Package, offering food, betting vouchers and Best Mate Enclosure entry, is also available for £25.

Given its high profile in the racing calendar, Gold Cup Day tickets are highly sought after, and more expensive than any other day of the festival. Group discounts are available direct from the Racecourse on Tattersalls and Best Mate tickets when fifteen or more tickets are purchased in advance in one transaction.

How to Bet at The Cheltenham Festival

If there is one activity that is most associated with Cheltenham other than racing, it is of course betting. There are many different ways to lay your bets in the modern era, so here is a guide to the best ways to stake your money on the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival.

Different Types of Bets

The first category of bets that can be placed on the Cheltenham Festival relates to a single result, achieved by a single horse, in a single race. Bookmakers offer three different types of bet of this nature, which are as follows.

Win – this quite simply involves a single stake, and backing a horse to win. Punters receive their stake back, and their stake multiplied by the odds, should their horse come in first. Any other result is worthless to the punter.

Place – a place bet can see a return for a punter if their selection finishes first or within a certain number of places within the field. This latter number usually varies depending on the size of the field.

Each-way – this works very similarly to a place bet, except that it requires a combination of win and place bets of equal size. Bookmakers will pay a proportion of a horse’s starting price for a place, which is usually set by bookmakers at around 1/4.

The next category of bets are slightly more complicated, and considerably less likely to come off. Professional punters tend to veer away from these particular bets, as they do not offer much hope of victory. Conversely, it is possible to win a lot of money via some of these with a small stake; hence the fact that newspaper headlines often focus on punters who have won astronomical amounts of money with an accumulator.

Double – a double involves betting on the outcome of two races. The punter only receives a return from the bet if both results are predicted correctly. What types of bet are allowed in this double can vary greatly from bookmaker to bookmaker, but one can be certain that the bookies monitor this extremely carefully.

Treble – is extremely similar to a double, except that it involves three races.

Accumulator – this is another type of bet in which all selections must win in order for the punter to receive a return. Unlike doubles and trebles, there is no theoretical limit on the number of events that this can be spread over. Thus, punters will often take 10 or 12 football results in an accumulator as an example of low odd selections. Realistically, bookmakers are likely to place some limits on this as they could conceivably leave themselves open to a monstrous payout. Of course, the chances of pulling off a major accumulator are relatively slim.

Cheltenham betting ring

The betting ring at Cheltenham proves an exhilarating experience for all in attendance

Another major category of betting are the so-called ‘full cover bets’. These consist of all possible doubles, trebles and accumulators across a given number of selections. These can be quite complex, or sound quite complex in theory, but are a little more forgiving than accumulators. This category of bets comes in many shapes and sizes, so here are a few common examples.

Trixie – this is wager on three selections which consist of four separate bets: 3 doubles and a treble.

Yankee – this is a wager on four selections and consists of 11 separate bets: 6 doubles, 4 trebles and a fourfold accumulator.

Super Yankee – this is a wager on five selections and consists of 26 separate bets: 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 fourfolds and a fivefold accumulator.

Finally, it is also possible to make forecast or exacta bets, which involve forecasting the order of finishers within a particular race. There are many options available for this type of bet, so it is advisable to check with a bookmaker before placing such a stake.

How You Can Bet on the Cheltenham Festival

If you are attending the festival itself, there are a huge number of bookmakers based on course. These are based trackside, and also many of the major high street bookmakers have outlets at the festival.

It is also worth bearing in mind that high street and online bookmakers often offer better odds than on-course bookies.

When You Can Bet

There are no particular hourly restrictions on betting in the United Kingdom, so bets can be placed online at one’s leisure. Obviously on-course bookmakers will only be available from the time that the gates open until closing time, which is roughly speaking around 9am to 5:15pm. There are, of course, restrictions on age, with no-one aged under 18 legally allowed to place a bet.

How to Collect Your Winnings

Collecting winnings on course is extremely easy; simply retain your ticket and progress to the bookmaker in question at some point during the festival. If you haven’t used an on-course bookmaker and have instead utilised a high street vendor then it is always possible to simply go into your local bookmaker at any time and claim your winnings.

Online Betting Options

Online betting on the Cheltenham Festival will undoubtedly be very popular, as the number of bookmakers on the Internet has grown exponentially in recent years. Online gambling has become massive, and it is probably the best way to gamble in the modern era, even if it doesn’t perhaps share the romanticism of placing your stake at the course.

There are numerous bookmakers online offering horse racing odds across both desktop and mobile devices. Always look for a Best Odds Guaranteed price promise in order to ensure you get the best value for your bets and it is also worthwhile to check out betting exchanges to determine the market value on the horses you wish to back. Additionally, price comparison sites such as Oddschecker are a very useful resource which enable you to identify the best price available for your particular bet.

