New Year's Day at Cheltenham Races
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New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races

Considering heading for New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races and getting 2024 started in style? Having been born and bred in Cheltenham, I’ve created a guide that covers all you need to know about racing on January 1st.

If you’re based in the Cotswolds, it’s a ritual to spend New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Racecourse for the races. Many people from Cheltenham and further afield decide to start the year in style at Cheltenham Races for horse racing and a few drinks – no matter how hungover you might be from the night before. So, when the question of what to do at New Year came up recently, some friends and I planned just that. I thought I’d share my guide on heading to New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races so you know how to prepare and what to expect. You might also find my guide to Cheltenham Races helpful too.

Quick Tips For Visiting Cheltenham

Get this: affordable car hire in Cheltenham, making it much easier for you to explore the town and the beautiful Cotswolds nearby.

Don’t miss: this budget-friendly self-guided audio tour of Cheltenham, highlighting all the very best bits to see in the town.

Flights: find the cheapest flights to nearby Bristol with Skyscanner.

Stay: Find the most affordable hotels in Cheltenham on Booking.com.

What’s on at New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races?

New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races is a fun start to the year with a great day of horse racing and entertainment. While specific events vary each year, here are some typical highlights:

  • Horse racing – first and foremost, New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races features a stellar lineup of horse races, showcasing top-class jump racing. Races vary in distance and class, providing excitement for both seasoned racegoers and newcomers.
  • Festive atmosphere – the event has a vibrant atmosphere, with visitors dressed for the occasion, enjoying the spirit of the day amidst the stunning backdrop of the racecourse.
  • Family entertainment – Cheltenham hosts family-friendly entertainment on New Year’s Day, including live music from LAMPA in The Village and Tommy & The Fuse in The Centaur post-races, children’s activities, and special attractions or performances to keep everyone entertained between races. There’s the popular Family Fun zone for Club/Tattersalls ticket holders, which children and adults alike will love.
  • Dining and hospitality – various hospitality packages are available, offering dining experiences ranging from casual options to more luxurious settings. You can enjoy delicious food and drinks while taking in the racing action.
  • Betting – if you fancy, there are betting facilities available to add excitement to the races. Bookmakers and betting booths are usually present, offering the chance to wager on your favourite horses.

When is New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races?

For 2024, Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day Racing will take place on Monday, 1 January 2024. As the name suggests, it takes place on January 1st of each year. It’s a significant event on the racing calendar, marking the beginning of the year with thrilling horse racing action at Cheltenham Racecourse. The main action typically kicks off late morning or early afternoon, and the exact timing of the races can vary from year to year and can be influenced by factors like the number of races scheduled for the day.

For 2024, gates open at 10:30am, the first race is at 12:20pm, and the last race is at 3:50pm.

How to get to New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races

There are a few options for getting to New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races:

  • By car – if you’re travelling from London, take the M4 westbound and then join the M5 towards Cheltenham. Follow the signs for Cheltenham Racecourse. From Birmingham, take the M5 southbound and follow signs for Cheltenham. The racecourse is well signposted. Cheltenham Racecourse usually offers ample parking facilities on race days. Follow signs and stewards’ directions to the designated parking areas.
  • By train – Cheltenham Spa is the nearest train station to the racecourse. From there, shuttle buses often operate on race days, providing transport directly to the racecourse.
  • By bus – local bus services have routes connecting Cheltenham town centre to the racecourse, including Stagecoach’s D & E routes. I recommend checking the schedule and routes beforehand.
  • By taxi – taxis are convenient ways to travel to the races, especially if you prefer door-to-door service. I recommend using the Starline taxi app to schedule your taxi beforehand, as it can get very busy on race days.

Which races are scheduled?

For New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races, the specific races scheduled can vary each year. The race card for this event usually includes a mix of exciting jump races, featuring various distances and classes. The races scheduled typically include a combination of novice races, handicaps, and even some feature races that showcase talented horses and jockeys. The racing action is sure to blow away those New Year’s Eve cobwebs.

There are seven highly-competitive races on the day with Graded and Listed contests:

Start TimeRaceDistanceRace
12:20The Maiden Hurdle (Class 2) (GBB Race)2m abt 4½fHurdle
12:55The Close Brothers Novices Limited Handicap Steeple Chase (Class 3)2m ½fSteeple Chase
1:30The Paddy Power Handicap Steeple Chase (Class 2)3m abt 1½fSteeple Chase
2:05The Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap Chase (Class 1) (Premier Handicap)2m abt 4½fSteeple Chase
2:40The Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle Race (Class 2)abt 3mHurdle
3:15The Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle Race (Class 1) (Grade 2)2m abt 4½fHurdle
3:50The Family Fun “Junior” National Hunt Flat Race (A Standard National Hunt Flat Race) (Class 1) (Listed)1m abt 6fBumper

How much is New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races?

Under 18’s race for free and do not require a ticket to enter. 18-24 year olds can also save up to 50% off their admission tickets when they sign up to RacePass. For those aged 24+, there are a number of different ticket options. The earlier you book, the cheaper you’ll find them to be.

