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 1ยบ so, while it has been the scene of many iconic finishes, it is nowhere near as steep as folklore suggests.