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Hospitality Options

The Cheltenham Festival is a magnificent sporting occasion, but it also offers fantastic socialising opportunities. In many ways, the event is the ideal corporate occasion for entertaining special guests, very much in-line with the likes of Last Night of the Proms and Wimbledon. Enjoying hospitality at the festival need not be prohibitively expensive if you take all of the options into consideration. There are in fact a large amount of on-course options whether you’re looking for a private box, or simply want to dine at one of the Cheltenham racecourse restaurants.

Private Box Packages

The Cheltenham Festival has built up a reputation as being absolutely the home of National Hunt racing, and in accordance with this the course does everything possible to attract corporate clients as well as everyday punters. With this in mind, there are a variety of options available for people looking for a more private way to enjoy the festival with clients or possibly just friends and acquaintances.

Platinum Suite

This officially appointed location is planted right in the heart of the hospitality village of the Cheltenham racecourse, meaning that it is located directly adjacent to the Guinness Village and Parade Ring on Champions Drive. This is the ideal place to toast your winners, or alternatively have a vantage point over the action. Once you are seated within the Platinum Suite, both you and your guests will have the perfect view to see the trackside rails of the final furlong of each and every Cheltenham Festival race.

Private tables are available within this location for around a dozen guests, and smaller groups can be booked on a shared basis. There are also large private suite available which can accommodate up to 50 people.

Glass Fronted Boxes

Aside from the platinum suites, Cheltenham also has a wide variety of glass fronted boxes available at the racecourse, which can accommodate larger parties than their suites. These provide panoramic views from private balconies which overlook the final furlong of the race, providing you with simply the best view in the house for the world-class National Hunt racing that the Cheltenham Festival provides.

Bookings of these boxes can be made for groups of people on a shared basis, but in order to have a private box one requires a party of at least 40 people. Glass fronted boxes at the Cheltenham Festival are able to accommodate parties of up to 120 guests.

Cheltenham festival punters

There are many different ways to enjoy the Cheltenham Festival

Food and Drink Establishments at Cheltenham Racecourse

Aside from the corporate packages available at the festival, there are also a wide variety of eateries to suit every taste. The restaurants contained on-course are as follows.

Moscow Flyer Restaurant

This is very much a traditional style restaurant, which is located next to the Hall of Fame, always an interesting point of historical reference for racegoers.

The Festival Restaurant

This particular establishment has the feel of upmarket bistro, and is very popular throughout the duration of the festival.

Horseshoe Pavilion Restaurant

This is very much regarded as the premier restaurant within Cheltenham’s Tented Village, and offers outstanding hospitality and food. Eating at the Horsehoe Pavillions is a one-off opportunity, as it is only available during the Cheltenham Festival season.

Champions Walk Restaurant

This is a particularly unique establishment, as it offers punters and diners the opportunity to watch horses take to the stage as they approach the Cheltenham course. Combines outstanding food with having the racing within touching distance.

Final Fence Restaurant

This establishment provides a viewing balcony at the very heart of the Cheltenham action, along with convenient access to a viewing area for the course. It is also located within easy reach of both the Tented Village and Parade Ring. You can enjoy plenty of action when dining at the Final Fence Restaurant.

Chez Roux at Cheltenham

The esteemed chef Albert Roux offers diners the opportunity to taste some of the most exquisite cuisine in the country at the Chez Roux at Cheltenham establishment. A variety of stunning dishes to savour make this an unmissable experience for Cheltenham pointers who have a taste for the high life.

Panoramic Restaurant

This spectacular establishment overlooks the winning post within the fifth level of the grandstand. Simply an outstanding experience, and one for those who don’t want to miss any of the racing at Cheltenham while also enjoying outstanding table service and food.

Restaurant Packages

Virtually all restaurants located at Cheltenham will offer special packages to diners during the festival. However, it must be stated that the availability of these can vary, as they sell out very quickly indeed. If you are serious about dining at Cheltenham, your best bet is to contact the festival as quickly as possible in order to book your table.

Examples of possible packages available at Cheltenaham are as follows:

• The Panoramic Restaurant Package, which seats twelve people for £615.
• The Moscow Flyer Package, which is £165 per person.
• The Festival Package, which is £290 per person.
• The Horseshoe Pavilion Package, which is £325 per person.
• The Gold Cup Package, which is £355 per person.
• The Final Fence Package, which is £395 per person.

All packages at the festival vary significantly, and thus you should contact the festival organisers to establish precisely what is offered for your money. It is also possible to book through third-parties, and shopping around should be your bywords with regard to any element of the Cheltenham Festival.

