The Ultimate Guide to: The Cheltenham Festival
Everything you need to know and more about the Cheltenham Festival with our Ultimate Guide to one of the most prestigious fixtures in the National Hunt racing calendar.
December 7, 2023
The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most celebrated horse racing events in the world and has a rich and storied history that dates back to its inception in 1860.
The festival’s enduring popularity is a testament to its ability to blend sporting excellence with a unique and festive atmosphere, drawing fans from around the world to the charming town of Cheltenham each March. Today, the Cheltenham Festival stands as a symbol of the rich history and enduring passion for National Hunt racing and boasts race prize money second only to the Grand National.
A Look Back on How it all Began
The Cheltenham Festival was initially held at Market Harborough before finding its permanent home in Cheltenham. Originating with the National Hunt Chase, over the years the festival has grown in both scale and prestige, now showcasing the best of jump racing and has become a prominent fixture in the British racing calendar.
The festival faced interruptions during both World Wars, but it resumed its annual status and grew in stature post-war. In 1924, the Cheltenham Gold Cup was introduced and quickly became the centerpiece of the event, attracting elite horses, jockeys, and trainers. The Queen Mother Champion Chase, inaugurated in the 1960s, further solidified the festival’s status as a premier racing spectacle.
Throughout its history, the Cheltenham Festival has been witness to iconic moments and legendary performances. Horses like Arkle, Golden Miller, and Best Mate have left an indelible mark, achieving multiple victories in the prestigious races. The festival’s enduring popularity can be attributed not only to the excellence of the racing but also to the unique ambiance it offers, blending sporting tradition with a lively and convivial atmosphere.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup
The Cheltenham Gold Cup stands as the pinnacle of the Cheltenham Festival, renowned as one of the most prestigious steeplechase races in the world.
This Grade 1 race unfolds over a challenging distance of approximately three miles and two and a half furlongs, demanding both stamina and jumping prowess from competing horses. Established in 1924, the Gold Cup has seen legendary champions etch their names into racing history, including the incomparable Arkle and the three-time winner Best Mate.
The race captivates audiences with its thrilling spectacle, as jockeys navigate a challenging course that includes demanding fences and a testing uphill finish. The Cheltenham Gold Cup not only crowns the festival’s champion but also serves as a defining moment in the careers of both horses and jockeys, creating enduring memories in the annals of National Hunt racing.
Interested in attending the Cheltenham Festival for Gold Cup day? Find out more about our hospitality packages!
Top 5 Cheltenham Festival Moments
Throughout its existence, the Cheltenham Festival has borne witness to legendary performances and iconic rivalries. Horses like Arkle, Golden Miller, and Best Mate have etched their names into racing lore with multiple victories.
Here’s our pick of the top 5 moments from the Festival:
- Arkle’s Dominance (1964-1966): Arkle, often regarded as one of the greatest steeplechasers of all time, achieved an unprecedented three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup victories from 1964 to 1966. Trained by Tom Dreaper and ridden by jockey Pat Taaffe, Arkle’s dominance at Cheltenham is etched in racing history, solidifying his legendary status.
- Dawn Run’s Triumph (1986): Dawn Run made history in 1986 by becoming the first and only horse to win both the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Trained by Paddy Mullins and ridden by Jonjo O’Neill, her remarkable dual success in two of the festival’s premier races is a feat that has yet to be replicated.
- Istabraq’s Hat-Trick (1998-2000): Trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Charlie Swan, Istabraq achieved a rare and impressive hat-trick in the Champion Hurdle from 1998 to 2000. The Irish hurdler’s dominance during this period remains a standout moment in Cheltenham Festival history.
- Kauto Star vs. Denman Rivalry (2007-2009): The fierce rivalry between Kauto Star and Denman, both trained by Paul Nicholls, captivated racing fans. The two horses contested the Cheltenham Gold Cup in three consecutive years from 2007 to 2009, with Kauto Star winning in 2007 and 2009, and Denman triumphing in 2008. Their epic battles added drama and excitement to the festival.
- Sprinter Sacre’s Comeback (2016): Sprinter Sacre’s comeback in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2016 is a heartwarming and memorable moment. After overcoming health issues that had threatened his career, Sprinter Sacre, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville, produced a stunning performance to reclaim the Champion Chase title, marking one of the most emotional victories in recent Cheltenham history.
The Cheltenham Festival in Popular Culture
In recent years, the Cheltenham Festival has continued to attract a global audience, with participants and spectators converging on the picturesque Cotswold town. The festival’s enduring success is a testament to its ability to seamlessly blend tradition with innovation, ensuring that it remains a highlight of the horse racing calendar, capturing the hearts of racing enthusiasts worldwide.
The festival has become a focal point for fashion, with attendees showcasing their sartorial flair in a colorful display of tweed, hats, and elegant attire. The Cheltenham Festival is not merely a sporting event; it’s a social and cultural affair that resonates far beyond the racecourse, weaving itself into the fabric of British culture and captivating audiences around the world.
Widely covered in the media, the festival is a topic of intense discussion and anticipation among racing enthusiasts and casual sports fans alike. The ‘Cheltenham Roar’, the thunderous cheer that greets the start of the first race each day, has become synonymous with the festival and embodies the collective excitement that permeates the event.
