Cheltenham Festival: Our guide on the Prestbury Park courses
Cheltenham is well-regarded for providing one of the ultimate tests for horse and jockey, with much being said about the gruelling nature of its famously stiff ‘Cheltenham hill’ finish, but little may you know about the intricate differences between Prestbury Park’s signature racecourses.
Take a look at our handy little guide below.
How many courses are there at Cheltenham?
There are a total of 3 courses used at the annual Cheltenham Festival; these include the old course, the new course and the Cross-Country course.
The old course plays host to the lion’s share of the action (bar the Cross Country Chase) on Tuesday (13th March) and Wednesday (14th March) with popular showpieces including the Champion Hurdle, the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle and the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Focus shifts to the new course on Thursday and Friday however, with the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup taking centre stage.
The Cross-Country race finishes on the main course but takes place on its own specialist course, which features its own array of fascinating obstacles. It provides a unique test for entrants and often requires a specialist to complete.
What are the differences between the old and new courses?
Both courses are left-handed and undulating. There is undoubtedly a stiff finish up the Cheltenham hill on both fronts, although the level of stiffness invariably differs for each.
The old course is renowned for its test of speed, whilst the new course, in contrast, is far more stamina-driven. The hurdles course, in particular, has very few hurdles in the latter stages of the race.
Obstacles to look out for
Falls and unseats can take place anywhere at Cheltenham, even over the hurdles course (does Annie Power ring any bells?).
One fence that appears to be particularly perilous is the fourth to last fence on the new course, as is the second to last on the old course which has proven to be equally problematic.
Champion jockey at the Festival, Ruby Walsh, has been the unlucky recipient of several high-speed falls, one of which he suffered at Cheltenham with Voix Du Reve on his approach to the finish line.
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