Cheltenham: A Festival of Racing



horses in cross country race at cheltenham


Photo by KT, CC BY 2.0


The Cheltenham Festival has been thrilling horse racing enthusiasts since 1860 and has been an annual event at Prestbury Park since 1911. Today, it is the climax of the jump racing season and the pinnacle of achievement for trainers and jockeys alike. The Festival, as it is commonly known, is the best opportunity to see Britain’s, and of course, Ireland’s, best racehorses up close. So, what is the best way to get to Cheltenham, where should you go to see the horses and who should you be looking out for if you’re searching the top value with the bookmakers?

A quarter of a million people attend the four-day festival every year, so you need to allow plenty of time to get there and get in. There are acres of parking available, but you should still pre-book to guarantee your space. You’ll save money, too, with parking fees of £8 in advance versus £15 at the gate. Alternatively, you can avoid the traffic jams by taking the train to Cheltenham Spa, but again, there will be huge crowds doing the same thing, so you need to allow time to queue for the shuttle buses to the course.

The cheapest place to watch from is the Best Mate Enclosure, at just £40 per day (£55 on Gold Cup Day), but this does not get you close to the horses. Tattersalls, at £55 (£70), offers a better value because it gives you access to the parade ring and the unsaddling enclosure. With the extra insight you get from watching the horses parade before the race, you could make back the difference in ticket price by beating the Cheltenham Festival odds.

view of cleve hill and cheltenham crowds


Photo by KT, CC BY 2.0


For the ultimate day at the races, choose the Club stand. It may cost a bit more, at £85 (£110), but it does give you the best views, with access and the top restaurants, including the after-race fun at the Final Flight Bar, complete with live music.

When it comes to choosing your horses, you won’t go wrong if you follow trainer Willie Mullins. With nine winners out of 52 entries over the last three years in steeplechase races and 13 wins from 105 in hurdles, Mullins’ team has stacked up almost £2 million in winnings in the last three years. What’s more, Mullins has been the top trainer at five out of the last seven festivals.


faugheen and ruby walsh


Photo by Robert Watters, CC BY 2.0


Jockey Ruby Walsh is also worth checking out. He has only failed to win the top jockey crown once in the last 10 years, with 16 wins from just 58 starts in the last three years.

This year, punters will have an advantage when it comes to studying the form because the British Horseracing Authority has announced that they will be declaring all races at the 48-hour stage instead of just 24 hours in advance like other National Hunt races. This gives you more time to look at all the details that can make a difference on the big day.

The Cheltenham Festival takes place between Tuesday, 13th March and Friday, 16th March, with four days of seven races a day making up a packed 28-race programme. The first two days are run over the old course, which has a shorter run in where speed is critical while the second two days, including the Gold Cup, are run over the new course, with its famous final half mile uphill, testing the stamina of even the best stayers. One of the more inclusive and friendly of the big race meetings on the calendar, Cheltenham is a must-see for anyone who loves racehorses.


So, book your tickets today for a festival to remember.