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Known as the home of national hunt racing, Cheltenham Racecourse hosts the Cheltenham Festival, which includes several of the most prestigious steeplechase and hurdle events of the year including the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup and World Hurdle. Over the past decade Prestbury Park has been a site of continuous redevelopment as millions of pounds have been invested to improve the layout, drainage and safety of the Cheltenham racetrack.
The natural amphitheatre in Prestbury Park seemed like the logical site for horseracing in Gloucestershire once flat races had been banned from Nottingham Hill by a zealous local preacher. For much of the 1800s Prestbury park boasted no formal racing facilities besides a roughly drawn racetrack.
Cheltenham Racecourse came of age at the dawn of the twentieth century, when developer Baring Bingham bought the land, set up spectator facilities and organised the first Cheltenham Festival.
Within a few decades the Cheltenham Festival had transformed into one of the most important events on the racing calendar, placing Cheltenham Racecourse firmly on the map as one of England’s premier racing destinations.
Since Cheltenham Racecourse was purchased by the Jockey club in the 1960’s it has been subjected to virtually constant redevelopment, with the widening of the course to increase spectator capacity followed by the construction of the Tattersalls Grandstand, Panoramic Restaurant, landscaped paddock and a new 25 box parade ring.
Cheltenham Racecourse features three overlapping racetracks that take the rough form of a heart. Cheltenham Racecourse’s defining feature is the undulating turf, an irregular surface which presents a unique challenge to competitors.
The Cheltenham Old Course hosts the first two days of racing at the Cheltenham Festival. The Cheltenham Old Course comprises a left-handed 1 mile 4 furlong circuit featuring 9 fences and 6 hurdles. The Cheltenham turf undulations are most severe on the Cheltenham Old course.
The Cheltenham New Course is used for the 3rd and 4th days of the Cheltenham Festival. A left-handed 1 mile 4 furlong oval, the Cheltenham New Course comprises 10 fences and 6 hurdles. The severity of several Cheltenham New Course fences were recently downgraded to improve safety over this challenging course.
The Cheltenham Cross-Country Course interlinks the Cheltenham Old Course with the Cheltenham New Course in a rough figure-of-eight shape. Designed specifically for races over 4 miles, all the obstacles on the Cheltenham cross-country course are natural, which means that streams, ditches and growing shrubs are part of the challenge for horses taking on this demanding course.