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About the Cheltenham Festival

Last updated: December 2023

Certain events have become so popular that they are celebrated every year, and the number of fans that love the festivals is growing exponentially. We are not even talking about the World Cup, but the Cheltenham Festival which is a prestigious horse racing event held in the UK.

Many people may not have heard about this event right now, but did you know that it started back in 1815? In fact, if you keep reading this article, you will be able to find out more about the history of this sport. We took the liberty to state all the major events that occurred during each timeframe. You can also find out why this event is worshipped and why people spend so much money to buy tickets to the racecourse! 

Lastly, we finished off by answering some of the basic questions you may have about the Cheltenham Festival. In all, this is a very informational article that you would love to read!  

What is Cheltenham Festival?

The Cheltenham Festival is a horse racing event that is held in the United Kingdom. It is a 4-day event that usually occurs in March, at the Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire. In most cases, you will notice that this race event coincides with Saint Patrick’s Day, and Irish fans seem to love this event more than anybody!

Statue at the Cheltenham Racecourse

Since this is such a big event, a large sum of money is used for horse racing betting over the week. The prize money stands second to the Grand National, so it is a pretty big deal! If you have heard about the Cheltenham roar, then you know where it stems from. It is the roar created by the crowd during the horse race that denotes the first race of the festival. Until 2005, the horse racing event took place for 3 days. However, now there is the 4th day to this. Having said that, there is a championship every day that climaxes on the last day with the Gold Cup on Friday. 

In the Cheltenham Festival, there are 28 races in total which include Triumph Hurdle, Champion Bumper, Ryanair Chase, Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Champion Hurdle, World Hurdle, RSA Chase, Queen Mother Champion Chase, and the Gold Cup. 

Cheltenham Festival History and Highlights

If you are wondering what is the Cheltenham Festival, then this is an event that dates back to 1815 when the very first flat meeting was held on Nottingham Hill. The races in the first few years were not properly recorded but the records became clear in 1818.

You can feel a rush of excitement every time you hear Cheltenham Festival. The excitement, the roar, the joy, and the money- they all make this occasion special. It is no longer just about horses and jockeys because some people go there for the crowd and the thrill. Having said that, we have decided to go in-depth while explaining the history of the Cheltenham Festival. But we made it concise so that our readers don’t get bored with all the information. 

1818 to 1829 

On the 25th of August in 1818, there were 5 races and the winning medal was given to Mr. E. Jones’ mare, Miss Tidmarsh. After building up a proper course, there was a 3-day race event in 1819. That is when the first Cheltenham Gold Cup was held and it was won by Spectre. As this event became increasingly popular over the years, up to 50,000 people attended the 2-day event. This race became the center point of festivals, parties, gambling, drinking, and fashion and became more popularized all over the UK.

1829 to 1855

Things went down in 1829 when rocks and bottles were thrown at jockeys and horses during the race event. As drunkards, pickpockets, prostitutes, and card sharps began to cause a ruckus in the event, the evangelist Reverend Francis Close condemned the event and even participated in the arson of the facility! So, when the racetrack was moved to Prestbury Park, it was no longer celebrated and popularized as before. Gradually, there were no more meetings, especially from 1851 to 1855. 

1881 to 1898

Then, in 1881, Prestbury Park was bought by the founder of the Cheltenham Racecourse, W.A. Baring Bingham. This man is a horse racing enthusiast and he ensured that this sport became glorified. At last, in 1898, race meetings were held there and slowly began to make progress. 

1898 to 1911

The first National Hunt Festival was held in Prestbury Park 4 years later. Afterwards, this festival settled in 1911 and it has remained there ever since. Currently, we can give the credit for the Cheltenham Festival to Frederick Cathcart who is a senior partner of Messrs Pratt & Co that has managed many racecourses. 

1923 to 1960

In 1923, the race was finally expanded to 3 days. Golden Miller was the first household name to win the Gold Cup 5 times from 1932 to 1936. To sum up, he bagged 28 wins from 52 races! You can say that the Cheltenham Festival entered the modern era with the Irish invasion of the race in 1960. At that time, the racecourse was purchased by Johnny Henderson who is the late father of trainer Nicky Henderson. People have seen many legends compete in the race at that time, and the notable ones were Arkle who won the RSA Chase and Mill House who won the Gold Cup. Arkle took the Gold Cup in 1964 though. 

This question can’t be answered simply. Why do you think the FIFA World Cup is popular? Or why is the World Tennis Championship popular? The Cheltenham Festival has been an event that brought many people together to watch or take part in horse racing. There is no doubt that Europeans are big fans of horse racing, so this sport got popular in the continent pretty easily! Also, jockeys and trainers dream about winning the trophy. This event hosts a number of races, so the participants can get into action to win multiple awards. 

There is plenty of betting opportunity and sports bettors don’t want to miss out on that! The Cheltenham Festival has produced many winners who are walking on Earth and pride and joy. Many fans from Ireland travel in March to witness this grand event and to make bets. Having said that, the most important races of the festival are Champion Hurdle (1927), Queen Mother Champion Chase (1959), Stayers’ Hurdle (1912), and Cheltenham Gold Cup (1924). 

