Cheltenham Festival to have 40-minute gap between races

Cheltenham racecourse
More than 200,000 punters attend the four-day Cheltenham Festival

Feature races at the Cheltenham Festival will start slightly later next year as the course gives spectators a 40-minute break between contests.

Main races will now begin at 15:30 BST, rather than 15:20.

Racing at the four-day fixture will still start at 13:30, with the seventh and final race at 17:30 (was 17:15).

Cheltenham clerk of the course Simon Claisse said the move would provide racegoers with more time to use facilities, including bars and toilets.

"A full crowd here at Cheltenham, which is nearly 70,000 people, can see a lot of pressure being put on facilities and it is expected that an additional five minutes between races will have a significant impact on our customers' experience," he added.

Cheltenham, which attracts more than 200,000 spectators for the meeting, already had 40 minutes either side of the championship races, but only 35 minutes at other times.

There will be seven races each day, and a total of 28 overall, after adding a new mares novice hurdle to the schedule - which is to be named after Dawn Run, the only horse to complete the Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double (1984 and 1986).

Cheltenham has denied that it has plans to extend the meeting in the future into a five-day fixture, concluding on Saturday.

Cheltenham Festival 2016
Dates: Tuesday, 15 March to Friday, 18 March
Feature races: Tuesday - Champion Hurdle; Wednesday - Queen Mother Champion Chase; Thursday - World Hurdle; Friday - Gold Cup (all 15:30 BST)
Race times: 13:30, 14:10, 14:50, 15:30, 16:10, 16:50, 17:30

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