The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most iconic meetings in the world and here is everything you need to know about the Home of Jump Racing with the 2024 edition just weeks away.
|Cheltenham Festival 2024
|Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire
|Tuesday 12th March - Friday 15th March, 2024
|How to watch
|bet365 Sports Live Streaming, ITV & Racing TV
The first thing to note about Cheltenham is that races are run on two courses. They are named the Old Course and New Course.
Horse racing began at Cheltenham in 1815 and the famous Gold Cup was first run in 1924. The Showcase and November Meetings and the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival are run on the Old Course.
The Old Course is a sharp track with an uphill finish and lends itself to speed over staying. It can often suit a horse that is ridden in a prominent position, able to get first run and quicken away from their rivals.
The Gold Cup is the showpiece of the Cheltenham Festival and that iconic event, along with the final two days of The Festival, is run on the New Course.
The International, New Year's Day, Festival Trials Day and the April and May meetings all take place on the New Course.
The New Course offers a stiffer examination of a horse's durability and there are just two flights in the last six furlongs on the hurdles track, allowing contenders to close in on the leaders more so than on the Old Course.
The Gold Cup is often run at a strong pace, at an extended three-mile two-furlong distance, and along with the uphill finish, stamina needs to be assured to land the most coveted prize in all of jump racing.
Cheltenham brings together the best horses from Britain and Ireland and sometimes further afield when French raiders cross the channel to join their counterparts.
The Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase are all held at the Gloucestershire venue, but it's a track that is far from straightforward for horses to navigate and there have been many brilliant performers who have struggled to produce their best in the shadows of Cleeve Hill.
Cheltenham is an undulating left-handed track, with the runners facing fences when traveling uphill, downhill and on the level. It's a difficult jumping test, with the penultimate fence on the New Course a particularly tough obstacle for Gold Cup competitors.
The fence itself isn't huge, but it comes on a downhill part of the track and at a time when the horses and riders are looking to make a race-winning move with just two fences to clear.
The penultimate fence has ended many dreams over the years, but take it well and runners can swing into the straight in pole position.
The pace at which the majority of Cheltenham contests are run at, along with its undulating nature and jumping test, often leads to course specialists and you often see runners coming back to Cheltenham year-after-year and starring on the biggest stage.
While Cheltenham isn't the stiffest test of a horse's stamina, with that title belonging to Aintree in the view of most racing fans, it is a track that leads to drama.
Punters who watch their horse jump the last hurdle or fence in front could be forgiven for thinking they were on to a winner. Cheltenham has other ideas.
The famous uphill finish, which follows the last flight on all tracks, can often lead to a dramatic and sometimes slow-motion finish.
Leaders are desperate for the line, while the chasing pack are closing with every stride and the extremely demanding uphill finish accentuates the drama. Some punters are yearning for the winning post while others are wishing for one more stride, creating a brilliant atmosphere at Prestbury Park.
The famous Cheltenham hill has provided some truly thrilling finishes over the years.
One aspect of Cheltenham that cannot be overlooked is the atmosphere and that is at its peak at The Festival in March.
A cap of 68,500 spectators for each day was brought in for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival in an attempt to benefit racegoers.
Despite the slight drop-off in numbers, the buzz, noise, anticipation, expectation, exhilaration and sometimes disappointment is not replicated at any other racecourse.
The highs and lows put demands on the crowd, but the feverish atmosphere can also see the competitors falter under pressure.
Many horses and riders have struggled to deal with the occasion and it takes a cool head from all to be victorious at the Home of Jump Racing.