Sports Listings: Racing: National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham

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THE National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham from 15 to 17 March is the most important jump meeting in Britain's horse racing calendar. The quality and the equality of the fields at the three-day meeting, culminating in the Gold Cup on St Patrick's Day this year, have provided Cheltenham with a faithful and colourful following.

Tickets for the Members, Tattersalls and the Foster's enclosures will again be available on the day, but booking in advance brings a saving in the first two enclosures. The three-day Club badge, costing pounds 110, is available only until 29 January. Daily Club badges cost pounds 40, rising to pounds 50 on 7 March. Entrance to Tattersalls is pounds 15 daily until 7 March when the badge rise to pounds 20.

Hotel accommodation in the immediate Cheltenham area tends to fill quickly, but there are a few beds left. The Cheltenham Tourist Information Centre, however, can offer accommodation in private houses within a seven-mile radius of the town. It is possible to arrange overnight stays at hotels and pubs further afield. The tourist centres at Gloucester, Cirencester, Stow-on-the Wold and Tewkesbury can advise.

National Hunt Festival, Cheltenham, 15, 16 and 17 March.

Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 4SH.

Admission: Club badges for Members' enclosure pounds 40 per person per day (from 7 March pounds 50). Tattersalls enclosure pounds 15 (from 7 March pounds 20); groups of 20 or more pounds 13 per person (must be booked in advance). Foster's enclosure (Silver Ring) pounds 8; groups of 20 or more pounds 6.40 in advance. Parking: pounds 5 per day. (Booking Office 0242-226226).

Cheltenham group hospitality (minimum of 24 persons) in Tattersalls and Foster's (Bookings 0242-513014).

Catering: Restaurants on course: Gold Cup, Foxhunter and Champions Drive. Booking is advised (Gold Cup and Foxhunter are booked on Gold Cup day) (Bookings 0242-523203).

The racecourse is one mile north of town, off A435. Bus link from Cheltenham railway station (served by Bristol, Birmingham and London Paddington), which is two miles from the course. Cars should leave M4, junction 15 or M5, junction 9 from the North, junction 11 from South. A40 traffic should follow signs.

Cheltenham Tourist Information Centre, 77 Promenade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 1PP (0242-522878). Other centres: Gloucester (0452-421188), Cirencester (0285-654180), Stow-on- the-Wold (0451-831082) and Tewkesbury (0684-295027).