EnclosureIncludesCost per adult
Club/TattersallsBe part of the action as horses enter the Parade Ring, and enjoy the widest choice of prime viewing spots from the main grandstand right up to the Winning Post. There’s a whole host of bars and restaurants available.From £25
Best MateBest Mate enclosure offers arguably the best atmosphere. It also offers some of the best views of the racing directly opposite the main grandstand and adjacent to the finish line. It’s the most affordable way to enjoy New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races, and there are bars and a variety of food choices. From £10
Gold Cup RestaurantThe Gold Cup Restaurant is near the Hall of Fame. It’s an ideal base for the day, with easy access to the main viewing grandstand and Parade Ring. A Gold Cup Restaurant ticket includes admission, a racecard, a three course buffet, full afternoon tea, tea and coffee, a table for the day, TV racing coverage, a betting service, and complimentary car parking.£220
Horseshoe PavilionLocated in The Village, the Horseshoe Pavilion offers easy access to the Parade Ring. A Horseshoe Pavilion ticket includes morning coffee and biscuits, a 3 course menu, a light Afternoon tea, Club admission, car parking, an official racecard, TV racing coverage, and Tote betting service.£200
National Hunt RoomThe National Hunt Room restaurant features great views from grandstand seats overlooking the course and balcony overlooking the Parade Ring. Tickets include admission, racecard, a champagne reception, four course buffet, full afternoon tea, tea and coffee, TV racing coverage, a betting service, and complimentary car parking.£300

What entertainment is scheduled for New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races?

There’s a busy line up for New Year’s Day 2024:

  • Presenters Aly Vance and Martin Kelly will guide you through the day’s card with a raceday preview show featuring special guests.
  • Joe Wheldon will be singing on the Quevega’s stage throughout the day.
  • LAMPA will be performing in The Village throughout the day.
  • 10:30 – Ryan Corbett and The Hipcats will be welcoming guests as they arrive at the Centaur and North Entrance.
  • 11:00 – The Family Fun Zone will be packed with entertainment, including a kids’ party from KlubKidz at 14:30.
  • 16:00 – the New Year’s Day party will close with Tommy and the Fuse live in The Centaur after racing.

New Year’s Eve in Cheltenham

Our New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races first began with New Year’s Eve. We stocked up for the night with plenty of prosecco and snacks, and spent the next few hours getting ready.

Looking for somewhere to celebrate New Year’s Eve? Here’s my guide on the best places to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Cheltenham.

New Year's Eve snacks and prosecco in Cheltenham
Girls ready for New Year's Eve in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

We reflected on the year that had passed, and looked ahead to everything we wanted to achieve in the coming year. With chatter, laughing, and plenty of champagne cheers, we were ready for a night out and some racing the next day. We headed out to some Cheltenham bars including The Retreat and Under the Prom until the early hours. We saw in the new year at The Retreat with plenty of singing and dancing. Sadly, there are no photos – but as they say, the best bits never make the camera!

Looking for a bar in Cheltenham for New Year’s Eve? Here’s my guide to the best bars in Cheltenham.

New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races

Feeling less than fresh the next morning, we prepared for the day ahead. Getting ready for Cheltenham Races is half of the fun. As a racecourse known for its regal visitors, tweed, pearls, and fur, it’s important to look the part. So we did what we could with fuzzy heads. Don’t forget your hats!

Ready for New Year's Day at Cheltenham Races

As the New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races is such a big event in the town, it’s very easy to get from the town centre to the racecourse and only takes around 15 minutes. We caught a bus from the town centre up to Cheltenham Racecourse. We arrived donning our finest fur and hats and placed our first bets. All of our fingers were crossed, hoping for some luck that would get the year off to a great start.

Placing bets at on New Year's Day at Cheltenham Races

We placed our bets for the races and cheered on the horses. Meanwhile, we patiently defied the cold wind and rain whilst waiting for some winners.

Girls on New Year's Day at Cheltenham Races
New Year's Day at Cheltenham Races

Sadly, not many winners for us but we all had a great day. It’s lovely to have a few drinks with your nearest and dearest and to enjoy some of the live music. We finished off New Year’s Day in Cheltenham with dinner at The Tavern, a few more drinks, and a little more partying. Finally, we were very pleased to get into bed after an awesome day in Cheltenham.

Drinks by the fireplace at The Lion, Winchcombe

The next day, with northern visitors to show round, I took them all to the beautiful village of Winchcombe, just a few miles out of Cheltenham town centre. It’s famous for its fabulous history and is also home to Sudeley Castle, Henry VIII’s former home and the burial place of Catherine Parr, his final wife. There are some gorgeous little historic pubs and eateries in Winchcombe, and The Lion Inn is my favourite.

Drinks by the fireplace at The Lion, Winchcombe

We sipped coffees and chatted for hours next to the open log fire, before nibbling tapas and slices of pizza. Bliss! Before they fell asleep next to the log fire, my friends packed up the car and headed back up north. It’s been so lovely to have friends down to visit for New Year’s Day in Cheltenham, and a perfect start to the year ahead.

New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races: FAQs

Here are some of the most common questions people ask about attending New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races:

Is Cheltenham races on New Year’s Day?

