Cheltenham Racecourse History
Cheltenham Racecourse is situated in Prestbury Park in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The historic racecourse is the host of the Cheltenham Festival, the most prestigious horseracing meeting in National Hunt racing. For this reason the Cheltenham Festival is often described as the home of National Hunt racing in the United Kingdom.
A racetrack was first laid in Prestbury Park in 1831 when violent resistance from the Cheltenham parish priest led to the racing facilities at Cleeve Hill being burned to the ground by parishioners. The Cheltenham racetrack was originally used only for flat racing, and huge crowds were attracted to the meetings held at Prestbury Park.
The first steeplechases were run at Cheltenham Racecourse in 1898, and four years later the first Cheltenham Festival was held at the racecourse. Up until the 1960s National Hunt races took place at the back of the stands. The National Hunt racing facilities received their first significant upgrade in the 1960s when the Jockey Club took ownership of the venue.
During the 1960s a grandstand was built on the Cheltenham Racetrack National Hunt course to accommodate the growing popularity of the race format and the crowds who converged on the racetrack to witness the exploits of great jumpers like Arkle and Flyingbolt. From the 1960s onwards the Cheltenham racetrack was subjected to an almost continuous process of redevelopment as money flowed into the event.
The work at Cheltenham racetrack peaked during the 1980s as the facilities struggled to accommodate increased public interest in the Cheltenham Festival. The grandstands were extended and upgraded with the addition of hospitality suites. A new cross country course was mapped out on the Cheltenham grounds in the 1990s, allowing cross country National Hunt races to take advantage of the natural obstacles on the ground.
The most recent round of developments at the Cheltenham racetrack has seen the popular enclosure at the center of the racetrack replaced with a grandstand offering some of the finest views of the on track action. Recent developments have been targeted at improving the turf drainage and increasing the racetrack surface area.
As the Cheltenham racetrack has developed, so has its importance in the local community. At present the Cheltenham Racecourse contributes nearly £50 million to the local economy and big days at the racetrack employ up to 5000 locals.