Beginner’s Guide to the Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Festival Beginners Guide 2024

The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the jump racing calendar and one of the biggest horse racing events of the year.

If you’re new to horse racing and you’re interested in attending, watching or simply betting on this festival, then there is lots of information that you may want to know. To help you out, we’ve covered all of the key pieces of info right here, from how to bet at Cheltenham to the Cheltenham dress code and everything in between.

cheltenham festival racegoers ladies day

Cheltenham Dress Code

There is no official dress code at the Cheltenham Festival or any of the other meetings held at Cheltenham Racecourse throughout the year. However, due to the high calibre of this event, many punters do ‘dress to impress’.

That said, the Cheltenham Festival is held in March and the conditions can be rather wintery. As a result, the racecourse suggests that you prioritise comfort over style and come “dressed to feel your best”. They only ask that you don’t wear offensive fancy dress or the shirt of a sports team.

If you’re unsure on how to dress at the Cheltenham Festival, then here is a rough guide for different scenarios:

Women’s Cheltenham Dress Code

If the weather is good, then most ladies will wear a dress and a hat to the festival. On ‘Ladies Day’ particularly, bright and extravagant dresses are often on display. That said, it’s important to remember that the racecourse is exposed to the elements and there can be a lot of wind. Due to this, it’s recommended that ladies also bring layers, or a proper winter coat.

For many women considering what to wear to Cheltenham races, high heels will be the obvious option. However, you must remember that you’ll likely be standing for hours at a time. For this reason, if you’re planning on wearing heels, then it may be advisable to also bring a pair of flats.

Men’s Cheltenham Dress Code

Gentlemen will usually wear a suit to the festival if they are planning on entering the Club Enclosure or any of the hospitality facilities. But, more relaxed styles are also welcome. In most areas, jeans and trainers are acceptable attire.

Again though, when deciding what to wear to Cheltenham races, men must remember the elements. It’s advisable to check the weather forecast and pack either an umbrella and/or an anorak or thick coat.

Fancy Dress at Cheltenham

Generally speaking, you are allowed to wear fancy dress at the Cheltenham Festival. However, if it is of an obscene or offensive nature, then you may be refused entry.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that fancy dress is not permitted inside the Club Enclosure during the festival.

That said, the Thursday of the festival is a popular option for those who want to wear fancy dress. This is because it’s also Saint Patrick’s Day. Fancy dress is less common on the Friday of the festival, when the Gold Cup is held.

Cheltenham Bag Policy

Racegoers are encouraged to leave all bags at home or at a hotel near Cheltenham Racecourse. All bags will be searched when entering the Cheltenham Festival. This can 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, but it’s recommended that you contact the course about this before attending.

How to Get to Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham Racecourse is just a five-minute drive from Cheltenham Town Centre. If you’re driving, then the racecourse has a number of car parks, where you can pay to leave your car. Buying your parking in advance is advised. The racecourse recommends that you use the postcode GL50 4HS in your sat nav.

Lots of punters attending the Cheltenham Festival choose to drink. As a result, when deciding how to get to the Cheltenham Festival, they often choose the train. Thankfully, Cheltenham Spa train station is only a short bus ride away from the racecourse. Buses depart directly from Cheltenham Spa and drop punters at the main entrance.

Where to Stay Near Cheltenham Racecourse

The Cheltenham Festival is a major event and a day of racing does last for the entire day.

For this reason, lots of people attending the Cheltenham Festival choose to stay overnight. Thankfully, there are lots of hotels near Cheltenham Racecourse that will accommodate punters.

When looking for hotels near Cheltenham Racecourse, it’s important to remember that lots of places do sell out quickly and many visitors will return to the same hotel year after year. For this reason, if you’re booking at the last-minute, you may need to book somewhere slightly further afield. Fortunately, there are options to suit every budget and taste in the surrounding Cotswold villages.

