Cheltenham Racecourse Guide

Cheltenham Course
The Track at Cheltenham Racecourse (David P Howard /

Cheltenham Racecourse is arguably the most iconic horse racing venue in the world. Located in Prestbury Park, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, the course has its very own steam railway station, as well as being the home of one of the most spectacular and high class jumps festivals you will find anywhere.

Cheltenham is mostly known for being the venue of the famous Cheltenham Festival. The biggest race of that four day extravaganza, which takes place in March on an annual basis, is the Gold Cup but there are also several other Grade 1 races. Cheltenham is the heart and soul of Jump racing, and it's a place where the owners, jockeys, trainers and the punters all dream of having winners. Cheltenham is where heroes are born and legends are created.

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The Course

The main racecourse is split into two separate courses that run alongside each other, the Old Course and the New Course. The New Course has a longer run-in for steeplechases than the older course. There is also a cross-country course laid out inside the main racecourse, which is used for cross-country steeplechase events.

It is a left-handed circuit (on either course) and is described as undulating. The final four furlongs or so is uphill and this can create some exciting finishes as horses tire, although strangely this is less of a factor than one might expect. The fourth-last fence is also tricky, coming soon after a turn and at the top of a hill. It is argued by many that the chase course favours those that race from the front, whilst the hurdles course has a greater emphasis on stamina, with longer races often going to hold-up runners who can catch those tiring up the hill.

In November 2015, Cheltenham Racecourse opened its new five-and-a-half storey grandstand as part of a £45m redevelopment plan. The work took the course's total capacity to a staggering 67,000. Cheltenham is also home of the The Centaur, one of the largest auditoria in the South West of England. This multi-use complex seating area houses around 2,000 people for conferences and has around a 4,000 standing area for music concerts.

The racecourse also has a scenic location in a natural area just below the Cotswold Hills, meaning that when the magic of the Cheltenham Festival is taking place, around 250,000 people can view the excitement and thrill of the Festival, as well as the millions watching at home.

Major Races

Cheltenham Racecourse is home of the world famous Cheltenham Festival, a major highlight of the National Hunt racing calendar, which takes place annually in March and is held over four days. The number and type of races has changed drastically over the years. In 2016, the Supreme Novices' Hurdle kicked off the Festival on the Tuesday, with the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase closing the curtain on the Friday.

The Festival

Cheltenham Festival has a number of Grade 1 races, including the pinnacle of the sport which is, of course, the Gold Cup. In addition there are the three other Championship races which punctuate each of the days, the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and the World Hurdle, among many others. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is not only the biggest race of the four-day Festival, it's also arguably the most eagerly anticipated race of the year, especially for National Hunt racing fans.

The Open

There are plenty of other notable races spread throughout the racing calendar at Cheltenham, too, which include the Cotswold Chase, Silver Trophy Chase, the BetVictor Gold Cup, November Novices' Chase and the International Hurdle, amongst numerous other top races. The Open meeting in November, a three-day affair, is also a major highlight, with a very high standard of racing. With meetings pretty much every month of the season, music festivals and other events, there's always something to see at Cheltenham Racecourse.


Cheltenham Grandstand
Cheltenham Grandstand (Jeff Buck /

The course has a ticket collection point for all tickets purchased at Cheltenham Racecourse, which is located in a sales cabin opposite the Centaur Bridge.

The Club Enclosure offers the best viewing and plenty of refreshment kiosks. A Club Day badge for the Open Saturday of the Festival also entitles you to all the facilities in the Tattersalls. As for the Tattersalls, this enclosure gives you extensive grandstand views, access to a wide choice of betting, eating areas and bars.

The Best Mate Enclosure, which is located directly opposite the main stands, also offers superb value with a great view of the racing. With a variety of food choices, plus plenty of betting facilities and bars, the Best Mate Bar is the place to be for entertainment and value for money.