Beyond the racecourse, references to the Cheltenham Festival can be found in literature, music, and film, reflecting its influence on various forms of artistic expression.
Best Places to Watch the Action From
- The Pegasus Lounge: Corinthian Sports are proud to offer our brand new Pegasus Lounge at the Cheltenham Festival. View all the racing from the comfort of our balcony box, overlooking the final two fences and down towards the finishing straight.
- Grandstand: The Grandstand provides a classic and elevated view of the racecourse, allowing spectators to witness the start and finish of races. It offers a comprehensive perspective of the entire track and is a popular choice for avid racing fans.
- Paddock Area: The Paddock area is ideal for those who enjoy observing the horses up close. You can see the horses being saddled before races and catch a glimpse of the jockeys and trainers preparing for the action. It provides a more intimate connection with the competitors.
- The Best Mate Enclosure: This enclosure is located opposite the main grandstand and offers an excellent view of the final fences and the finishing straight. It provides a vibrant and social atmosphere, making it a popular choice for those who want to enjoy the races in a lively setting.
- The Guinness Grandstand: Situated at the heart of the course, the Guinness Grandstand provides panoramic views of the racecourse. It’s an excellent choice for those who want a central location with easy access to facilities and amenities.
- The Club Enclosure: The Club Enclosure is an exclusive area offering premium facilities, including access to private bars and restaurants. It provides an elevated view of the racecourse and is an excellent choice for those looking for a more luxurious experience.
- Final Fence Stands: Positioned near the final fence, these stands provide an exciting vantage point to witness the horses making their crucial jumps before the final sprint to the finish line. It’s a thrilling location for experiencing the intensity of the races.
Getting to the Festival
Across the course of the festival, around 250,000 fans will watch the racing live so remember to plan your journey in advance! Additionally, check for any special transportation arrangements or restrictions that may be in place during the festival.
Here’s the best ways to make your way to the Festival:
- By Car: Cheltenham Racecourse is easily accessible by car, and there are ample parking facilities available. The racecourse is located off the A435 (Evesham Road). Follow the signs for parking when you arrive.
- By Train: Cheltenham Spa railway station is the primary train station in Cheltenham. From the station, you can take a taxi or use public transportation to reach the racecourse. The racecourse is about 3 miles from the train station.
- By Bus: Various bus services operate in Cheltenham, providing transportation to different parts of the town. Buses can be a convenient option for reaching the racecourse from the town center.
- By Taxi: Taxis are readily available in Cheltenham, and you can easily catch one from the train station or various points in the town to reach the racecourse.
- Shuttle Services: During major events like the Cheltenham Festival, special shuttle services may be organized to transport attendees to and from the racecourse. Check with event organizers or local transportation authorities for details.
- Walking: If you are staying in the town center or nearby areas, and the weather is favorable, you might consider walking to the racecourse. It’s about a 30-40 minute walk from the town center to the racecourse.
Betting at the Cheltenham Festival
Betting on the Cheltenham Festival, or any horse racing event, requires a combination of knowledge, strategy, and a bit of luck. Here are some tips to help you make more informed decisions:
- Understand the Basics: Familiarize yourself with the different types of bets, such as win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, and so on. Learn how odds work and how they represent the potential payout.
- Research the Horses: Study the form of each horse, including recent performances, the jockey’s record, and the trainer’s history. Look at factors such as distance preferences, ground conditions, and previous performances at Cheltenham.
- Set a Budget and Diversify: Decide how much money you’re willing to spend on betting, and stick to your budget. Gambling responsibly is crucial. Instead of putting all your money on one horse or one type of bet, consider spreading your bets across different races and bet types.
- Follow Expert Tips: Pay attention to tips from experienced horse racing analysts and experts. However, always do your research and don’t blindly follow tips.
- Trust Your Instincts: While data and analysis are essential, sometimes intuition plays a role in betting. Trust your instincts but always balance it with informed decision-making.
Remember, horse racing is unpredictable, and there are no guaranteed outcomes. It’s crucial to gamble responsibly and view betting as a form of entertainment rather than a guaranteed way to make money.
Attending the Cheltenham Festival in The Pegasus Lounge
The Pegasus Lounge is Corinthian Sports’ premier VIP experience at the best sporting events in the UK and overseas and is exclusively for guests who want a unique, high quality and memorable day packed with guest speakers, exclusive merchandise, interactive entertainment and more!
Corinthian Sports are proud to offer our brand new Pegasus Lounge at the Cheltenham Festival. View all the racing from the comfort of our balcony box, overlooking the final two fences and down towards the finishing straight.
The Pegasus Lounge packages includes:
- Club Enclosure admission badge
- Champagne Reception & VIP hostess service
- Amazing guest speakers from the world of horse racing
- Morning coffee and biscuits
- Complimentary bar
- Four course luncheon
- Full afternoon tea
- Car park labels (1 per 2 guests)
- Souvenir race card and Racing newspapers
- Live coverage on Flat screen TV’s
- Tote betting facilities & Racing tipsters
- Individual guest documentation