As with any major racing event, it is always worthwhile taking note of horses with good course records and ones which have proved that they can handle the unique test that the course provides and anyone interesting in horse racing betting should do their homework.
Both normal Cheltenham courses provide a really good test of a horses stamina and they really do need to handle the undulations and the fact that they are turning for plenty of the time and in places the course is quite sharp.
The Old Course first has undergone some modifications ahead of the Cheltenham Festival 2011, whereas the New Course is pretty much the same as it always was and provides just a good a test as the Old Course does – neither allowing you to escape with any poor or lack of fluency in your jumping style.
The New Course has two fences in a longer home straight than the Old Course, with one fence on the downhill run, which as with the downhill fence on the Old Course still provides a very tricky test. A key obstacle here used to be the fence taken four out up at the top of the hill as the horses started to turn left, it often used to catch out even the most seasoned chasers given that the course fell away to the left immediately after the fence. However, the fence has now been moved back 15 metres meaning it is jumped on a slightly flatter part of the track. As well as testing a horse’s jumping to the limit, the longer run-in on the New Course, up the famous Cheltenham hill, will ruthlessly expose any chinks in a horse’s stamina and many results have changed very quickly on the hill where horses can empty very quickly almost like a car running out of petrol and coming to a halt.
The big difference on the New Course is that it has a rather unusual layout to its hurdles track given that there are only two flights in the last seven furlongs. Two out, on the downhill run, is about half-a-mile from home leaving a near three furlongs run to the final flight in the home straight. This means that the run between the last two favours the stronger stayers who can build up a head of steam and not be too worried about their jumping ability. In the Triumph and County Hurdles, contestants cross eight flights of hurdles, but the first is only a matter of strides from the start, and in the big fields often encountered at the Festival this can upset the rhythm of some if they don’t meet the first right and that can hinder them for the remainder of the race so make sure that your horse is in a rhythm and takes the first fluently if you are betting in-running.
Completing the triumvirate of courses at Cheltenham is the Cross Country course which was introduced to the Festival in 2005 and plays host to the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase. The course is mainly situated inside the two main courses and has a collection of natural fences which the runners wind their way around before coming onto the course proper for the finish. The cross country course takes racing at Cheltenham back to its roots with a selection of natural and man-made obstacles incorporating banks, ditches, hedges, water and timber rails.
All of the courses present one of the toughest tests in National Hunt racing and horses need multiple qualities to handle the unique course characteristics.