Why does Cheltenham racecourse have an Old Course and a New Course? What’s the differences between the two?

Paddy explains why there is an Old and New Course at the Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham racecourse

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When it comes to the Cheltenham Festival, horse racing betting is all about gauging the small details of horses, for guides, the racecourse and jockeys to determine who might win races.

This isn’t an easy task, even for experienced racing betting aficionados. That’s why Paddy Power is here to help with our series of Demystifying Racing guides, which is currently focusing on the Cheltenham Festival.

In this guide we will look at the Old Course and the New Course at Cheltenham, and explain why there are two courses used during the Festival. You’ll also learn which horses are better suited to which courses, and how this can aid your picks when betting.

How is Cheltenham Racecourse set up?

If you’ve heard about the Old and New Courses at Cheltenham then you can likely guess that yes, there are two courses that overlap and diverge from each other at this racecourse. The reason for two courses is to provide different racing challenges for the horses, which means a wider variation of races can be staged during the four-day Cheltenham Festival.

Both courses naturally end at the finishing post in front of Cheltenham’s grandstands and both loop anti-clockwise into the countryside. But there is a split where the New Course extends further into the distance, which creates perfect conditions for longer races.

Knowing which course is being run will give you a better insight into how certain horses will fare, which we will examine in closer detail later in this guide.

Cheltenham racecourse

Cheltenham racecourse is iconic in UK and Irish horse racing (GETTY)

What is the Cheltenham Old Course?

The Cheltenham Old Course is the original course that covers a shorter, tighter and more gentle run. It is less demanding than the New Course and its loop back towards the finish post cuts in much earlier.

Because of this, the Cheltenham Old Course is used for speedier horses who love to charge on a loosened rope, rather than the more steady, disciplined horses featured in longer steeplechase races on the New Course.

The last half-mile of the Old Course is uphill and there are tighter turns. Yet there is usually fewer changes of the lead on this course compared to its sister course. There are only four starting positions for the Old Course, including one in front of the grandstand.

The Old Course is used on Tuesday and Wednesday at Cheltenham, which means betting on horse racing often focuses on more excitable sprinters during these two days.

What is the Cheltenham New Course?

As you may have guessed, the Cheltenham New Course came after the Old Course and runs in a wider arch into the countryside before coming back towards the grandstands. The additional bend on the New Course offers a wider racetrack and features a more gradual charge towards the final straight.

The New Course is used for more durable steeplechases at Cheltenham Festival, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It breaks from the Old Course after an open ditch and features just two extra jumps before the charge to the post begins.

There is a monster climb to the top of the hill on the New Course, which makes it a stamina-sapping run. Because of this, trainers will generally field their most durable horses for races on the New Course, which at the Cheltenham Festival take place on the Thursday and Friday.

Strong stayers are best equipped to succeed on the New Course.

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