Cheltenham Racecourse is a prime horseracing venue located at Prestbury Park, near the town of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, England. Situated in a scenic natural amphitheater with the Cotswold Hills as a backdrop, Cheltenham Racecourse has the capacity to accommodate 67,500 spectators, and this popular horseracing venue is often filled to capacity.
Cheltenham’s first official flat race meeting took place on Nottingham Hill in 1815. The popularity of horseracing soared over the next decade, with the annual two-day July race meeting, which included the Gold Cup, drawing crowds of up to 30,000. In 1830 the race meeting was disrupted by the parishioners of the local church who strongly objected to the “evils of horse racing”. They made their feelings clear the following year by burning the grandstand to the ground. As a result of this violent opposition, the decision was taken to move the racecourse to the picturesque area of Prestbury Park in 1831, and it has remained there ever since.
To secure the future of Cheltenham Racecourse, in 1964 Jockey Club Racecourses (previously Racecourse Holdings Trust) bought the racecourse. Jockey Club Racecourses now owns a total of 14 racecourses and reinvests the profits into these racecourses in an effort to ensure the continued success and development of horse racing in England. This policy of reinvestment continues to pay dividends, and Cheltenham Racecourse has earned the reputation of being one of the most prestigious British racecourses.
A highlight in the Cheltenham Racecourse events calendar is the four-day Cheltenham Festival held annually in March. The festival, which has been running since 1902, includes the Cheltenham Gold cup, the most important meeting in the United Kingdom’s National Hunt racing calendar, with the purse second only to the Grand National. Spectators at the Cheltenham Festival have the opportunity to see the best British and Irish trained horses pitted against one another. As the festival often coincides with St. Patrick’s Day (17 March), it is very popular with visitors from Ireland and there is a distinct Irish influence in much of the entertainment on offer. Enormous amounts of money changes hands during the four days and the festival atmosphere is almost contagious. The term “The Cheltenham Roar” has been coined to describe the sound of the crowd when the horses enter the home run.
Cheltenham Racecourse has three racing tracks. The Old Course is used each horse racing season for The Showcase and The Open, as well as the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival. The New Course is used for The Boylesports International, New Year’s Day, Festival Trials Day and the third and fourth days of the Cheltenham Festival which includes the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as well as numerous other race meetings. The Cross Country Steeplechase course, as the name suggests, is only used for steeplechase events which take place three times in the year.
With a host of exciting horse racing events, ease of access and world-class hospitality facilities, it is no wonder that Cheltenham Racecourse welcomes more than 700,000 visitors each year – and everyone has a great time.