Known as ‘The Home Of Jump Racing’, Cheltenham is the headquarters of National Hunt racing and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
This stunning racecourse is nestled in a stunning valley of the Cotswold Hills and you’ll struggle to find a more picturesque racecourse in the world.
Owned and run by The Jockey Club, which boasts fourteen brilliant British racecourses in their portfolio, Cheltenham racecourse 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 a capacity for 67,500 spectators. The superb Festival held in March every year over 4 days sees this capacity sold out, with the stands and surrounding countryside, packed full of spectators from across the country all eager to see the top-class action unfold.
Cheltenham has a rich heritage of horse racing 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 onwards. However, racing was not the favoured sport for all in the area.
In 1829, local Parish Priest Reverend Francis Close preached to his congregation that he believed racing 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 where it has flourished.
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, the racecourse is considered a major venue within the South West of England, it is not just used for racing but it also hosts a wide range of other events throughout the year.
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.
The Old Course is the racecourse used for The Showcase, The November Meeting and the first two days of The 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 is used for The International, New Year’s Day, Festival Trials Day, the final two days of The Festival, and the April and May meetings.
It is a stiffer track than the Old Course, with a greater emphasis on stamina, for this reason, hold-up horses tend to perform better over the New Course.
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 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.