Cheltenham food option

There’s a menu to suit all tastes at the Cheltenham Festival

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Cheltenham Festival – Racecourse Rules, Regulations and Facilities

Here is a rundown on all the rules, regulations and facilities related to the Cheltenham Festival.

Dress Code

There is no official dress code for the Cheltenham Festival. However, entry to certain parts of the grounds such as the Club Enclosure may be refused if someone is deemed to be dressed inappropriately. Fancy dress is permitted at the Cheltenham Festival, as long as the outfit is not deemed offensive. The organisers of the festival naturally retain the right to decline entry into Cheltenham at their discretion.


There is a certain amount of parking available at the Cheltenham Festival, although it is highly debatable as to whether it is advisable to drive there. One can expect a quite considerable wait when leaving the festival should one park the car in the main car parks. Nonetheless, parking can be purchased in advance via the Cheltenham Festival call centre at the price of £8 per day. Car parking on the day costs £10. Although media related to the festival states that there is plenty of parking space, it is by no means inconceivable that all car parks could fill up completely.

Minibuses are charged at the same rate as cars, and there are special arrangements put in place to deal with disabled parking.

Disabled Facilities

The Cheltenham Festival is intended to be accessible for racegoers of all levels of physical ability, including the elderly, those with young children or people with disabilities. It is also possible to make special arrangements for particular circumstances with the festival in advance. E-mails should be sent to There is a map with locations of all disabled facilities contain within the links section on this website for the Cheltenham Festival.


Due to the vast crowds which congregate during the Cheltenham Festival, carer tickets are not available.

New Grandstand

The Cheltenham racecourse is currently in the process of carrying out a £45 million grandstand development. This is due to be completed in time for the Cheltenham Festival in 2016. Of course, this means that there will be a significant impact on the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, as there will be a whole host of new features for punters and patrons alike to enjoy!

Packed Grandstand at Cheltenham

The existing Grandstand has been packed to the rafters in recent years

This means that there will be additional facilities available from 2016, which are primarily focused around increasing services for disabled and less able-bodied attendees of the racecourse, as well as constructing superior viewing platforms to enhance the experience of attending Cheltenham.

Hearing Loop

Hearing loops are available on the viewing steps of the Tattersalls grandstand in order to enhance the commentary experience for those individuals who utilise hearing aids.


Access to all five levels of the grandstand at the Cheltenham Festival can be acquired via the lifts which are located in the Mandarin Foyer. Additionally, there are glass lifts available at the end of the Hall of Fame. There is also a lift located in the Entrance Foyer of the Centaur, which will take you into the Istrabraq bar with access to the balcony and the Hall of Fame.

Guide Dogs

Cheltenham operates a pro-guide dogs policy, merely stipulating that all such animals must be kept on a lead at all times while visiting the racecourse.

First Aid Points

The Cheltenham racecourse has recently opened a new First Aid Centre, which only became active very recently. This is situated above the Pre Parade Ring behind the Paddock Bar & Terrace, but members of staff are all briefed in health and safety issues, and will be able to clearly direct you to this area upon request.

Cheltenham Mobility

The Cheltenham Mobility is intended to assist those people who would otherwise struggle to travel from the car parks and public transport drop-off points unaided. The Cheltenham Mobility service offers mobility scooters, wheelchairs and perch stools for hire on racedays. Additionally, the racecourse also offers a golf buggy service. Each of these services can be booked beforehand, and there are further links related to this in the links section of this website.


Cheltenham is a fantastic place to stay, not merely because of the Cheltenham Festival, but also because the Cotswolds are on your doorstep. There is a wide variety of both traditional and modern accommodation available, and attending the Cheltenham Festival can become very much a memorable cultural experience.

Many hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfast establishments offer race day packages throughout the Cheltenham Festival, which can often include tickets to the racing itself. It is therefore well worth shopping around when booking accommodation, as there are some excellent deals to be found for the thrifty among us.

Five star accommodation is available at No. 131, Cheltenham Spa, No. 38 The Park, Cheltenham Spa and The Howard Arms, Ilmington. There is also a raft of three and four star accommodation to suit every conceivable budget and taste, so finding something that is particularly correlated with your personal circumstances should not be difficult.

Cheltenham Spa accomodation

No. 131 is one of the more opulent accommodation options in Cheltenham Spa

Useful Links

Cheltenham Festival Home Page:

Cheltenham Festival Ticket Search:

Dining and Hospitality Packages at Cheltenham:

Cheltenham Festival History:

Cheltenham Festival Reviews:

Cheltenham Racecourse Map:




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Written by BetBright

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