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Gate Receipts

Well over 200,000 spectators attend the four days of The Festival. With ticket prices ranging from £20 to £80, the estimated gate receipts total around £7m.

Admission is usually available on the day at the course on the first three days of the Festival – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Friday – Cheltenham day 4 – otherwise known as Gold Cup day, is usually sold out in advance.

Cheltenham Festival Betting

Cheltenham Festival is a massively important betting event and one that can fundamentally affect the annual profits of bookmakers. Indeed, so important is the Cheltenham races that in 2003 when favorites won half of the races at the meeting, the Festival was blamed by the major Cheltenham betting bookmaking firms for significantly lower than expected profits that year. Through their 8,500 betting shops, telephone betting and online operations, Britain’s bookmakers put a great emphasis on the 27 races that comprise the Festival. Something approaching £600m (over half a billion pounds) is staked on the outcome of those 27 events.

The Festival also accounts for around 10 percent of the Tote’s annual on-course pool betting turnover (not bad for four days’ racing out of the fixture list consisting of well over 1,000 meetings), while at least £1 million pounds change hands on every race in the betting ring at the racecourse, whether that’s on offers, promotions or Cheltenham free bets, with over 250 bookmakers in attendance for each day of The Festival.

Catering

Racecourse caterers Letheby & Christopher serve some 20,000 bottles of champagne, 30,000 bottles of wine, 240,000 bottles of beer & lager, and 220,000 pints of Ireland’s national drink, Guinness, as well as 10,000 gallons of tea and coffee to Cheltenham Festival racegoers. Whilst around 12,000 people each day sit down to three or four-course lunches in the various restaurants and hospitality areas, the remainder of the crowd eat into a pile of burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches that if laid end to end, would stretch almost three miles!

Transport

When over 65,000 people converge on Cheltenham, as they do on Cheltenham day 1 Champions day, they come in every form of transport you can imagine. Race sponsor (and official airline to The Festival) Ryanair bring a vast throng of racegoers from Ireland, staging up to 20 additional flights to their normal schedule to Birmingham, Bristol, and East Midlands. Train operators Cross Country Trains, First Great Western and Virgin Trains all run additional services throughout the week. And Cheltenham’s very own steam railway brings several hundred spectators each day the eight miles from its station at nearby Toddington. 

On a local level, taxi firms do significantly more business in Festival week than in any other week of the year. Typically, 30,000 cars, 2,000 coaches and 50 stretch limos bring people to the races and there are up to 650 helicopter landings at the course during the meeting, making it the busiest temporary airfield anywhere in the country – and that includes Silverstone on British Grand Prix day. Last, but by no means least, many people staying in town just walk to the Cheltenham Racecourse – the best way to beat the traffic.

Cash

The Cheltenham Festival racecourses are a place where a great deal of cash changes hands, whether in bars, the betting ring or with the Tote. Except via Tote vouchers that can be purchased on the day, no bookmaker will accept a debit card on the racecourse, so best to come with banknotes. In 2009, almost £1.2m was drawn from the 20 cashpoints around the site – refilling pockets, handbags, and wallets before returning to the battle against the Cheltenham betting bookies.

Staying in Cheltenham

Cheltenham Tourism estimates that around 10,000 beds each night are filled during Festival week, ranging from four-star accommodation to local B & Bs. And night clubs and bars around Cheltenham all benefit from the uplift in the numbers in Cheltenham. Gloucestershire Tourism put the value of the Festival to the wider local economy at £50 million.

Shopping

Being at The Festival is not just about racing. There are 80 stands selling everything from wellies to wine, silverware to Spanish property and books to binoculars. You could even treat yourself to a handmade rocking horse. With hundreds of thousands of pounds changing hands at the Festival, this is a four-day micro-economy in its own right at the Cheltenham enclosures.

As befits the UK’s premier racecourse, Cheltenham festival enclosures offer a huge variety of viewing areas, bars, restaurants, hospitality, and entertainment.

Gates open at 10.30am on each of the four days of the Festival, and for the three hours before racing, and the hour and a half after, there is time to soak up the unique atmosphere amongst the trade stands, parades, music, and entertainment that fill the Cheltenham racecourse during the week.

Best Mate Enclosure Cheltenham

The Best Mate Enclosure gives racegoers a great view of the racing as well as access to a variety of food outlets, betting shops, and Cheltenham bars and pubs. The enclosure is directly opposite the main stands and, at the Festival, entertainment often includes leading ‘cover’ bands.

