Cheltenham on the Internet

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The Independent Online

The National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham from tomorrow to Thursday this week is sold out, which means that some of Cheltenham Racecourse's web site, i.e. the booking information, makes for only academic reading - unless you plan on working out a strategy for an early strike for the 2001 Festival.

The National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham from tomorrow to Thursday this week is sold out, which means that some of Cheltenham Racecourse's web site, i.e. the booking information, makes for only academic reading - unless you plan on working out a strategy for an early strike for the 2001 Festival.

For news on runners and background information to the event, Cheltenham's site is definitive. Last week it had 35 news stories online ranging from a history of racing at Cheltenham from 1815, including the appearance of the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1959, through to Tote information, entries, and the latest ante- post betting.

Results will be posted this week, but in the meantime there's an extensive collection of statistics with a roll of honour covering Festival results going back to 1981, and the records of selected jockeys and trainers from 1957.

An online guide to the Hall of Fame at the racecourse contains descriptions of the exhibits and has RealPlayer presentations of Gold Cup winners and champion hurdlers. They are narrated by Richard Pitman with commentaries from Sir Peter O'Sullevan. Archive footage includes Golden Miller, Arkle, Desert Orchid and Night Nurse. Elsewhere on the site are details of the other meetings at the racecourse, where £2.5m in prize-money is competed for in a season.

The official site of racing's governing body, the British Horseracing Board, is a useful resource for horse racing on the Flat and over the sticks. It has details about courses and meetings around the country, including links to relevant sites. There are searchable databases of meetings, owners and trainers for those who want to do some research. For those with less knowledge, there is an overview of the sport (including demographic profiles of racegoers), RealAudio presentations from the likes of John McCririck and Kate Fox, facts about the sport and betting, and a phrase book to explain the jargon from "accumulator" to "yankee".

The BHB news section is a bit of a let down, consisting of press releases. For racing news, the Sporting Life and Racing Post are better bets.

The Sporting Life is comprehensive and laid out attractively, with extensive breaking news on the front pages and links to race cards and stats. For Cheltenham 2000, there is a special section containing news, profiles, betting news and audio interviews with trainers and personalities. The site claims it will be providing SPs a minute after the finish and full results, with distances, starting prices and comments on all horses, 40 minutes after the finish.

To use the Racing Post web site you need to register - a process which is free and takes only a minute. Once registered, the amount of information is almost guaranteed to impress, with news flashes and full stories, race reports and columns and features by the likes of Brough Scott. A full results service is easy to use. Its pages for the Cheltenhamfestival collates news, fixtures, and features into one, compactsection.

Site Addresses

Cheltenham Racecourse http://www.cheltenham.co.uk/

Official British Horseracing Board Website http://www.bhb.co.uk/

Sporting Life - Racing http://www.sporting-life.com/racing/news/

Racing Post http://www.racingpost.co.uk/.

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