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In this Ultimate Guide, we’ve included everything you need to know about the Cheltenham Festival, from enclosure information to where to place your bets. Weve also included ideas on where to stay and how to make the most of your time in Cheltenham and its stunning surrounding area.
The Cheltenham Festival is a true highlight in the Jump Horse Racing Calendar, which spans over four days and includes 28 races. British and Irish trained horses and jockeys battle it out to achieve a winning title on the outskirts of this beautiful regency spa town. The festival attracts over 260,000 people annually, who come to soak up the atmosphere that this riveting spectacle has to offer. 2019 was a record-breaking year for visitor numbers, with 266,779 visitors enjoying the event. In 2020 the Cheltenham races are scheduled to take place between Tuesday 10th March to Friday 13th March 2020.
Champion Hurdle by Kate – https://flic.kr/p/m5AxHa
The Cheltenham Festival dates back to 1860, originally called the Grand National Hunt Meeting which took place across different locations. Cheltenhams extended paddock and new stand made it a permanent venue to host the meeting from 1911 onwards. The Festival includes a championship race on each of the four days it runs. These races date back to the 20th Century, including The World Hurdle (est.1912) The Gold Cup (est.1924) The Champion Hurdle (est.1927) and the Queen Mother Champion Chase (est.1959).
In recent years, the most prolific jump riders have included Tony McCoy, now retired and knighted and more recently, his fellow Irishman and racing TV ambassador Ruby Walsh. Partnering with trainers Paul Nicholls and more recently Willie Mulling, Walsh has been crowned top jockey eleven times since 2004 and has celebrated a record seven wins in 2016, more than any other jockey to ride before him.
The Cheltenham Festival 2011 by Chris Guy – https://flic.kr/p/9rtYqa
Soak up the superb atmosphere of the Festival on one of its four race days:
There are three main enclosures where you can spectate from over the course of the Festival:
Tickets can be purchased by following the link: https://cheltenhamtickets.thejockeyclub.co.uk/Online/
Food and Drink Options
The Festival boasts several restaurants and food and drink outlets, catering towards many different tastes and requirements. From the discerning Chez Roux Restaurant serving high-end cuisine with champagne and canapes on arrival, to the Moscow Flyer Restaurant for those who want to enjoy a more basic lunch, buffet style, before heading out to enjoy the races. Many restaurant bookings are included as part of a race day package, ranging from £275 per person to £800. If you’re after a much more casual food experience or your budget doesn’t stretch that far, there are many takeaway catering outlets to choose from, including Tom Atkins Steak, serving steak rolls and Quevega’s (Club Enclosure Only) serving Tapas, The Festival Bowl serving delicious chicken rotisserie and Crackling Jack Pork Rolls. You’ll find lots of places for drinks from the Guinness Village in the Tattersalls to the Golden Miller Champagne Bar in the Club area.
More detailed information on restaurants and catering outlets can be found here:
Cheltenham Festival by Magic Foundry – https://flic.kr/p/m58QiQ
Private Box Packages
If you’re after a memorable day with a group of friends or want to tie in your day with another special occasion, you may prefer to opt for a Private Box. Package prices vary depending upon race day and the size of your party, but they start at £295 pp for catering for 10+ guests and include club admission ticket and food and drink refreshments throughout the day. Enjoy morning coffee before the races begin, an afternoon tea later in the day, with a four-course dinner to bring the day to a memorable end. Private box hire enquiries can be made here: https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/cheltenham/hospitality/private-boxes/
Placing bets forms a major part of the buzz and excitement of Cheltenham Festival. Backing a horse can really add to the excitement of your Festival experience especially if you back the winning one! In 2019 one punter walked away with £182,567 after placing a £2 bet!
Choosing Your Horse
The way to choose which horse to back differs greatly from person to person. Some enthusiasts choose to back based on tracking a horse’s form, a favourite jockey or trainer. Others simply go with a more rudimentary approach of choosing a lucky number or favourite colour horse. You may want or have a look at the horses in the parade ring to see which one takes your fancy before the races begin. Racecards are provided on the day of the race, which include a list of the horse options to choose from. 1s, 2s, or 3s indicate a horse that has run well recently. U (Unseated) F (Fell) and P (Pulled Up) indicate a risky horse to back.
Types of Bet
There are two main types of bet Win Only and Each Way. For a Win Only bet your horse needs to win the race. An Each Way bet means that you effectively place two bets; one for it to win and one for it to be placed. It is placed if it finishes in the first four (depending on the terms).
Ways to Bet
You may opt to place your bets at the Festival itself, at the rails bookmakers. They offer fixed odds and fewer types of bet than a tote pool (see below) and you know exactly what you will win should your horse win or be placed. Bookies shout out various odds and boards show starting prices.
Tote windows are available at the Festival at betting points across the racecourse including the stands and hospitality areas. When you place a bet at the window it goes into the tote pool. Here, your betting stake is placed into a big pool of bets and your winning amount is dependent upon how many other wins there are. Bets start at £2.
You may choose to place your bets at a betting shop or online before arriving at the festival. There is a Betfred shop at the Festival. At the Betfred shop you decide whether to take the odds that are given at the time the bet is placed, or whether to accept the starting price that is on offer when the race begins.
Below we have pulled together useful sites which share the latest tips to help you choose which horse to back and how to go about it:
Useful for those new to the festival and want a better understanding of what to expect: https://www.timeform.com/cheltenham-festival/beginners-guide
Brick Red, Grandouet & Trifolium by Kate – https://flic.kr/p/m5vGmz
Make the most of your visit to the Cheltenham Festival with a stay in the Cotswolds, a region of natural outstanding beauty. Character Cottages has a variety of accommodation to choose from where you’re sure to enjoy a relaxing stay, just a short distance from Cheltenham. Winchcombe, Bourton On the Water, Painswick, Chedworth and the village of Toddington are all within a 20-35 minute drive from the town. Toddington has a fantastic steam railway line to take you to Cheltenham station and kick-start your Festival experience. These accommodation options provide a fantastic base to enjoy a relaxing stay, combined with the buzzing atmosphere and excitement you will experience at the Festival. You can search for properties close to Cheltenham by using the map here.
4270 – Toddington – 9 May 2015 by Steven Hughes – https://flic.kr/p/snroj3
In addition to the festival, you may want to extend your stay to soak up all that Cheltenham and the Cotswolds has to offer. Here are three ways to make the most of your time in Cheltenham and its surrounding area:
So there you have it – everything you need to know about heading to Cheltenham Festival 2020.