How steep is the ‘Cheltenham hill’?

How steep is the 'Cheltenham hill'?  Cheltenham Racecourse, in Prestbury Park, Gloucestershire, is home to the four-day Cheltenham Festival, staged annually in March and, undoubtedly, the highlight of the British National Hunt season. During the Festival, most of the racing takes place on the Old Course, on the Tuesday and Wednesday, and the New Course, on the Thursday and Friday. Both courses are left-handed, undulating and feature a stiff, uphill finish, known colloquially as the ‘Cheltenham hill’.

On the New Course, in particular, where the emphasis is on stamina, rather than speed, conversation invariably turns to the severity of the ‘hill’, which has taken on mythical proportions and garnered a fearsome, if not entirely warranted, reputation. The stiffness of the finish is, no doubt, exacerbated by the pronounced downhill run to the home turn, but the ‘hill’ is not, as some commentators suggest, the ‘north face of the Eiger’. In fact, over the last three furlongs, the ground rises just 10 metres, or 33 feet, with a percentage slope of just 1.67%. Indeed, the angle between the horizontal plane and the surface of the ‘Cheltenham hill’ is less than 1º so, while it has been the scene of many iconic finishes, it is nowhere near as steep as folklore suggests.

Which was the last British racecourse to close permanently?

Which was the last British racecourse to close permanently?  The last British racecourse to close permanently was Towcester Racecourse, a National Hunt-only venue near the market town of Towcester in Northamptonshire in the East Midlands, which closed in October, 2019. In fact, it was first British racecourse to close since December, 2012, when Folkestone Racecourse ‘temporarily’ shut its gates, but has been left in a derelict state of neglect ever since.

Towcester Racecourse entered administration, with debts in excess of £1.3 million, in August, 2018 and was sold to Fermor Land LLP, a local company linked to Lord Hesketh, chairman of Towcester Racecourse Company, the following November. However, racing never resumed and, in October, 2019, the new owners announced that, after considering options for the future of Towcester Racecourse, the 93-year-old track was to close permanently.

With the assistance of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Fermor Land LLP sold the remaining ten National Hunt fixtures in its ownership, scheduled for 2020, to Arena Racing Company (ARC), with host venues to be confirmed at a later date. Richard Wayman, chief operating officer of the BHA, said at the time, ‘We had hoped, following the course going into administration, that the new owners might find a solution which allowed racing to resume, and it is disappointing that has not proved possible.’

Whatever happened to Folkestone Racecourse?

Whatever happened to Folkestone Racecourse?  Nowadays property of Folkestone & Hythe District Council and destined to become part of the sprawling ‘Otterpool Park’ housing development, Folkestone Racecourse still stands in Westenhanger, west of Folkestone town centre, as it has done since 1898. In its heyday, Folkestone was the only official horse racing venue in Kent and staged both Flat and National Hunt fixtures throughout the year.

However, following its ‘temporary’ closure in December, 2012 which, according to previous owners Arena Racing Company (ARC) was to allow redevelopment of ‘outdated’ facilities, Folkestone never opened its gates again. In fact, the previously magnificent site has essentially been left to slowly decay into rack and ruin.

The tumbledown buildings, including the wooden-fronted main stand, are still standing, albeit only just, but the steeplechase fences and running rails. The attractive parade ring and paddock area, behind the main stand, has at least been maintained to some extent, but the racing surface has been reclaimed by grass and tall, ugly weeds, reminiscent of a large, unkempt field than a racecourse.

Racing Post journalist Lee Mottershead once wrote, hauntily, of Folkestone, ‘They once raced horses here.’ They did, indeed, and the brutal demise of a landmark that stood for over a century is heart-breaking and shameful in equal measure.

Which England county has most racecourses?

Which England county has most racecourses?  All told, mainland Britain is home to 60 racecourses, five of which are in Scotland and three of which are in Wales. Of the 52 racecourses located in England, it should come as no great surprise that the largest conglomeration is found in Yorkshire which is, after all, the largest historic county in the country. Yorkshire has nine racecourses, six of which cater exclusively for Flat racing and three of which are dual purpose.

Starting in the extreme north of the county, Redcar, home of the Zetland Gold Cup, is a Flat-only venue, as are its North Yorkshire neighbours Ripon and Thirsk. Catterick, or Catterick Bridge, though, also stages National Hunt racing, including the North Yorkshire Grand National every January. Beverley, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and Pontefract, in West Yorkshire, are also Flat-only venues, but Wetherby, also in West Yorkshire, has been dual-purpose since 2015. York, in the heart of the county, is a Grade One Flat track, famous for the Juddmonte International, Nunthorpe and Yorkshire Oaks while, further south, Doncaster is home to the oldest British Classic, the St. Leger.

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