What is the difference between Cheltenham’s Old Course and New Course?

Gold Cup 2008 - Denman

The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of National Hunt racing, with Owners, Trainers, and Jockeys alike contesting twenty-eight races over the four-day meeting. A large part of the venue’s appeal is the fact that it has two tracks, the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Courses. Both courses are left-handed and undulating, with stiff fences, and the last half-mile is tackled up the famous Cheltenham Hill – which has caught out many a strong travelling horse over the years.

This article will note the differences between the two courses, and hopefully, provide some pointers to which horses they will suit better than others. Our Cheltenham Festival Tips page is now live, with ante-post selections for races such as the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup!

The Old Course

Used for The Showcase Meeting, The November Meeting and the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival, the Old Course is slightly sharper than the New Course. Horses that race prominently often do well, especially on the chase course, something that is worth noting in regard to the Arkle Chase and Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The notorious penultimate fence on the chase course – which has caught out many horses over the years – has been moved for the third time in nine years and will now be positioned a further ten yards past the bend, which has been done to prevent the faller rate.

Strong travellers often fare better on this track than they do on the New Course, so in races such as the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Champion Hurdle, horses that have a high cruising speed and can travel within themselves look the ones the focus on.

The New Course

The New Course is used for the International Meeting, New Year’s Day, Festival Trials Day, the final two days of the Cheltenham Festival, and the April and May meetings.

The first thing to note on the New Course is that the hurdles track has just two flights in the last six furlongs, which provides more emphasis on stamina; with many horses going for home too soon, hold-up horses often do well in races such as the Pertemps Final, County Hurdle and Stayers’ Hurdle – something that was picked up upon in our Front Runners vs Hold Up horses article.

Obviously, the most famous race tackled on the New Course is the Gold Cup – which is tackled over a gruelling extended three-mile two-furlong trip. So proven stamina is essential, particularly when factoring in the stiff uphill finish which faces the participants.

© Racing Post

© Racing Post

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