Tattersalls Enclosure Cheltenham

Cheltenham enclosures like the Tattersalls grandstand provides extensive views of the course, a betting hall, bars, and food outlets. Racegoers in Tattersalls have access to The Centaur, Paddock, unsaddling enclosure, the Hall of Fame, the Gold Cup and Festival Restaurants, the trade stands in the tented village and all bookmakers in the betting ring.

At the Festival, the Guinness Village, opposite the last fence, extends the Tattersalls enclosure with extra viewing steps, bars, bands, and other entertainment.

Club Enclosure Cheltenham

Club, as its name suggests, is the most exclusive enclosure with the best viewing, refreshment outlets, and betting areas. The purchase of a Club day badge for the Festival also entitles racegoers to use all of the facilities within Tattersalls. At the Festival, the chalets and boxes in the tented village area in the Club enclosure.

The Centaur

With access from the Hall of Fame, the Centaur acts are one of the Cheltenham enclosures that provide over 1000 additional seats, a big screen to watch all the racing, tote pool and other Cheltenham betting tip outlets, food, and bars. This facility is available to racegoers in Club and Tattersalls and operates as one of the Cheltenham festival enclosures that are popular both during and after racing at the Festival – hosting live music and revelry after the last race of each of the four days.

Cheltenham Festival Enclosure Seats

Seats can be booked in the Tattersalls, Guinness Stand and the Head On Stand for all four days of the Festival meeting (subject to availability). Reservations can be made online or by phone.

Trade Stands

Trade stands are located around the paddock, with the majority in the tented village. Stand details are printed on the racecard.

Disabled Facilities

Disabled facilities are available in each enclosure for race viewing and also in an area overlooking the parade ring. Normal rates of admission are charged for those in wheelchairs and their friends. There is an area reserved for car parking for members who have applied for a disabled label. The car park staff are briefed to allow cars displaying a disabled driver label to park as close as possible to the entrances and various Cheltenham racecourses. For those with hearing difficulties, Cheltenham enclosures are tailored with an induction loop that enhances the commentary for racegoers on part of the Tattersalls steps.

Are you going to the Cheltenham Festival for the first time? We give some valuable do’s and don’t to ensure you get the maximum enjoyment from your trip to the Festival and to get the most from the experience so you’ll keep coming back again every year.

Every year at the Cheltenham Festival, more than 200,000 people will descend on the Cotswolds town and racecourse to eat, drink, be merry and hopefully relieve the bookies of a few quid in the process!

The Cheltenham Festival experience can be thoroughly enjoyable, where the very best of equine National Hunt talent lock horns over four days of top-class racing, and where the public and celebrities mingle. While the Grand National in April may capture the imagination of the general public more, those more passionate horse racing aficionados can be found at Cheltenham.

Of course, not everyone goes to Cheltenham for the racing and betting isn’t mandatory for those just going along for the atmosphere and spectacle that will unfold. However, a vast proportion of those who will visit Cheltenham on any of the four days will be there to place their Cheltenham Festival tips, and we’ve put together a handy guide to help you get the most out of the Cheltenham Experience – especially if it is your first time visiting the ‘greatest show on turf’!

Thousands of people will descend on the Cotswolds for the latest Cheltenham Festival, from novice racegoers through to veteran attendees.

Thousands of people will descend on the Cotswolds for the latest Cheltenham Festival, from novice racegoers through to veteran attendees.

Cheltenham Festival ‘Do’s’

1. As you’re likely to be at the racecourse for a large part of the day, make sure you have a big breakfast, especially if you’re planning to imbibe the alcoholic beverages. This is important to slow the absorption of alcohol, but also because many of the fast-food outlets are grossly expensive for the fare they provide; £10 for a half-cooked burger and chips so hard you could hit a golf ball off them doesn’t make for a particularly appetizing snack.

2. Dress appropriately. Remember it’s March, and it will still feel nippy in the air, even if the sun comes out. There’s also the potential for rain, so take a warm jacket. The ‘beer jacket’ in the best Cheltenham bars won’t cut it later when the temperature drops!

3. Ladies, unless you’re lucky enough to bag a seat somewhere, remember you’re likely to be on your feet for a good proportion of the day, so it may be an idea to pack a pair of flat shoes for when the stiletto heels get too much.

For ladies, a pair of flat-heeled shoes could be just the tonic for sore, tired feet at the end of a long day in stiletto heels.

For ladies, a pair of flat-heeled shoes could be just the tonic for sore, tired feet at the end of a long day in stiletto heels.

If you fancy an outsider in the race, check the Tote prices as tote-betting works differently to the betting ring, and you can often (not always) get much better odds via the Tote than you would via normal betting methods.