Yes, as well as hosting plenty of other events on the racing calendar, Cheltenham Racecourse hosts races each year on New Year’s Day. It’s a significant event on the racing calendar, offering a thrilling day of horse racing action to kickstart the new year. This event at Cheltenham often attracts racing enthusiasts, families, and visitors looking to enjoy the excitement of the races while celebrating the beginning of the year.

What do you wear to the Cheltenham races in New Year?

Attending New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races often calls for stylish yet weather-appropriate attire. Here are some suggestions on what to wear:

For ladies:

  • Dresses or skirts: opt for smart dresses or skirts paired with a blouse or nice top. I really recommend picking winter-appropriate fabrics like wool blends or heavier materials as the weather can be chilly in January.
  • Coats or jackets: layer with a stylish coat or jacket suitable for the weather. Trench coats, pea coats, and tailored jackets are good choices.
  • Footwear: choose comfortable yet chic shoes or boots, such as knee-high boots or stylish ankle boots. Avoid high heels if they’re uncomfortable on grassy areas. Make sure you can wear them all day as you’ll be on your feet a lot.
  • Accessories: complete your look with accessories like a statement hat or fascinator, gloves, and a stylish scarf.

For gentlemen:

  • Suits or blazers: opt for a well-tailored suit or blazer paired with smart trousers or chinos. Stick to darker colours or classic patterns like tweed.
  • Shirts: choose a smart dress shirt or a crisp button-down shirt.
  • Overcoats: layer with a classic overcoat or a smart trench coat.
  • Footwear: wear polished dress shoes or stylish boots that are comfortable for walking.
  • Accessories: consider accessorising with a stylish tie, pocket square, and a classic watch.

Remember, New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races has a festive yet sophisticated atmosphere, so dressing in smart and elegant attire is popular.

Check out my full guide on what to wear to Cheltenham Races.

Do you have to wear a hat to Cheltenham races?

Wearing a hat or fascinator isn’t obligatory for attending Cheltenham Races, including New Year’s Day. While it’s a tradition and a stylish choice, especially for ladies attending race days, there isn’t a requirement enforced by the racecourse. The dress code typically encourages smart and elegant attire, and many attendees opt for hats or fascinators as a fashionable accessory. However, the decision to wear a hat ultimately rests on personal preference, with some attendees choosing alternative stylish accessories or focusing on a chic outfit without headwear.

Can I wear jeans at Cheltenham races?

Cheltenham Races often encourages a smart and stylish dress code, and while jeans might be acceptable in certain areas like general admission or less formal enclosures like Best Mate, they won’t align with the preferred attire in some of the more exclusive or hospitality areas. Opting for smart and well-fitted jeans paired with a sophisticated top or jacket might be acceptable in certain sections of the racecourse, especially for more casual racegoers. I’d recommend checking the specific dress code provided by the racecourse, as some enclosures or hospitality areas might have stricter attire requirements where jeans might not be deemed appropriate. Choosing a stylish alternative like tailored trousers or dressier pants might be a safer choice.

Can you take your own food into Cheltenham races?

The policy on bringing your own food into Cheltenham Races can vary depending on the specific event, enclosure, or section within the racecourse. Generally, in some areas like the general admission or picnic sections, bringing your own food might be allowed. This can include small picnics or packed lunches. In more exclusive or hospitality areas, however, there might be restrictions on bringing outside food or drinks due to the availability of catering services and the nature of those designated spaces. These areas often offer a range of food and beverage options on-site.

Can you buy tickets for New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races on the day?

In general, tickets for major events like New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races might be available for purchase on the day at the racecourse, but availability can’t be guaranteed. It’s recommended to buy tickets in advance, especially for popular race days or if you have specific enclosures or areas in mind. Purchasing tickets in advance guarantees entry, provides access to preferred enclosures, and allows for better planning for the day. That siad, for some general admission areas or less crowded sections, there might be the option to buy tickets on the day, but these areas can fill up quickly.

Can I use cash to place bets whilst on course?

Yes, at Cheltenham Races you can use cash to place bets while on course. Bookmakers typically accept cash for wagering on the races, allowing racegoers to place bets directly with them. There are also betting facilities, such as betting windows or booths, where you can use cash to place your bets on-site. It’s advisable to bring cash in various denominations if you plan to place bets, as some bookmakers might have minimum bet amounts, and having smaller bills can be convenient for betting in different amounts.

Tips for New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races

Here are some of my top tips for heading to New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races:

  • Arrive to the racecourse early to secure parking or transport and to enjoy the full day’s events without rushing.
  • Cheltenham Racecourse is a cashless venue (except on-course betting facilities who will take cash), so bear this in mind.
  • Allow plenty of time when arriving to the racecourse, with searches in operation at entrances. Only bring bags suitable for a day out to be brought into the venue.
  • To avoid queuing at ticket sales, buy your ticket online and show your e-ticket.
  • Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Be prepared for cold temperatures and bring along a scarf, gloves, or a hat if needed.
  • Set a budget for betting and gamble responsibly. Don’t bet more than you’re comfortable losing.

Heading to New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Races? I hope my guide was helpful. If you have any questions on visiting, let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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