Cheltenham Racecourse is one of the major horse racings circuit you can see in England and Cheltenham Festival is its main event, which culminates with the Gold Cup, on the last day of races.
Cheltenham Racecourse is located in Prestbury Park, where it moved in 1831 after disruption at the old course in Nottingham Hill.
Here you can see two separate courses alongside each other, the Old and the New one, which also has a tricky downhill fence.
The pictures you can see here were shot on the Gold Cup day, on 13th February 2020, which is the last day of Festival and the most important one.
When buying the tickets you can choose between three main cathegories: best mate (cheaper but with less possibility to move around), tattersalls (I think the best you can get for a non exaggerate price) and club (let’s say the luxury one, with the best views of the races).
Once in you’ll find like a small town, cheltenham racecourse is indeed huge, with shops, big screens that show the races and later on, when getting closer to the races, horses everywhere.
In my case the gates where opening at 10.30 and that’s when I got in, because for the Gold Cup it is usually really really busy and I didn’t want to spend to long in line. I decided to get in quite early to plan where to shot and to understand how the course was structured, but if you only want to see the real action I would say to get in later on, the first race was indeed at 1.30pm and there wasn’t any horse around until around 1pm.
Above here you can see a rough map of Cheltenham Racecourse so that you can plan how to move around in order to see as much action as possible.
Before the races the horses are kept in the stables, where you cannot enter without a special permission, so the first place where you can see them will be the Pre-Parade Ring, around 20 minutes before their race. Here they will be shown before being saddled and many people go there to assess their conditions before the races and decide who to bet on.
After they will move to the Parade Ring, where a larger amount of people will be able to see them and where the jockeys will join them about 10 minutes before the race starts.
Being Cheltenham Racecourse structured in a way that allows people to see the horses as much as possible, you will be able to follow the jockeys and the horses for the whole time, also when getting from the Parade Ring to the course itself.
Here the starting point will vary depending on which rece you’re watching, the only thing that will stay the same is the finishing line.
Here you will see the main differences in the kind of ticket you bought, the Best Mate doesn’t allow you to move around too much, while with the Tattersalls ticket you will have two main points to go to watch the race from and they will be at the two sides of the Club area, which will be the only one right in front of the finishing line.
Something to keep in mind is that for more popular events like this one you will never be able to see all the actions of the same race and you will have to choose what to see and when.
This is because the racecourse is really big and a huge amount of people crowds in front of the paddocks and the course before the horses reach them, so what I can advice is to go there at least 10 minutes before the horses come to take the best place, so for example if you are at the pre-parade ring it is better if you skip the parade one and go straight to find a good spot in front of the course, or that if you see the horses and the jockeys at the Parade Ring you then stay there to see them when they come back after the race to be cooled down.
I personally didn’t bet any money because I am not a fan of it and the only reason why I visited the racecourse is because after 3 years living in Cheltenham I felt like I wanted to experiment something that is part of the English culture, even if I do not share it.
It is indeed evident how much the horses are pushed to do the best possible, sometimes going beyond their limits and unfortunately accidents are not unusual in this kind of events. This is why I do not share the “values” that makes the horse races so popular here, but still, it was really interesting to document the excitement of the people that actively took part in them.
If you are interested you can see some more pictures on my official photography website.