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Cheltenham Festival: All You Need to Know About the Famous Racecourse

Date: 03/17/2023

Horse racing sees an endless list of races annually, but some are much bigger than others. Cheltenham falls under the mammoth category. The four-day festival in March is a test for the top runners, jockeys, and trainers, culminating the multi-day bonanza with the Gold Cup on Friday.

It's a time to enjoy for spectators and bettors as well. The latter can scratch their betting itch at the races or place a bet online. Bookies have odds way before the event starts, and special promotions as it grows near. If you've never been to Cheltenham before and this is your first time watching the event, we'll cover everything you need to know in the article below.

When and Where?

The British horse racing event is one of the premier festivals on the National Hunt racing calendar. Its prize purse is second only to the Grand National that should give you a scope of how important it is. It takes place annually in March at the famous Cheltenham racecourse, coinciding with St. Patrick's Day, which is why it's popular with Irish racegoers. Every year, the festival brings in around 260,000 spectators.

It spreads over four days, usually from Tuesday to Friday. Apart from the strict race code and all kinds of entertainment activities, betting is a large part of the Cheltenham Festival. Racegoers can put money on horses and jockeys on the tracks, but the wider variety of markets is available online. Online sportsbooks have Cheltenham Gold Cup odds months prior to the event, and on the other races too. Betting on the horses you think can win the race or placing exotic bets can bring huge profits if you know what you're doing and you get a bit lucky.

Let's check out how the festival goes from day one to day four.

Day One

The festival begins with the famous Cheltenham roar and the pounding of the runner's hooves. All the runners are introduced for the first Grade 1 Championship races. The feature race on the card is the Champion Hurdle over 2 miles, but the Arkle Novices Chase also takes place on Day One. If you're into betting, you should also take a look at the Mares' Hurdle which offers exciting action.

Day Two

On Wednesday, the world of jump racing is in for a treat. The second day of the Cheltenham Festival is jam-packed with action as the worlds of horse racing and fashion collide. The main attraction is the Queen Mother Champion Chase where runners are tested in speed and jumping ability. It's a challenging course that only the best horses and jockeys can run. It's a great day at the festival that you don't want to miss, and the one with the highest fashion trends if you're into that kind of thing.

Day Three

With half the festival already gone, things are heating up. Thursday is St. Patrick's Day, so expect plenty of Irish racegoers and bettors in the crowd. A day filled with a lot of beer and betting, Thursday at Cheltenham is reserved for the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers' Hurdle. There's an imaginary trophy to be won on this day as well the Prestbury Cup. It's a friendly competition between British- and Irish-trained runners that concludes when either country has 14 or more winners.

The challenge starts on day one and it's often won by the third Cheltenham day. Once the winning country is confirmed, jockeys and trainers from England or Ireland are presented with the trophy. It's for being a good sport, although some take it more seriously than others.

Day Four

Everything culminates on Friday, the last day of the Cheltenham Festival. It's when the Gold Cup takes place. For those unaware, this is one of the biggest events on UK's sporting calendar every year. Millions are placed in bets and the race also draws the biggest crowd at the racecourse.

Many Gold Cup winners have gone down in history as iconic runners. Among them are Kauto Star and Best Mate. Every winner is held in the highest possible regard, and with its prize purse second only to the Grand National, it's no wonder why the Gold Cup is such a bit hit with bettors and spectators alike.

The Cheltenham Racecourse

The first two days of the Cheltenham Festival are run on the Old Course, while the last two are run at the New Course. Both are left-handed with subtle differences that prove crucial in the long run. The Old Course has a shorter run-in and is built for speed. As for the New Course, it's a bit more focused on stamina, mainly because of the Cheltenham Hill climb.

Cheltenham Festival Tickets

If you want to buy tickets for the Cheltenham Festival, don't wait for long. It's usually days before most of the events are sold, especially the Gold Cup. Over the years, tickets tend to be available for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But, Friday is sold out fast, so booking in advance might be your best shot. The good news is that it the online website of the festival makes bookings as easy as it gets.

Cheltenham Festival Dress Code

Many of the UK's biggest horse races have a strict dress code. For example, at Royal Ascot, you must wear tails and fascinators that truth be told aren't very comfortable. Cheltenham has a different background. The agricultural landscape allows for more flexibility, including flat caps and coats. That means it's open to a lot more viewers. There's no royal enclosure too, so it's much freer in terms of dressing.

To make things better, the atmosphere is more relaxed than at, say, the Grand National. Every year, thousands of Irish horse racing fans come to the festival to have a friendly bark with their English counterparts. You'll find the Irish confined mostly to Guinness Village that's adjacent to the main grandstand. It's a relaxed horse racing meeting when you can breathe free which still offers top racing action.

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