Everything you need to know about Cheltenham racecourse
Last updated & tested: 2019-09-21
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Cheltenham races are considered some of the best in the National Hunt calendar. This racecourse in the Cotswolds is steeped in jumps and hurdles horse racing history with the very best from the UK and Ireland often competing at the Gloucestershire track. Given how popular the Cheltenham Festival held over four days here every March is, it’s no surprise to learn there are many Cheltenham free bets offers available when you want to take a punt or two.
This venue is home to a whole host of championship races over the bigger and smaller obstacles. Inevitably, trial runs at Cheltenham racecourse have developed at other meetings away from the Festival as a result. Top trainers from the British isles bring their best National Hunt thoroughbreds to tackle the unique undulations of the Prestbury Park circuit. The back straight at Cheltenham sees horses ascend Cleeve Hill then freewheel down it before turning for home. There’s a punishing incline all the way to the line, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re running on the Old Course or the New Course. The Cross Country course, meanwhile, is a twisting and turning figure of eight in the centre that contains a variety of ditches, banks and more traditional racing obstacles.
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Popular Cheltenham racecourse events to bet on
There are eight different meetings throughout the year at Cheltenham races. The first of these annual events is held on New Year’s Day, so there’s no time to nurse a sore head. This meeting is often run on tough winter ground, so horses that go well on soft or heavy going must be considered for key races such as the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle and Dipper Novices’ Chase which are both over an extended two-and-a-half miles.
Festival Trials Day
Towards the end of January is the official Trials Day for the Cheltenham Festival itself. Every race on this Saturday card has implications for those horses looking to come back in six weeks’ time and run in one of the big championships contests or hot handicaps. Cheltenham free bets and offers are pretty common for Festival Trials Day. The main events here are the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle – over the same course and distance as the Stayers’ Hurdle – and the Cotswold Chase, which is supposed to be a trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
While the latter hasn’t thrown up too many recent winners of National Hunt racing’s blue riband chase, the novice contests on Festival Trials Day like the Grade 2 Finesse Juvenile Hurdle (2m 1f) and the Classic Novices’ Hurdle (extended 2m 4f) can provide punters with clues to serious contenders for the Triumph Hurdle, Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle races come March.
There is no doubt that the main event at Cheltenham racecourse is the four-day Festival in mid-March. National Hunt racing doesn’t get any better or more competitive than this. From the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over 2m that kicks the event off, right through to the handicaps that take place when the dust has settled on the Gold Cup, the action is thick and fast.
Following the Supreme on day one is another Grade 1 in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, the 2m equivalent of that traditional curtain-raiser hurdle for novices’ chasers. The Ultima Handicap Chase is a stayers’ event at Grade 3 level that is fiendlishy competitive over 3m 1f. That warms things up nicely for the feature Champion Hurdle in which the best two-milers over the smaller obstacles battle it out for supremacy. The Grade 1 2m 4f OLBG Mares’ Hurdle allows female horses a moment in the sun before the historic National Hunt Chase for novices run over a gruelling 4m and the Listed Close Brothers Handicap Chase (also for novices) over an extended two-and-a-half miles rounds off the Tuesday.
Wednesday builds to the Queen Mother Champion Chase, where the best two-mile horses over fences go at an end-to-end gallop. Prior to that, middle-distance novice hurdlers tackle the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 5f and the three-mile RSA Chase follows. That race can throw up subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup heroes in years to come, just as the Arkle does for the Champion Chase. In amongst all this Grade 1 action is a hotly competitive Grade 3 Coral Handicap Hurdle over 2m 5f too and on the other side of day two’s main event is the Cross Country horses’ chance to make headlines. They tackle the unique obstacles in the middle of Cheltenham racecourse. The Cross Country Chase is a 3m 6f slog in total, while a Grade 3 named in honour of the legendary Fred Winter is open to juvenile horses that don’t run in the Triumph over an extended two miles as a handicap. Finally, the Champion Bumper is a National Hunt Flat race that can produce future heroes over the obstacles.
Thursday at the Festival has two huge prizes on offer. First, the Ryanair Chase is for middle-distance horses over fences at 2m 5f, and then there’s another Grade 1 in the three-mile Stayers’ Hurdle. Supporting these races are the JLT Novices’ Chase (another event at the highest level for middle-distance horses), Pertemps Final (a Grade 3 staying handicap hurdle you must qualify for), Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares’ Novice’ Hurdle (2m 1f), the Grade 3 Mildmay Of Flete Challenge Cup (2m 5f handicap chase) and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (extended 3m 1f handicap chase for amateur riders).
