As most people know Cheltenham Racecourse plays host to the world famous “Cheltenham Festival” every March and as an outsider you’d be forgiven for thinking that no other horse racing betting events takes place there.

However, the Gloucestershire venue also opens its gates on several other occasions with top class meetings taking place throughout the National Hunt season.

Cheltenham Racecourse History

The first organised race meeting in Cheltenham was a Flat one and it took place in 1815 on Nottingham Hill. The first races on Cleeve Hill came about in August 1818.

The racing at the venue became that popular with locals that around 30,000 spectators would regularly attend its annual two day July meeting featuring the Gold Cup - then a 3m flat race!

In 1829, Cheltenham’s Parish Priest, the Reverend Francis Close incited that much hatred towards the ills of horse racing amongst his congregation that they disrupted the 1830 meeting.

The following year they took the drastic measure of burning the grandstand to the ground.

To temper the mood the racecourse was moved to Prestbury Park, its current location, in 1831. Steeplechases were taking place in nearby Andoversford in 1834 and it was decided they would relocate to the present course in 1898.

In 1964, Racecourse Holdings Trust (now the Jockey Club) was formed to secure the future survival of Cheltenham.

The stands changed very little at Cheltenham between the 1930s and 1950s when the National Hunt course ran behind the back of the stands.

In 2015, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal opened Cheltenham Racecourse’s new grandstand. The stand was the final part of a £45million redevelopment of the course.

It comprises of five and a half stories of bars, restaurants, private boxes and viewing facilities for racegoers.

Cheltenham Racecourse Configuration

Cheltenham has not one, but two courses (three, if you include the temporary Cross-Country one) which are maintained to a very high standard.

Both are configured in a slightly different way, so here is a brief overview of each:

Old Course Cheltenham

The Old Course is used for The Showcase Meeting, The November Meeting and the first couple of days of the Cheltenham Festival - with the Supreme Novices Hurdle taking centre stage on the opening day of the meeting.

The Old Course is a slightly sharper configuration than the New Course. Prominent racers do well, especially on the chase course. Front-runners in the Arkle Chase and Queen Mother Champion Chase often do well.

New Course Cheltenham

The New Course is used for the International Meeting, New Year’s Day, Festival Trials Day, the last two days of the Cheltenham Festival, and the April and May meetings.

The New Course provides more emphasis on a horse’s stamina with hold-up horses doing particularly well in races such as the Stayers’ Hurdle, the County Hurdle and the Pertemps Final.

Cheltenham’s biggest race of all, the Gold Cup, is also run on the New Course. Run over an extended three-mile two-furlong trip, stamina is absolutely essential if the final stiff uphill finish is to be overcome and glory achieved.

Cheltenham Overview

Cheltenham is left handed undulating track with stiff fences. The fourth last comes up right after a turn at the top of the hill and has changed the complex of many a race down the years.

The last half mile is uphill and makes for fascinating climaxes to races. Horses that race prominently often fare well on the chase course, especially in races up to two and half miles.

The hurdles course has just two flights in the last six furlongs, placing an emphasis on stamina. Large-field races over two miles tend to go to hold-up horses, as they pick off those who have tried to go for home too early in the piece.

Cheltenham Biggest Meetings

Cheltenham Racecourse holds eight meetings per season which amounts to sixteen days of racing at Prestbury Park per season.

The meetings as they arrive in the calendar in 2021 are as follows: Jan 1st New Year’s Day Meeting, Jan 30th Festival Trials Day, Mar 16th-19th The Cheltenham Festival, Apr 14th-15th The April Meeting, Apr 30th Hunter Chase Evening, Oct 20-23rd The Showcase Meeting, Nov 12th-14th The November Meeting, Dec 10th-11th The International Meeting.

Here is what you can expect at each meeting:

  • New Year’s Day Meeting – Featuring the Dipper Novices’ Chase and the Relkeel Hurdle. It’s the perfect way to usher in the New Year.

  • Festival Trails Day – Exactly what it says on the tin. It’s the last chance for prospective Festival candidates to strut their stuff. The Cleeve Hurdle takes centre stage.

  • The Cheltenham Festival – 28 top races spread across four days with the daily showpiece races being the Champion Hurdle (Tues), the Queen Mother Champion Chase (Weds), the Ryanair Chase (Thurs) and the Gold Cup (Fri).

  • The April Meeting - The last chance for the professionals and the spring horses to race on the track before the summer break.

  • Hunter Chase Evening – Cheltenham’s only evening fixture and a chance for the Amateur ranks to compete in the greatest amphitheatre of them all.

  • The Showcase Meeting – This is quite often an exploratory fixture for trainers to work out whether or not they have a Festival prospect on their hands.

  • The November Meeting – Another unmissable three-day fixture which includes the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the Greatwood Hurdle.

  • The International Meeting – The Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and the International Hurdle, are just three of the events that make this weekend one of the most informative pointers to The Festival itself.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

One of the biggest National Hunt meetings, the Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of jumps racing. We've got you covered with horse racing tips here at 888sport - check out our best bets for each day of March's meeting:

Cheltenham Races Tips

You can find Cheltenham tips here at 888sport, as well as via one of the following: Jockey Club App, Racing Post, Gloucestershire Live, Mull It Over Blog.

Cheltenham Results Today

Check the latest Cheltenham results via one of the following: Jockey Club App, Racing Post. Sportinglife, Racing TV, Attheraces.

Cheltenham Dress Code

Many ladies wear hats, but the track recommends you have the weather as well as fashion in mind. Gentlemen usually wears suits or similar.

Cheltenham Tickets

Official tickets will go on sale in due course, register your interest here.

*Credit for the main photo belongs to Alamy*

Steven is a sports and horse racing enthusiast and is a member of the Horseracing Writers and Photographers Association (HWPA) in the United Kingdom.

He is a regular visitor to Paris Longchamp for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a lifelong fan of the Aintree Grand National, a subject he writes about 52 weeks of the year. Last year he reached the impressive milestone of attending the last 30 renewals of the Grand National.