12 things racegoers need to do at The Cheltenham Festival, 13th-16th March 2018
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
The finest horses, jockeys and trainers are preparing to battle it out at The Cheltenham Festival. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 12 suggestions on what a racegoer needs to do during the four days of racing...
Get there early
Gates open at 10.30am and over the four days 260,000 people attend so, although avoiding the crowds is not really an option, get there early and, like an orchestra, you will feel the atmosphere tuning up whilst you see the light reaching a crescendo over the famous Cleeve Hill as the day comes alive.
Did you know...There are 260,000 visitors over the four days, with 70,000 maximum capacity on Cheltenham Gold Cup Day (March 16 2018). 6,000 staff work there and 900 Press attend, and there are 620 private boxes and 15 restaurants.
Grab a coffee and buy a Race Card
Options for a quality cappuccino or cup of tea are multiple and once the steam is rising in your cup, it’s time to study the form. The simplest way is to look through the Race Card , which will give you a map of the racecourse, so you can get your bearings, and the line-up for each race so you can make your selection and have a flutter.
Did you know...‘Each-way’ is a bet for your horse to come first or to be placed. It’s two bets, so £2 each-way = £4 total bet. This is great bet at The Festival for those runners priced 6-1 and above with such competitive racing.
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The Irish Factor and St Patrick’s Thursday
We enjoy the banter, the camaraderie and the unique atmosphere of the Guinness Village, particularly on St Patrick’s Thursday, as well as the quality of horses, trainers, jockeys and passionate owners that come to The Festival from Ireland.
Every race in your race card must be assessed with the Irish factor in mind, with great trainers like Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott, playing such a crucial part in the four days, as well as key jockeys like Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty and Davy Russell.
Did you know...30 extra flights are put on by Ryanair from Dublin to Birmingham for Festival goers.
Visit the pre-parade ring
Get up close and personal with the stars of the day in the pre-parade ring where the horses get saddled up about 30 minutes before each race, ahead of going into the main parade ring. You can tell a lot from a horse as it’s walked around the ring by its proud stable lad or lass. Look for muscle tone, strength and mood to confirm your choices for the next race.
Did you know...There will be a ‘Best Turned Out’ prize for the lad or lass whose horse is judged to look the best.
Watch a race from the centre of the course
If you have a club ticket you can get a different angle on racing by crossing the racecourse to watch a race. From this vantage point you’re exposed to the all the elements so wrap up warm, get your binoculars ready and feel the thunder of hooves from the epicentre! Allow time to get there – as soon as the preceding race has finished, head out.
Did you know...You can get even closer to the action on the Wednesday of The Festival when The Glenfarclas Cross Country Race takes place in the centre of the racecourse over 32 obstacles.
The Winners’ Enclosure at Cheltenham
There is nothing to equal the atmosphere of the winners’ enclosure at Cheltenham, not only to hopefully celebrate a successful wager, it is also to appreciate what a Festival winner means to all of the team, whether a big stable or a team who may have their one and only triumph at Prestbury.
Most importantly, it brings the racehorse to their rightful place in the centre of The Festival as you hear cheers not only for the winner but the gallant placed horses too.
Did you know...The Irish created history at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival with an amazing 19 winners.
Food, glorious food – and delectable drinks, of course!
When it’s time for some sustenance, all tastes are catered for – from pizzas and pies to Michelin stars, Cheltenham has it all. If you’re in a hurry to get to the next race, you can eat on the go via the many stalls and vans which offer tasty bites, many with locally sourced products. For a quick pit stop go for Quevega which serves a traditional tapas board, plus premium wines, wines on tap and lovely beers.
Make sure to enjoy an excellent Cheltenham Pie made using Arkell’s ale from Swindon and head to The Winged OX Bar and Terrace, which has a full range of draught beers or the Mandarin for a deli style lunch.
