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Visiting The Cheltenham Festival – Everything You Need to Know

Ultimate Guide Visiting the Cheltenham Festival

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. We’ve also included ideas on where to stay and how to make the most of your time in Cheltenham and its stunning surrounding area.

what is it

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. In 2018 the races are provisionally scheduled to take place between 13th – 16th March.

Champion Hurdle

‘Champion Hurdle’ by Kate - https://flic.kr/p/m5AxHa

history

The Cheltenham Festival dates back to 1860, originally called the Grand National Hunt Meeting which took place across different locations. Cheltenham’s 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 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 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

‘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:

  • Tuesday - Champion Day: Includes the famous Stand James Champion Hurdle, one of the most important of the festival. Last year, Buveur D' AirBuveur was an empthatic winner of the Champion Hurdle under Noel Fehily, making Henderson the most successful trainer in the race's history with six wins.
  • Wednesday - Ladies Day: Where the crowds adorn their best attire. Ladies showcase their colourful shoes and spectacular hats to enjoy an action packed day of gripping horse racing. Ladies Day includes The Queen Mother Championship Chase race.
  • Thursday – St. Patrick’s Thursday: Drawing on Irish influence, Thursday includes lots of Guinness, Irish music and two major races – the Ryanair World Hurdle and Ryanair Chase.
  • Friday – Gold Cup Day: The climax of the Jump racing season comes to a head on Gold Cup Day with a riveting atmosphere and some of the best racing in the annual calendar, including the Triumph Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett Hurdle Race.

enclosures

Enclosures

There are three main enclosures where you can spectate from over the course of the Festival:

  • Club: If you’re after something special, the Club provides an exclusive spectating spot, with the best course views and refreshments available. Gaining a Club Day badge also provides access to the Tattersalls enclosure (see below). Ticket prices start at around £100 per person with an Early Bird Discount.
  • Tattersalls: For access to a wide range of betting and bars along with grandstand views, the Tattersalls is a great option, with access to the Festival Restaurant, trade stands in the tent village, Gold Cup and Hall of Fame. Ticket prices start at around £70 with an Early Bird Discount.
  • Best Mate: For a casual and relaxed spectating experience, the Best Mate enclosure provides a variety of bars and casual eateries. Entertainment is provided in the form of the latest cover bands. No access is given in the Parade Ring or to the Shopping village. Ticket prices start from around £50 with an Early Bird Discount.

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 £435 per person to £770+. 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:

http://cheltenham.thejockeyclub.co.uk/events-tickets/whats-on/champion-day?ticket-type=restaurant

http://cheltenham.thejockeyclub.co.uk/plan-your-race-day/food-drink/catering-outlets

 

Cheltenham Festival

‘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. Packages are TBC for catering for between 20-40 guests and include 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: http://cheltenham.thejockeyclub.co.uk/plan-your-race-day/food-drink/private-boxes/private-box

betting

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! £600 million pounds is expected to exchange hands over the course of the races.

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

Bookmakers

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 pool

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.

Betting Shop

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 Links:

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

‘Brick Red, Grandouet & Trifolium’ by Kate - https://flic.kr/p/m5vGmz

how do i get there

  • By Train: Trains run hourly from London and take around two hours. From Birmingham, every half hour and take around 35 minutes. From Bristol trains leave every hour and take around 35 minutes. It is a 10-minute drive from Cheltenham station to the racecourse.
  • By Bus: From Cheltenham centre, stagecoach service D runs every 10 minutes during daytime hours and every hour on Monday-Saturday evenings. The service runs hourly on Sundays. At the Festival a shuttle bus operates, picking up at Cheltenham Spa railway station and WH Smith to the racecourse. Fayres apply. National Express also offer services to the Festival from locations across the UK, starting at £21.00 per person.
  • By Car: The racecourse is located 2 ½ miles (11 mins driving) from the centre of Cheltenham town centre. The racecourse can be reached via the A435 and A4019. The nearest motorways are the M5 and M40. The parking scheme at the venue is colour coded depending on your preferred route and label. Further details of colour coding and locations and any Festival road closures can be found here: http://cheltenham.thejockeyclub.co.uk/plan-your-race-day/visitor-information/directions-parking

where to stay

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 as 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.

Toddington

‘4270 - Toddington - 9 May 2015’ by Steven Hughes - https://flic.kr/p/snroj3

things to do

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:

  • Shopping in Cheltenham’s Montpellier District. The stylish Montpellier Walk is the perfect place to enjoy some leisurely shopping, with its continental feel. Enjoy a mosey around the boutique and specialist shops located here. Upmarket shops and outlets can be found at the Courtyard Shopping Arcade for you to peruse. There are plenty of places to enjoy a cocktail or refreshing glass of wine at one of the local wine bars as you soak up the holiday atmosphere. If you’ve worked up an appetite, the popular Montpellier Lodge, a renovated Groundsman’s Cottage, is located at the Montpellier Gardens.
  • Take a trip to the Little Venice of the Cotswolds. Enjoy the quintessential English countryside feel of Bourton-On-The-Water, with its little shops full of charm and character, quaint cafes and attractions. A four mile walk trail from Bourton-On-The-Water to Wyck Rissington allows you to soak up natures finest views and blow away the cobwebs. You will pass through Salmonsbury Meadow Nature Reserve, over short rivers to the calming village of Wyck Rissington. Details of the trail can be found at: http://www.escapetothecotswolds.org.uk/userfiles/file/walks/jubilee/bourton-on-the-water-and-wyck-rissington.pdf
  • Pay a visit to Sudeley Castle. Just 20 minutes from Cheltenham, this well maintained historic landmark has been a part of England’s history for over 1,000 years. The castle is full of fascinating royal history and provide access to family rooms of Kings and Queens and award winning gardens.

So there you have it – everything you need to know about heading to Cheltenham Festival.

If you need accommodation for the festival check out our cottages in the Cotswolds, and for more inspiration on day trips to enjoy in the Cotswolds see our blog post here.

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