Cheltenham Racecourse 

The Cheltenham racecourse is the home of jump racing. Jockeys, trainers, breeders, and stable staff dream of winning a cup on this racecourse. You can say that this place makes dreams come true! The racecourse has 2 parts- the New Course and the Old Course. The New Course allows longer run-ins for steeplechases and comes with a downhill fence. On the other hand, the Old Course is used for The November Meeting, The Showcase, and for the first 2 days of the Cheltenham Festival. 

Cheltenham Racxecourse

Don’t assume that the racecourse is just for racing though. The largest auditoria in South West England exists within its territory. Besides, the racecourse also contains the Steeplechasing Hall of Fame. New renovations take place from time to time, such as the Princess Royal Stand. It cost £45 million to create it in 2015 and it can hold 6,500 people. 

This place can attract thousands of fans everywhere who look forward to every season no matter which part of the world they live in! You will experience different types of feelings on the Cheltenham racecourse. Needless to say, you will witness the best jumping action in this racecourse which is 350 acres of land sheltered by Cotswold Hill. You can feel the magic no matter which time of the year you visit this place! 

How to Get Cheltenham Festival Tickets?

Needless to say, you need to buy your tickets long before the Cheltenham Festival actually takes place. For the most part, you can buy and download your tickets from the Jockey Club App. Before you arrive at the racecourse, you must print your tickets. If you don’t print them, then you have to purchase a new ticket on the spot, which may or may not be available. The tickets that have been printed at home won’t need live music ticket entry or a swing badge. 

The good news is that people under the age of 17 are considered minors, so they don’t have to purchase any tickets. But they must be accompanied by an adult to the racecourse. If you look older than 18, then you must present your ID for confirmation. Horse racing fans are also allowed to book tickets online before the race. You don’t have to worry about the time because online bookings are available 24/7. For this, go to the official website of Cheltenham Festival and click on the Register button. 

Enter your details like email address and password to create your own account If you already have an account with the email address, you can recover your password through a few simple steps. You can also book your tickets over the phone or email customer support. Due to the high volume of ticket requests, you can be sure that the tickets will sell out quickly. For that reason, make your tickets are safe and you have printed them out properly. There is no guarantee that you can purchase another one on the day of the race. 

The price of the Cheltenham Festival ticket is £44 per person. The price drops to £40 if you book for 15 or more people altogether. Prices can also differ when you are aiming for the best seats. £35 for the Best Mate Enclosure, price starting from £52 for Tattersalls Enclosure and starting at £83 for the Club Enclosure. 

Final Thoughts

The Cheltenham Festival is a legendary horse racing event that has entertained people for a very long time. Although Irish people are most excited about this event, people from other parts of Europe also pay a hefty sum of money to attend the event! Hopefully, after reading this article, you have learned more about the history of this festival and how it came to be. You may not even know the names of the jockeys and horses, but the races will totally change your mind about the sport forever!


How Many Days is the Cheltenham Festival?

The Cheltenham Festival occurs for 4 days every year at the Cheltenham Racecourse. Until 2005, the horse racing event took place for 3 days, but that changed later on. The competition climaxes on the last day with the Gold Cup on Friday! 

How Long is the Cheltenham Festival?

Many races take place during the day at the Cheltenham Festival between 1:30 pm and 5:30 pm. The gate will open at 10:30 am, so you have plenty of time to get yourself comfortable in your seats! 

How Many Races are There at the Cheltenham Festival?

In total, 28 races take place across the 4-day festival. You may get to encounter races like the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race, the Handicap Steeple Chase, the Mares’ Hurdle Race, The Stayers’ Hurdle, The Mares Novices’ Hurdle, The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase, and more! 

What Time Does Gates Open at the Cheltenham Festival?

Gates for the Cheltenham Festival open at 10:30 am on each of the 4 days. You will also find it open approximately 3 hours before racing, and 1.5 hours after racing. It is best to take notes of this time so you can bask in the unique atmosphere instead of just watching the races. 

When was the First Cheltenham Festival?

Although history goes back a long way, the official Cheltenham Festival that we know today began in 1861. The very first flat meeting was held on Nottingham Hill in 1815, but nothing was recorded until 1818. Then, in 1881, Prestbury Park was bought by the founder of the Cheltenham Racecourse, W.A. Baring Bingham who began to popularize this festival officially. 

How Many People Attend the Cheltenham Festival?

Every day during the festival, 70,000 people attend this event to witness the best horse races of their lives! Even back in 1819, 50,000 people attended the festival to watch the entertainment and place ridiculous bets on jockeys and horses. 

How Many People Can Attend the Cheltenham Festival?

On paper, the Cheltenham Racecourse can hold 67,500 people during the Cheltenham Festival. The tickets sell out long before the festival even begins. So, even though the racecourse can hold only about the number that we mentioned, the people who are fans of this event are higher in number. 

What is the Main Race at Cheltenham?

Although there are 28 races in the Cheltenham Festival, some races have historical value, such as Champion Hurdle (1927), Queen Mother Champion Chase (1959), Stayers’ Hurdle (1912), and Cheltenham Gold Cup (1924).  The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the biggest race which is featured on the last day of the event. 

What is the Big Race at Cheltenham? 

The biggest race during the Cheltenham Festival is the Cheltenham Gold Cup which was first awarded in 1924. The festival has maintained this tradition for years. Even though jockeys and trainers look forward to this ceremony, it poses gruesome challenges for them as well as the horses. 

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