The famous course also offers group tickets, concessions, private box packages and restaurant packages. So if you just fancy a cheap day at the races, or are going all out with a private box, Cheltenham Racecourse has got you covered.

Useful Info

Dress Code

There's no dress code at Cheltenham in general, so whether it's a sunny summer's day, or a cold, miserable day in the winter months, Cheltenham Racecourse advises you to dress accordingly. That said, certain areas of the track, for example restaurants and hospitality suites, do have a more formal approach.

The official line is that there is no dress code but that “Gentlemen usually wear a suit or similar in the Club Enclosure and in restaurants and hospitality facilities”. Naturally, this is subject to change.

Ticket Prices

Ticket prices obviously vary depending on which meeting and what stand you prefer. Tattersalls Enclosure tickets vary from around £22 - £42, whilst Panoramic Restaurant tickets are around the £200 mark for a regular meeting. On Gold Cup Day, Tattersalls are £55 - £75, Club Enclosure are £85 - £88, and Restaurant Packages can set you back up to £700.


Cheltenham Racecourse also offers a full membership. Annual membership costs £380 + a £100 one-off enrolment fee. That membership also includes the Festival. Without the Cheltenham Festival, an annual membership is just £195 per person, with a £75 enrolment fee.

With both memberships you get early entry to the Club Enclosure for all days of racing (more days if you choose the Cheltenham Membership), access to the member's bar and course viewing in the new grandstand throughout the season, plus free admission to reciprocal fixtures at other courses.

Getting There

The closest train station is Cheltenham Spa, with trains generally running hourly from London and every half-hour from Birmingham. From the station, a taxi to the venue takes around 10 minutes, although the more sprightly can walk.

The course is located at Prestbury Park and is easy to get to by car. However, keep an eye on any road closures, and follow all signposts leading up to the course.


Cheltenham Racecourse offers free parking for all meetings except from Saturday of The Open and during the entirety of the Cheltenham Festival. On those days, parking for the Open is £4 in advance and £5 on the day and for the Festival it's £8 in advance and £15 on the day.


The grounds at the Cheltenham Festival
A Sea of Tweed at the Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Racecourse has a proud history. Racing began in Cheltenham way back in 1815, when the first organised horse racing meeting was held on Nottingham Hill. The first Gold Cup race was held in 1819, and within 10 years, over 30,000 people were flocking to Cheltenham for the two-day Festival, which included the Gold Cup race.

Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Festival

Of course, there are many other meetings held throughout the year at Cheltenham, but nothing comes close to the enormity of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Festival in general. This famous race has put the Gloucestershire town well and truly on the world map, and has also created legends such as Golden Miller, Best Mate, Norton's Coin, Dawn Run, Desert Orchid, Kauto Star and the incomparable Arkle.

Interestingly the first races held in Cheltenham were Flat contests, held away from the current site at Nottingham Hill before moving to Cleeve Hill three years later. Ante-gambling sentiment grew during the 1800s and before the 1830 Festival the grandstand was burned down! This saw the course move to its current site at Prestbury Park.

Jockey Club Racecourses

In 1964, Jockey Club Racecourses, then known as Racecourse Holdings, was established to secure the future of the track. The group, which now owns a number of racecourses in the UK, runs Cheltenham and the other tracks for the benefit of racing, with all profits ploughed back into the various tracks to “ensure the continued success and development of British horseracing”.


The course and stands have been changed, renovated and added to too many times to mention over the years. Extra stands, hospitality areas and jockey and horse facilities have been added since the 1960s, all helping make Cheltenham such a wonderful course. Around £20m was invested in the track during 2003 and 2004, whilst, as mentioned earlier, the £45m 2015 redevelopment also greatly boosted the esteem in which Cheltenham is held.

Visitors & Staff

The racecourse now employs almost 100 permanent staff, with that number swelling to around 1,000 for a race day and a massive 5,000 during the Festival. Cheltenham welcomes around 700,000 visitors each year and if you’ve never been one of them we suggest you change that as soon as possible.