4. If you do venture into the betting ring to place a wager, be vocal. Remember that unlike in betting shops, there is no queuing system in the betting ring; it isn’t a place for a shrinking violet, so if you want to place a bet then you do need to find your voice, act quickly and be confident in placing your bet. Those around you won’t wait for you and you’ll simply be pushed out of the way.

5. Shop around for the best price in the betting ring; one bookmaker might be offering 3/1 about your fancy on the Day 4 Gold Cup tips, but a couple of pitches down you could find 7/2. The bigger-hitting punters can often be found around the front row of the bookmaker pitches, and towards the rails bookmakers; if you’re only betting small, consider moving down a row where it may be less crowded and you’ll get more chance of getting your bet on.

Remember though that the prices are fluid, and that 7/2 may be the best you’ll get so no point in being too greedy and going in search of 4/1, as by the time you get back to that bookie offering 7/2, it may have become 3/1 or 11/4, and you’ll have lost out.

Similarly, each-way terms differ from bookmaker to bookmaker, as too does their minimum stake, so check these carefully. Consider for yourself whether a bookmaker offering 7/1 but paying 5 places is preferable to a bookmaker going 8/1 but only paying 4 places across Cheltenham Day 1-4.

The Cheltenham Betting Ring can be intimidating for novice punters.

The Cheltenham Betting Ring can be intimidating for novice punters.

6. Even if you’re not betting, get involved with the crowd. Join in the Cheltenham roar as the tapes go up; stand at the rails and soak in the electric atmosphere around you as punters shout home their fancies.

7. Do be tolerant of others. Cheltenham is invariably crowded, and people will brush past you, or bump into you (especially if they’re worse for wear!) and some will be just rude, pushing into queues for the toilet, food queues, etc. Don’t let others spoil your own enjoyment.

The ‘Don’ts’

1. Don’t go expecting to win loads of money or make your fortune. Sure, you might back a winner or two, but with many big fields throughout the four days, there’s sure to be a few big-priced winners. Short-priced favorites too can – and often do – get turned over, so don’t go in too heavily in hope of getting a flyer, only to do your dough. Set a budget and stick to it, take only what cash you need for the day and leave the bank cards at home.

2. Many people going to Cheltenham will have a drink, but it is important not to get too drunk, especially if you’re betting and on a losing streak. Alcohol impairs judgment, and it can be tempting to try to chase losses from Champions Day through to the Gold Cup.

Getting plastered means you’re more likely also spend more time in the bar, or in the toilet – perhaps feeling sorry for yourself – and missing out on the best racing action of the year. Hardly money well spent!

Don't be like this guy at Ascot and drink to excess where you miss all the top-class racing!

Don’t be like this guy at Ascot and drink to excess where you miss all the top-class racing!

3. Forget about going in fancy dress. You and your mates might think it is funny, especially if you are on a stag/hen do; others though might just think you’re a plonker out to make a nuisance of yourself and spoil the occasion for others.

4. Ladies, if you’re wearing a hat, keep it small and simple. No-one wants to be staring into the back of your expensive millinery rather than watching the race unfold. Keep the big fancy hat for Royal Ascot!

5. Don’t go flashing your bulging wallet of £20 notes, and don’t boast about how much money you’ve won. No-one likes a boasting blow-hard, and you’ll just mark yourself out as a target to potential pick-pockets who may be listening nearby and wanting to get their hands on some Cheltenham free bets.

Also, keep your personal belongings close, and don’t leave handbags unattended at any time.

Won a few quid? Keep the fact to yourself - you don't know who is listening!

Won a few quid? Keep the fact to yourself – you don’t know who is listening!

6. Don’t buy the tips offered at the gates, car-parks or foot-paths leading to the entry gates. They are usually rubbish and offered by those who have done their cash already and are selling tips to raise the cash for another punt in the ring in the hope of getting their money back.

Don’t listen to on-course experts you’ll hear in the bar/toilet/betting shop/food queues either! Like our Cheltenham betting gurus, everyone is an expert at Cheltenham and you’ll be baffled by the countless conflicting opinions about ‘good things’ you’ll likely hear throughout the day.

Instead, study the form/pick the nicest colors or horse name/stick a pin… make up your own mind and back your own selection.

Above all the other rules though is the golden rule and biggest of them all: enjoy yourself! Attending the races during the Cheltenham Festival week is an experience to savor, and you’ll soon be hooked to the point where you won’t want the Festival to end, and will already be planning for next year!