14 things racegoers need to do at The November Meeting
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse
The November Meeting at Cheltenham is three days of action-packed racing and tradition. It starts on the Friday with the longstanding tradition of Countryside Day, followed by BetVictor Gold Cup Day - one of the highlights of the first half of the jump racing season - on Saturday and on Sunday the feature is the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
This year’s final day will be even more special than usual, commemorating 100 years since the end of World War One with Gloucestershire and Racing Remember.
The Wine Tipster will also be sharing his daily tips on twitter @Cotswoldlife
1. Countryside Day - Friday
The November Meeting opens with Countryside Day - a tradition dating back over two decades and is raising money for Countryside Alliance and Racing Welfare.
This year includes a working gun dog demonstration and a side saddle demonstration from ITV Racing presenter Alice Plunkett. Local architectural chainsaw sculptor Denius Parson, who is based in Painswick, Gloucestershire, will also showcase his skill creating bespoke sculptures and wooden buildings from wood.
As well as the six race card, a pack of trail hounds will race on the course along an artificially-laid scent trail before the first race. And after the second race, it is tradition that a number of hunts from the South West and Midlands will be on course, along with the Cotswold hounds.
Did you know...Hound trailing originated in the 18th century as a means of various hunt masters testing their foxhounds against each other in match races.
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2. The Glenfarclas Cross Country Race
For an experience with a difference, don’t miss the The Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at 3pm on Friday - the only race that takes place in the centre of the course. Over three miles, seven furlongs, it’s a must-see experience as horses have to jump a whole host of quirky obstacles as well as various banks and sharp turns around the middle of the racecourse. Its unique nature makes it a specialist race, with some horses taking to it and others less so. Grand National winner Tiger Roll is set to reappear at the November Meeting’s race after winning this contest at this year’s Cheltenham Festival ahead of his remarkable Grand National win.
The race is sponsored by Glenfarclas, one of Scotland’s only family-run distilleries. It ages its whisky in Spanish sherry casks - some of which are even incorporated into one of the fences on the course.
Did you know...Glenfarclas translates as meaning valley of the green grass.
3. Food-filled fun
A visit to Cheltenham isn’t complete without checking out some of the excellent food on offer. From top restaurants to artisan producers and retailers, there really is something for everyone. The Food Market includes Farmer’s Finest Scotch Eggs, with one to suit every palate, or if Italian is your thing, you could try new food stall RaviOllie selling homemade ravioli. If you fancy spicing things up a bit, you could try Cheltenham’s The Curry Corner - a finalist on Channel 4 Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant. Or if it’s a tasty tipple you’re after, there is plenty to choose from including personalised bottles of handmade fruit liqueurs from The Oxton Liqueur Company.
Did you know...The food at Cheltenham changes from meeting to meeting, so you’ll never get bored of exploring.
4. Settle in and place a bet
Study the form and make sure you’re ready to have a flutter. Start by looking 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 pick your winners.
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 November Meeting for those runners priced 5-1 and above with such competitive racing.
5. Paddock and pre-parade ring
This is where you can see all the horses saddled up ahead of each race before they go onto the main parade ring. It’s where us tipsters take a good look at horses as they’re led around the ring, checking out muscle tone, strength and mood which could all influence their performance in a race.
Did you know...There’s even a ‘Best Turned Out’ prize for the lad or lass whose horse is judged to look the best.
6. Hospitality - Restaurants
A range of restaurants offer hospitality packages at the November Meeting. From a five-course meal at the Panoramic Restaurant, with views overlooking the racecourse to champagne, charcuterie and taster menus at the Champions Walk Restaurant, which is opposite the horse walk between the Parade Ring and the course and offers the chance to watch the horses approach the course and return after the race.
If you’ve already booked hospitality at either of these restaurants, I can thoroughly recommend the wonderful English Sparkling Ridgeview Blanc de Blancs, from Sussex, the top class dry Côtes de Provence Château Léoube Rosé and from Argentina the intense, complex Catena Malbec, which is available in magnum.
Did you know...Cheltenham prides itself on not only offering exquisite dishes, but stunning locations to enjoy them in.
7. Check out some local trainers
Local trainers will be out in force for the November Meeting and it’s the perfect chance to see some of the local talent at work.
? Cotswold-based Kim Bailey has trained over 1200 winners and has achieved the magical ‘Big Three’ - The Grand National (Mr Frisk), The Cheltenham Gold Cup (Master Oats) and The Champion Hurdle (Alderbrook).
? Ben Pauling, based near Bourton on the Water, previously spent six years as Nicky Henderson’s assistant and has consistently sent out winners, including Willoughby Court which won the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham - his first Festival winner.
? Charlie Longsdon, based nearby near Chipping Norton, cut his teeth working for Nicky Henderson and Todd Pletcher in the USA before getting his licence in 2006. Since then he has trained over 500 winners and amassed more than £4 million pounds in prize money.
? Cotswolds-based trainer Fergal O’Brien, assistant trainer Sally Randell, head lad Kev Brown and their team of stable staff based in Naunton managed to get 60 winners on the scoreboard last season, with prize money in excess of £710K and there first ever Grade One winner.