Friday puts the Cheltenham Gold Cup centre stage, but other Grade 1 contests in the 2m 1f Triumph Hurdle for juveniles (four-year-old horses only) and the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over 3m help to build the sense of anticipation. The County Handicap Hurdle, a tricky two-mile puzzle for punters to solve, is also traditionally run before the Gold Cup. Only the absolute elite stayers can land Cheltenham’s premier prize over an extended three-and-a-quarter miles. Amateur riders also get a go over the same course and distance as the Gold Cup in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase. The Festival ends with two more hot handicaps; the 2m 4f Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (colloquially known as the boys’ race), and the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase over two miles.
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Other Cheltenham racecourse events in the year
While there may be some Cheltenham free bets with no deposit available for the Festival, there’s still plenty more racing to enjoy throughout the year beyond March. The two-day April meeting now features a mares only card, as well as the 2m 5f Grade 2 Silver Trophy Chase. On a Friday in May, meanwhile, is the Hunter Chase evening where these older horses compete at different distances.
National Hunt takes a backseat to the Flat over the summer months, but come the end of October it starts to get interesting again. This is when The Showcase meeting at Cheltenham takes place over two days (Friday and Saturday).
The Open in November, meanwhile, is the biggest event outside of the Festival with three days of action built around the BetVictor Gold Cup – a Grade 3 handicap chase over 2m 4f. You’ll find trials for the Arkle (November Novices’ Chase), Ballymore (Hyde Novices’ Hurdle), Supreme (Sharp Novices’ Hurdle) and Triumph (Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle) all take place here and enjoy graded status. The Sunday of this card also contains the Grade 3 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle and another 2m contest in the Grade 2 Shloer Chase.
That just leaves The International meeting in December completing the annual Cheltenham racecourse events. Over these two days, are the Bristol Novices’ Hurdle (an Albert Bartlett trial) and International Hurdle (same for the Champion Hurdle) among other graded races.
Who is the best bookmaker for betting on Cheltenham events?
You may be wondering which bookie works out the best if you’re betting on the action at Cheltenham racecourse. We would recommend Paddy Power, who have been associated with Prestbury Park in the past as former sponsors of the race now known as the BetVictor Gold Cup. While they don’t go as far as offering Cheltenham free bets with no deposit, their Festival offers of enhanced odds on hot favourites to win and money back specials make betting on the main events value. Paddy Power also often provide additional places on big handicap races, which means your each-way betting can be rewarded further. Speaking of that, the Paddy Power Rewards Club means you can get a £10 bonus when you place six sportsbook bets of £10 or more online in a week. It’s the perfect companion to betting on something like Cheltenham races where there are great gambling opportunities on elite horse racing several times a year. There are ante post markets on all the Festival events, so you can make long-term investments and get great prices months in advance. As with all leading bookmakers, Paddy Power offer the best prices guaranteed on UK and Irish horse racing in general and Cheltenham is no exception to that.
All the Cheltenham betting tips you need
As it has such significance to the world of National Hunt horse racing, Cheltenham attracts a huge amount of betting especially in and around the Festival. Whether it’s one of the 28 compelling contests held in March, or the trials that take place beforehand, you can get great betting tips here thanks to our experts. The tipsters we use love Cheltenham races and can often be found in attendance at Prestbury Park themselves to see how the horses they put up perform in the flesh. Our experts know the value of course and distance form and keep an eye on the hottest prospects that come over for the Festival from Ireland during the National Hunt season too. There’s no such thing as a one-horse race and that saying is proved nowhere more so than at Cheltenham. With hotly competitive contests on offer, we’ll look for the value in the betting as well as horses that look most likely to win. Remember, it’s always worth considering the each-way angle in big betting handicaps with favourable terms and extra places on offer with the bookmakers. It’s all about directing you to value, so check out our Cheltenham betting tips without delay today.
Tips for races at Cheltenham
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Some expert advice on Cheltenham races to consider
If you’re new to betting, then you may not understand all the terminology involved. There’s a lot of horse racing history tied into Cheltenham, and the Festival held there has grown in size and stature over the year to become the supreme gala in the world of National Hunt racing. We’re here to be a jargon buster and break down betting terms so you can gamble safe in the knowledge you understand the language that surrounds betting. Want to know the difference between a handicap and weight-for-age race? You can use our glossary to get answers and equip yourself with everything you need to know about horse racing. Everything from ante post betting to multiple wagers like patents are explained.
Our experts have also got their fingers on the pulse of the latest horse racing betting news. Want the latest weights or Cheltenham entries for the Festival? We’re on the hunt for furnishing you with all the details you need to help you make informed betting choices on that and all the other events that take place at Prestbury Park in the course of the season. We’ve got the main news from the world of horse racing covered and always take a betting first approach to it.