Beginners Guide to the Cheltenham Festival


Cheltenham Beginners Guide 2023

The Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest horse racing events of the year for anyone with even the slightest interest in racing. However, if you are new to horse racing and are interested in attending, watching or simply betting on this festival there is lots of information for you to know. We’ve covered all of the most important things to keep in mind on this page:

cheltenham festival racegoers ladies day

Dress Code At the Cheltenham Festival

There is no official dress code at the Cheltenham Festival for any of the events over the four day period. However, due to the high calibre of this event, it’s more of a ‘dress to impress’ type of event. If you’re unsure on how to dress at the Cheltenham Festival here is a rough guide for different scenarios:

Women’s Cheltenham Dress Code

Ladies will wear a dress to the festival often in a bright colour and will generally top it off by wearing a hat. This is especially prominent on ‘Ladies Day’ when fashion comes into play with many ladies hoping to stand out from the crowd. It is recommended that women don’t wear outfits of a revealing nature as doing so may result in entry refusal.

Other things for ladies to keep in mind is the choice of footwear. High heels may be the obvious option but you may be stood up for hours on end so a change of footwear is advised. Another thing to note is that the festival takes place in March meaning it may be cold so warm clothing such as a coat would be advisable.

Men’s Cheltenham Dress Code

Gentlemen will usually wear suits to the festival if they are planning on entering the Club Enclosure, restaurants or hospitality facilities. More relaxed styles are welcome through the week however on Gold Cup Day (Friday) it may be less so.

It is also important to keep weather conditions so an umbrella and/or an anorak may be required if rain is forecast.

Planning on driving to Cheltenham

It’s important to bear in mind that around two-thirds of the festival car parks are actually on grass, these are ones that are accessible to the public. This is important to keep in mind when deciding on footwear especially if the weather conditions are wet or have been in the run-up to the festival.

Fancy Dress at Cheltenham

Fancy dress is allowed to be worn at the festival however, if it is of an obscene or offensive nature you may be refused entry. If you plan on entering the Club Enclosure during the festival, fancy dress is not permitted at all. If you want to wear fancy dress we’d advise attending on Thursday as that is when they are more prominent due to it being St Patrick's Thursday. Try to avoid wearing fancy dress on Gold Cup day as it may potentially be frowned upon.

Cheltenham Bag Policy

Racegoers are encouraged to leave all bags at home or at a hotel. All bags will be searched when entering the Cheltenham festival. This will cause delays so please leave extra time for your bag to be searched when attending.

Small bags such as handbags and backpacks (of an appropriate size) will be allowed into the course providing they contain no contraband and are limited to one per person. Larger bags such as holdalls, suitcases, hiking backpacks or any other large item will not be allowed in. In such cases, racegoers can use the luggage facilities. There may be exceptions for medical items if you contact the course before attending.

Betting at the festival

As mentioned before, Cheltenham is one of the biggest betting events of the year with millions of pounds being bet on the festival every single year. If you’re someone who is going to be looking at betting on the festival there is an array of different ways that you’ll be able to do this. To see all the ways that you can bet on the Cheltenham Festival see our Cheltenham Betting Guide for a full walkthrough of the different ways of betting such as online, on course, using betting exchanges, ante-post or any other way you could think of placing a bet.

Finding Cheltenham Tips

With so many different horses running at the festival it can often be overwhelming, especially for people who haven’t bet on the horses before. Everyone has an opinion as to why they’re backing different horses. However, our team watches the form of all of the horses in the run-up to the festival to bring you our best Cheltenham Tips. By heading over to one of our Cheltenham Tips pages you’ll be able to see in-depth tips for each race explaining our thoughts and why we’ve tipped each horse.

If you’re looking for tips for a specific day or to back ante-post, see our pages for each day of the festival here:

punters betting at the cheltenham festival

Selecting the best odds

With each bookmaker offering different odds on horses entered into each of the 7 races daily it can be difficult to go through each and find the best price. For this reason, we’ve put together a unique Cheltenham Odds page that features links to each race at the festival. By choosing the race you want to see the odds for, you’ll be greeted by a live odds grid that features all of the content from the UK’s top bookmakers.

This gives you the opportunity to compare and select the best odds for the festival. You’ll then be able to click on the odds you want and add them directly to your bet slip. The different race odds comparison can be found here:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Key races of the festival

With 7 races a day there are 28 races in total over the four day period. Some of these are more esteemed than others with and are known as Championship Races. In total there are 4 Championship races, one each day. These races are highly anticipated and in turn, there is a lot of excitement surrounding them. Each of the main Championship races are as follows:

Tuesday - Champion Hurdle 15:30 (3:30)

The main race of day one is the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy which is run over a length of 2 miles and half a furlong. It is the fourth race of the day when the event is truly in full swing. In recent years the race has produced some prolific winners such as Buveur d’Air who won the race in 2017 (5/1) and then again in 2018 (4/6F).
In terms of the betting trends of this race, trainers to keep an eye on include Willie Mullins who has won it 4 times in the last 10 years. Nicky Henderson is also someone to keep on your radar for this race with a similar 4 wins in the last 10 years. I’d also keep an eye on horses owned by J.P.McManus as his horses have won 5 times over the last 10 years with the last three winners all being owned by him.

Wednesday - Queen Mother Chase 15:30 (3:30)

Day two features the 2 mile long Queen Mother Champion Steeplechase. As with all Championship races it takes place in the middle of the card and has by far the biggest purse at £400,000. Over the past couple of years, one horse has dominated this race, Altior. He has won in 2018 (1/1) and again last year 2019 (4/11).

When looking at the betting trends of recent years one trainer stands out from his counterparts, that trainer being Nicky Henderson. With 5 wins over the past 10 years and winning 3 of the past 4, he’s certainly one to watch for this year's iteration. Henry de Bromhead and Paul Nicholls also have relatively good records in this race in recent years.

Thursday - The Stayers’ Hurdle 15:30 (3:30)

There are two bumper races on day three with the Ryanair Steeple Chase being a big one at 14:50 however the main one of the day is The Stayers Hurdle ran over a distance of 3 miles. This race has produced some legendary horses in the past most notably Big Buck’s who won the race in 4 consecutive years from 2009-2012. No horse has won it more than once since then. Willie Mullins is the recent most successful trainer in this race winning in 2017 & 2018 with different horses, jockeys & owners each time. One thing to note about the race is that the past three winning horses have all been years old.

Friday - Cheltenham Gold Cup 15:30 (3:30)

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the pinnacle of the Cheltenham Festival. Featuring the biggest purse at £625,000, the race on the final day is the one that everyone wants to win. The fact that only Nicky Henderson has won the race more than once in the last 10 years shows you it really is a highly competitive race. Willie Mullins won the race last year for the first time with 7-year-old Al Boum Photo and Paul Townend on board.

As mentioned previously there are no patterns or dominant trainers at the Gold Cup. It will really come down to which horse performs on the day but one things for sure it will be a true battle for the ultimate prize in horse racing.

How can I calculate my bets at Cheltenham

If you’ve bet online during the Cheltenham Festival and created a multiples bet such as a Lucky 15 then you may need to calculate your potential returns at some point. If in an EW lucky 15 one of your horses only places then you may want to calculate the returns you’ll get if the remainder of the horses win or place. You can do this via our Free Cheltenham Betting Calculate. On that page you’ll easily be able to work out an array of different bet types that you may be interested in working out the returns of.