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Cheltenham courses: Comparing the Old and New

| 06.03.2022

The differences between the two Cheltenham courses

One unique aspect of Cheltenham racecourse is that there are actually three courses on one piece of land which subtly differ in their own way.

The Old Course is used during the early part of the autumn/winter and the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival and is slightly sharper by nature, while the New Course takes over from December through to the end of the season and is more of a stamina test. The New Course is used for the final two days of the Cheltenham Festival, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The third course is the cross-country track which is situated in the middle of Prestbury Park and only used on three occasions throughout the season.

Here we compare the two Cheltenham courses to see what attributes are required to be successful on each, which will help when scouring the Cheltenham betting to find some winners.

Old Course


The tight and intricate nature of the Old Course means that there are few moments during a race where you are actually running in a straight line and a horse needs to be able to handle the tight subtle turns combined with the undulations of Prestbury Park.

There is more emphasis on the downhill section of the course which feeds into the straight and this is a place where many races are won or lost.

Cheltenham Old Course

If you don’t have the speed and balance to hold a position running downhill then you won’t be able to meet the second last fence on the chase track, which comes immediately off the bend, on the ideal stride.

On the hurdles track there are two flights downhill and just a short run off the bend to the final obstacle before the lung-busting sprint up the Cheltenham hill to the winning post.


Due to the set-up of the course, you need to be able to jump fluently and get into a sound jumping rhythm.

One mistake can put you out of position and the running for glory, and it is no surprise that some of the most sure-footed jumpers in the game have triumphed on the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival when the Old Course is in use.


It often pays to be up with the pace on the Old Course and if you are not a front runner, then the worst position you want to be is in mid-division, as last year only Black Tears came from the rear to win at the Cheltenham Festival in the first two days.

Heaven Help Us, Put The Kettle On and Sir Gerhard made all with fine tactical rides in 2020, with their respective riders dictating the fractions from the front and putting the hammer down at the right time.

New Course


The New Course places less emphasis on speed and more on stamina with the elongated straight, which helps races build to a real crescendo.

More galloping sections mean a horse needs to truly stay the advertised distance and whereas the Old Course favours the flashy speedsters, it is often the grinders who come to the fore on the last two days of the Cheltenham Festival when the New Course is in operation.


It goes without saying that without sound jumping you are unlikely to win at the Cheltenham Festival, but you could just get away with a scratchy round on the New Course.

The Chase track does have two tricky downhill fences as the race begins to enter the business end, but offers more of a chance of hunting down the front runners in the straight, as many Gold Cup champions have done to great effect over the years.

Cheltenham New Course

However, it is the hurdles track which differs substantially to its Old Course relative.

The big difference is the famous downhill section as compared to two hurdles travelling downhill on the Old Course, there is just the sole flight on the New Course before the runners hit the home straight.

This allows for plenty of tactical manoeuvres and horses to make their move later in a race when they don’t have to worry as much about their jumping. Many a sloppy hurdler has been able to cling to the coat tails of the pack before making a telling move in the closing stages of a race.


Like the Old Course, it does help to be handy and frontrunners do still have a tremendous record on the New Course, but position is of less significant to the overall outcome.


On the New Course a horse has a much better chance of landing the spoils from mid-division or the rear, especially in the handicaps and in 2021 both Telmesomethinggirl and Mount Ida spent the majority of the race in the rear, before pouncing late in the day.

Three others struck from midfield, although it is worth noting that three of the four New Course races won from the front at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival were in Grade One contests.

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Adam Morgan