FRIDAY 1st JANUARY 2016
ENTERANCE £25 ADVANCED £30 ON THE DAY
I travelled here by train, the station is about 1 mile to the town centre and about another mile to the course. There is a good bus service to the course, which also stops in the town. I usually get the bus into town and have a couple of drinks then walk up to the course. If you're travelling by car the course is well sign posted. The roads do get busy in the local area so if your are travelling here by car do leave plenty of time for your journey. Cheltenham have introduced a new traffic flow and parking policy for this season, but on both occasions I have visited this season I've used the train but talking to regular members of the course they have told me that since the introduction of this system it has made visiting by car a lot worse saying it now takes over an hour longer to get to the course and getting away after racing, with a couple of them saying it was so much worse they missed the first 2 races.
The bookies at Cheltenham are located in 4 different locations around the course. The main betting ring is situated in front of the grandstand in tatts, on this day there were 34 bookies in the ring. Minimum stakes ranged from £1 - £5 win or EW, the rail bookmakers here have minimum stakes ranging from £2 - £5 win or EW. In between the hot whiskey stand and the See You Then bar on the upper tier overlooking the paddock there were 8 bookies with minimum stakes of £2 - £5 win or EW. Towards the bottom end of the paddock there were 10 bookies who again had minimum stakes of £2 - £5 win or EW. The last area where they had bookies was along the horse walk leaving the paddock towards the course, here the minimum stakes were £5 win or EW. When the festival is on they usually have bookies inside, in the Centaur and in the Guinness village also. The Tote windows are situated all around the course which were well staffed. Apart from these, there is a Ladbrokes shop in the Centaur, and a Betfred shop above the paddock and in the main grandstand in Tatts. If you want to use your phone to place your bets or check the internet coverage it can be hit or miss, the best place I found for coverage was towards the bottom of the paddock towards the course. The Jockey Club do offer free Wi-Fi which is the only way to get any coverage inside the grandstands. If you had used the internet to check how the OLBG tips performed on the day it, would have showed they picked 4 of the 7 winners.
There's plenty of choice for eating and drinking around the course which has been made better with the new developments at Cheltenham. These range from takeaway vans for food, to restaurants (which need to be pre-booked), or a carvery you, won't be stuck for a place to eat. There are plenty of bars and coffee outlets around the course as well. One word of warning, with the jockey Clubs use of temporary staff it is not always easy to get served, as it took me over 30 minutes to get a coffee at the Costa in the Quevaga bar. The staff they had on, some couldn't speak English and couldn't work out the change needed from a £20 note! If you want an alcoholic drink there's plenty of choice around the course, if you don't mind bottled beers the quickest place to get served is in the Quevaga bar, it doesn't have draught beers but being out in the open can get a bit nippy when it's cold. Also after racing they stagger the times the bars close, some will close straight after the last race while others will stay open longer.
With the upgrade of the facilities at Cheltenham, moving around the course has been made a lot easier. The viewing of the paddock is a lot better now with the introduction of a paddock terrace, you now have more room to view it as they have 2 levels. You have a very good view of the course from the stands. The viewing lawns offer good views also, being higher than the track and having 2 large screens. The only trouble on the day, the one screen towards the winning line had a problem with the pictures breaking up, which didn't help if you were watching the racing from the grandstand above the betting ring you couldn't hear the race commentary. The place I do like to watch the race from is by the last hurdle or fence. From here you have a good view of a big screen and can hear the commentary, but you can also get a good clear view of the action as the horses take the last obstacle. If you prefer to watch the racing from inside, they have a big screen in the Centaur which has a couple of bars and shows races from other UK racecourses.
The course at Cheltenham is left handed, galloping and undulating which places an emphasis on stamina with a steep run in of about 4 furlongs. They race mainly on 2 courses, the new or the old course. The old course is roughly 1 ½ miles in length with the new course on the outside of this, so it's slightly longer and not so sharp. Flat bred horses also seem to do better in hurdle races on the new course as there are only 2 hurdles in the last ¾ of a mile. You do need a horse who's a good jumper around here as the fences are stiff and unforgiving. There is also a 3rd course, the cross country course which is a mix of fences, hurdles, ditches, and rails which is a great spectacle to watch, here previous form in cross country races can be a great advantage.
On the whole Cheltenham has to be my favourite course, a place with great facilities and top class racing. They offer great views of the racing from the stands and you can get close up by going down to the final hurdle or fence. The new development here has made moving around the course easier and viewing the paddock better. Also in bad weather they have plenty of shelter from the elements.