This October sees the start of the 2023/24 season at Cheltenham Racecourse. There’s a sense of anticipation across the Cotswolds. This is, after all, horse and hound country, with trainers and owners dotted around the area.
Our Broadway Hotel is owned by enthusiastic lovers of the sport, and the hotel is always especially buzzy - and busy - during race meetings.
A Beginner’s Guide
Horse racing divides into the summer sport of flat racing (at places such as Ascot, Epsom, Newmarket) and jump racing (as at Cheltenham or Aintree) which tends to be in the winter months. Cheltenham is all about jump racing which is often called the ‘National Hunt’.
Apart from whether or not the horses jump, there are other differences between the two sports. Both styles of racing have their own followers.
Flat racing (known as ‘The Flat’) tends to be just that, with manicured flat courses. Jump Racing courses have more undulations - in the case of Cheltenham this includes a famous uphill finish, - which adds to the drama. Flat racing is, relatively speaking, a sprint, whilst jumping is more of an endurance sport, with the character and nature of the best horses dictated by what is demanded of them on the course. That might be true of the jockeys too.
Within jumping, you’ll see references to ‘Hurdle’ and ‘Chase’ races. To simplify, hurdles could be described as the ‘entry level’ of jump racing (the hurdles being lower, and more yielding, obstacles). Many horses move on to fence jumping, where the jumps are around 5 feet high. Finally, some fences have a ditch in front of them as well.
England has a seasonal climate and so there is a difference in dress codes that has evolved over the years. Summer flat racing is all about suits, fascinators and dresses, while the wintry Jump Racing season has a more democratic feel, with warmer attire needed. That said, Jump Meetings are still an opportunity to dress up, albeit in jackets and tweed, plus warm boots and caps. At a jump racing meeting the only real fashion error is to look cold, so country style is the way to go.
In summary, Cheltenham Racecourse - Prestbury Park - is a beautiful course, framed by the Cotswold hills. It’s a home of jump racing between October and April. You can visit without feeling intimidated by a dress code, but you’ll rarely feel overdressed if you decide to make a day of it. The racing itself is thrilling, a place where household names such as Sir AP McCoy and Ruby Walsh built their reputations.
The National Hunt season focal point is Cheltenham Festival, with its 28 races over four days. The showpiece is the Gold Cup race on the last day, watched on TV around the world - and by many office sweepstake ticket holders.
A Little Racing History
The first large-scale meeting took place in 1815, coinciding with Cheltenham’s boom as a spa town in the decades following a visit by King George III in1788.
Over the decades, racing grew in popularity, leading eventually to criticism from a local Reverend, Francis Close. The meeting was disrupted by protests in 1830 and the grandstand was mysteriously destroyed by fire before the following year’s meeting.
To calm things down, the racecourse was moved, in 1831, to its current home in Prestbury Park. The Gold Cup race was established in 1924.
These days, ‘The Festival’ is a much-loved event that attracts an annual ‘Irish Invasion’
from this famously horse-loving nation. The seeds were planted with a remarkable three consecutive wins by Arkle, an Irish horse, in the 1960s. Nowadays, more than 100 horses make the trip every year, along with thousands of racing fans. The sign at Dublin airport that read ‘last one out turn off the lights’ before Cheltenham race week a few years ago had a grain of truth to it!
There is a strong rivalry between the home team of British-trained runners and the visitors from Ireland. To celebrate this, the ‘Prestbury Cup’ is awarded to the successful nation, once 14 wins have been achieved by either side (there are 28 races). The Irish raiders have been doing well recently - in 2022 the score was 18 Irish winners to Great Britain’s 10.
The 2023/24 Race Season at Cheltenham
Friday 27th & 28th Oct The Showcase
Friday 17th - 19th Nov The November Meeting
Friday 15th & 16th December The Christmas Meeting
Monday 1st January 2033 New Year’s Day Racing
Saturday 27th January Festival Trials Day
Tuesday 12th - 15th March The Festival
Wednesday 17th & 18th April The April Meeting
Friday 3rd May Race Night Featuring Hunter Chase Racing
The Broadway Hotel and Cheltenham Races
The Broadway Hotel’s relaxed ambience is loved by our guests, with art and objects inspired by dogs and horses contributing to the ‘country’ design style in the hotel.
Racing is so close to our hearts that our bar is the ‘Jockey Bar’ and our Brasserie ‘Tattersalls’ - and each of our bedrooms is named after a famous Cheltenham winner. Appropriately, our luxurious Abbots Room is named ‘Arkle’, after the star horse that won three Gold Cup races in the 1960s. Amongst other rooms, you might spot your own favorite (no pun intended) such as Desert Orchid, Denman, Best Mate, Kauto Star or Kicking King.
Book very early if you’d like to stay with us on race days but in any event we’re one of the ‘places to be’ whilst race meeings are on, be it for morning coffee over a copy of the Racing Post or Champagne in the bar if you’re returning after a good day on the course.
Incidentally, New Tear’s Day racing is an excellent way to start the New Year - perhaps by adding an extra night’s stay after enjoying our New Year’s Eve package!