Whether you’d like something lavish, a budget option that’s close to the action or a quaint B&B where you can leisurely get ready before Ladies Day, you’re sure to find a hotel near Cheltenham Racecourse that meets your needs.

punters betting at the cheltenham festival

Betting at the Cheltenham Festival

As mentioned before, Cheltenham is one of the biggest betting events of the year. Every year, punters bet millions of pounds on races like the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Attending the festival and wondering how to bet at Cheltenham? Take a look at our Cheltenham Betting Guide. Here we’ve provided a thorough breakdown of all the ways you can bet on the Cheltenham Festival, including online and on-course options like bookmakers and betting exchanges.

How Can I Calculate My Bets at Cheltenham?

If you’re betting online during the Cheltenham Festival and creating a multiples bet like a Lucky 15, then you may need to calculate your potential returns at some point.

For example, if you’ve placed an EW Lucky 15 and one of your horses only places, then you may want to calculate the returns you’ll get if the remainder of the horses on the betslip either win or place. You can do this via our free Cheltenham Betting Calculator.

Finding Cheltenham Tips

At the Cheltenham Festival, 28 races take place over four days. Due to this, picking the right horse can feel overwhelming. This is particularly the case if you haven’t bet on horse racing before.

One of the great things about the Cheltenham Festival is the great range of opinions and tips from experts. Here at The Winners Enclosure, our expert team carefully studies the form of all of the horses in the run-up to the festival and consistently brings you the very best Cheltenham tips out there.

As well as providing you with information on how to bet at Cheltenham, we also offer all the best tips as well as our thoughts on why we’ve tipped each horse. This way, you can check our logic aligns with yours!

Looking for tips for a specific day or a horse that you can back ante post? You can see our pages for each day of the festival here:

Selecting the Best Odds

Each bookmaker provides different odds on the horses that are entered into each of the 7 daily races. As a result, it can be difficult to 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. Simply choose the race you want to see the odds for and 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 your chosen race. You’ll then be able to click on the odds you want and add them directly to your bet slip.

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Key Races of the Festival

28 races take place across the four-day festival, with 7 races featured each day. Some of these are more esteemed than others, and they are known as Championship Races. In total there are 4 Championship races, one each day. They are:

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 meeting and for many it signifies the fact that the festival is in full swing.

In recent years, the race has produced some prolific winners such as Buveur d’Air, who won it back-to-back in 2017 and 2018. Similarly, Honeysuckle also claimed back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022. Other recent winners include Faugheen (2015), Annie Power (2016) and Constitution Hill, who won last year.

In terms of the betting trends for this race, trainers to keep an eye on include Nicky Henderson, who has won it a total of nine times, including five times since 2010. It’s also worth looking out for horses owned by J.P. McManus, as he has won this race nine times.

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

Day two features the 2-mile-long Queen Mother Champion Chase. As with all Championship races, it’s the fourth race on the card. It also offers an eye-watering purse of £400,000. Altior famously won this race in both 2018 and 2019, and this feat was followed by Energumene, who claimed the crown in both 2022 and 2023.

When looking at the betting trends of recent years one trainer stands out from his counterparts: Nicky Henderson. He’s had three winners in the last decade and six overall. 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)

The feature race on Thursday is The Stayers’ Hurdle, which is run over a distance of 3 miles. This race has produced some legendary horses in the past. Most notably, it was won in four consecutive years by Big Buck’s. Since, it has also been won twice by Flooring Porter.

Paul Nicholls is the most successful trainer in this race in recent years. He trained Big Buck’s before all four of his wins. The now retired Ruby Walsh has five wins as a jockey.

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

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the biggest prize on offer at the Cheltenham Festival. It features the largest purse at £625,000 and it’s the race that everyone wants to win.

The fact that only Al Boum Photo has won the race more than once in the last 10 years shows you how highly competitive it is. That said, the duo of Paul Townend and Willie Mullins have won three out of the last five Gold Cups.