Did you know...100% of the cheese used is produced within 50 miles of Cheltenham. Also, there are now four exciting English wines available on course, including Sussex’s Bolney Estate Pinot Gris, from the 2017 UK winery of the year and wonderful award winning sparkling from Ridgeview.
Try the new Pan Asian experience!
If you have more time to spare and relish the thought of an exquisite dining experience, book in advance to take a leisurely approach at one of the premium restaurants on the course. Top new spot is Theatre@ The Festival, where you can enjoy a Pan Asian feast and unrivalled views over the final fences. The exclusive menu offers a fusion of tastes, with flavours from across Asia delivered by farms in England and Wales. Head Chef Tom Parry spent a year creating the concept which centres around Asian fusion cuisine, with exquisite examples including Peking duck pancake roll and Soy and honey roasted Suffolk cross lamb rump.
Two wines that match perfectly with these exciting dishes are Spain’s Algueira Cortezada Ribeira Sacra from Galicia, a fantastic region for quality white wines and from further afield the Prophet’s Rock Dry Riesling in Central Otago New Zealand. Both of these wines thrive when paired with spicy flavours. For dessert try the delectable Cherry Blossom Sweet Caramel Miso paired with the delicious dessert wine from Hungary Royal Tokaji Late Harvest.
Did you know...350 chefs prepare 40,000 fine dining meals at The Festival.
If you’re feeling flush after a win or need time to reflect on where to place your next bet, head to Big Buck’s Champagne Bar in the Princess Royal stand where you can buy Champagne Moët & Chandon in more shapes and sizes than you ever imagined! Toast the day over a bottle, a magnum (two bottles), a jeroboam (four bottles) or even a methuselah (eight bottles). The perfect match to bring out with the bubbles is the excellent seafood which you can enjoy here. The Golden Miller Champagne Bar is another great spot to celebrate with a glass of fizz.
Did you know...Big Bucks was a Cheltenham Festival champion horse who won the World Hurdle on four consecutive occasions from 2009-2012.
Best of British Afternoon Tea – a Cheltenham Tradition
The most British of all traditions has become a firm favourite at Cheltenham too – afternoon tea, in all its glorious, non-pinkee curling fabulousness. Whether it’s Lapsang Souchong, English Breakfast, or Earl Grey that wets your whistle, you’ll find a true array of aromas and flavours at all 15 hospitality restaurants on the course. Here you can enjoy wonderful cakes, the most perfect mini sandwiches and indulgent pastries. Surely you can devour just one more petit four as you head out to catch the last race?
Did you know...45,000 afternoon teas are served at the Cheltenham Festival.
Retail therapy at the Shopping Village
Rich or poor as result of your day’s selections, there’s nothing like a spot of retail therapy, and finding that perfect “something” to take home as a souvenir or gift is easy at the Shopping Village where you’ll be spoilt for choice. Three popular choices are: Estribos, a real Argentine leather company selling a huge array of top quality polo belts, hats and other leather goods, Daniel Crane Sporting Art for original oils, watercolours and limited edition prints, as well as commissions and Delanns Jewels for unusual diamond, gold and silver jewellery as well as bronze and silver wildlife sculptures.
Did you know...There are 70 retail stands, offering a whole array of choices.
Buy a Racehorse!
Thursday is Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham Festival Sales day, with a high class select group of up to 25 quality National Hunt form horses, point-to-pointers and unraced horses. Even if you’re not in the market for a horse, go and observe this fabulous spectacle where the greatest examples of equine muscle strut their stuff to impress potential new owners. Starting soon after the last race in the winner’s enclosure, it’s a great way to end the day. BYO Trailer!
Did you know...A hugely impressive 13 horses surpassed £100,000 at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival Sale.
For more from Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster visit www.thewinetipster.co.uk.
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Illustration of The Wine Tipster by Darren Bird @Birdie.
The Wine Tipster will be offering his daily tips during The Cheltenham Festival for Cotswold Life. Look out for him at the racecourse.