Did you know...to become a trainer you need a licence from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and to get that you have to meet a whole range of criteria, including at least five years experience in training yards or stables and at least three wins with a spread of horses as a permit holder.
8. Shop until you drop
Haven’t started your Christmas shopping yet? The November Meeting might be just the place. The retail village features everything from fashion and accessories to unique and handmade gifts. Check out Estribos with their custom-made belts from real Argentine leather, or British jewellery designer Emily Mortimer’s statement jewellery. Renowned sporting artist Clare Brownlow, who paints with pheasant feathers and inks, will also be exhibiting her new original collection. All this and more should keep you shopaholics busy over the three days.
Did you know...The November Meeting has more than 65 trade stands, while the Festival has over 70.
9. Watch one of the highlights of the racing season
The BetVictor Gold Cup is one of the most competitive races of Cheltenham’s autumn season and it’s the highlight of the day’s seven race action. First staged in 1960, it is one of jump racing’s most illustrious and valuable handicap chases and 2018 sees the 59th running.
No horse has won the BetVictor Gold Cup more than twice. Last year’s hero was Splash Of Ginge, trained locally by Nigel Twiston-Davies at Guiting Power and he returns to try and succeed again. Instead, I’m looking out for the progressive six-year-old Mr Whitaker, who won here at the year’s Cheltenham Festival and clearly thrives at Prestbury. Mr Whitaker has had that important prep run too, winning at Carlisle.
Did you know...You might want to consider age when placing your bets in the BetVictor Gold Cup - nine of the last 12 winners were aged between six and eight.
10. Finish your day at The Final Flight Bar
If you’re not ready for the fun to be over once the racing has finished, The Final Flight Bar is the place to go. Found in the Tented Village below the paddock, you’ll find a bar, dance floor, televisions showing the racing and live music that kicks off as soon as the horses cross the line in the last race of the day. The Final Flight Bar will once again be in action on the Friday and Saturday of The November Meeting offering those in the Club Enclosure and Cheltenham’s Annual Members live music from ‘Tommy and the Fuse’ after racing both evenings. Admission starts from £15 (Fri) and £20 (Sat) when booked in advance (*The Final Flight package).
Did you know...The Final Flight Bar opens when gates open for racing and closes at 7.30pm.
11. Hospitality - Out and About
There are plenty of places to find something to eat and drink during The November Meeting. Quevega’s (Club Enclosure only) offers wines and premium bottled beers, traditional tapas boards and hot sandwiches and burgers from the food counter, while the Winged Ox Bar and Terrace is a traditional bar with a full range of draught beers. Within it, The Pie Shop also offers a selection of British pies, freshly made sandwiches and snacks.
If it’s a tasty tipple you’re after as you explore Cheltenham, make sure you embrace the UK’s ‘gin-aissance’ with a Gordon’s or Tanqueray on your travels.
Did you know...Last year Britons set new gin record, buying more than 47 million bottles.
12. Sunday Armistice
The November Meeting features the only Sunday in Cheltenham’s racing calendar. This year - attended by the Princess Royal - takes on a special meaning, marking the Centenary of the Armistice with Gloucestershire & Racing Remember. There will be a range of themed activities and commemorative events throughout the day:-
10:50am - the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, soldiers dressed in WW1 uniform, will march in contingent in the Parade Ring
11:00am - the Cheltenham Steam Train - run by the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway - with a contingent of Glosters on board. The volunteer-operated heritage railway uses part of the route of the former Great Western Railway’s main line and now operates steam and heritage diesel trains across a round trip of 28 miles between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway.
11:15am - Act of Remembrance in the Parade Ring
12:30pm - Aerial Combat Display above the racecourse
1:30pm - Parade on the course at 1:30pm. There will also be a host of WW1 themed activities inside The Centaur, including a field hospital and a Jet Age Museum.
Did you know...The charity for the day is leading veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress, which helps former servicemen and women deal with trauma-related mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
13. Watch the key race on Sunday
The key race on Sunday is the Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, with an impressive £100,000 prize pot. Greatwood has rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed racehorses for around 20 years and now also uses them to help educate disadvantaged children and young adults with Special Educational Needs (SEN). The Wine Tipster has been involved with Greatwood for over twenty years and he fancies Nube Negra, trained in Warwickshire by Dan Skelton, to land the big prize.
Another race to look out for on Sunday is the 2.25pm Shloer Chase, with prize money of £75,000 up for grabs.
Did you know...Non-alcoholic soft drink Shloer was first created in 1935, with no preservatives or artificial coverings
Sunday is a popular day for families and the famous Family Fun area is back at the November meeting. Children’s favourite Peppa Pig will make appearances at 11.45am, 12.35pm, 1.25pm and 2.35pm, while youngsters will also be able to saddle up and take part Sam’s Funky Fun horse hopper races. Other activities and entertainment include a Walking Pet Balloon, Cheltenham Face Painting, rosette-making or watching the talented Twistopher and Twistina make their balloon models.
Did you know...All the entertainment is free and located in the Tented Village
For more from Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster visit thewinetipster.co.uk.
Follow Neil on Twitter! @TheWineTipster
You can also find Neil on Instagram. @TheWineTipster
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.