Natasha Eddery previews the magical Cheltenham Festival; an event not to be missed!
Magic, madness and magnificence are the words plastered all over London at the moment and they can only mean one thing; the Cheltenham Festival is about to start. It is hard to believe that another 12 months have passed, but we are now just a day away from the biggest racing event on the National Hunt calendar.
While you would probably expect my loyalties to be with the likes of the Derby and Royal Ascot, I’m afraid I strongly believe that nothing really compares to Cheltenham. For starters, the four-day Festival is the only place where you will see the sport’s greatest horses, jockeys and trainers come together to battle it out for fame and glory. The Festival is also completely unique from other big meetings, mainly because every race on the card is a championship for horses in different disciplines and classes. It is the only racing event where betting takes place all year round.
Nestled in the glorious Cotswold Hills, Cheltenham racecourse sets a rather beautiful stage for this epic event. If you have never been to the Festival before, the enormous crowds, which reach over 220,000, will quite literally take your breath away. Standing on the lawn or in the stands, you can feel the electric energy and hear the thrilling roar from the crowd as each horse races towards the finish line. It is a truly unforgettable experience and an event that everyone should behold.
Champion Day – Tuesday 13th March
We kickstart the Festival with Champion Day and I believe this to be the most exciting part of the Festival. The very first race may not be the most impressive of the week, but when the tape flies up and the horses set off, there is an enormous eruption from the crowd that signifies the Festival is underway. The best place to witness this is on the lawn and I can assure you the atmosphere will be louder than anything you have experienced before, even a celebratory response to a try at Twickenham. This is something unique and not to be missed.
There are plenty of great races that follow. The Arkle Chase for the season’s leading Two-Mile Novice Chasers and the Champion Hurdle are two impressive showdowns that will certainly keep spirits high.
Ladies Day – Wednesday 14th March
Girls never need a reason to dress up, but Ladies Day at Cheltenham serves as a good reason to pull out all the stops and get extra glamorous. The most notable fashion trend is tweed. So, if you’re looking for a last minute purchase to fit in with the Festival dress code, Holland Cooper has put a fashionable stamp on tweed that will make you stand out from the crowd. There will be a catwalk – Ascot style – and one lucky lady will be crowned best dressed.
Each year, I swear that the stalls in the Festival Shopping Village keep growing in numbers. It is often rather chilly at Cheltenham, so this gives a perfect excuse to duck into the warm tented village and browse the fashion and art on offer.
There are seven great races to relish on Wednesday; however the biggest of the day is the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase. The finest two-mile chasers will be tackling Cheltenham’s daunting fences and the rumor is that Ireland’s Sizing Europe is going to speed home and claim the prize.
St. Partick’s Thursday – 15th March
Thursday will see the Guinness village once again become a hive of activity for all the proud Irish. While celebrations and plenty of craic will be on the cards, there is also some fantastic racing to be had out on course. Can Big Buck’s match the record number of hurdle wins by claiming his forth consecutive Ladbrokes World Hurdle? It is time for a flutter.
Cheltenham Gold Cup Day – Friday 16th March
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the biggest, most anticipated race of the Festival. Will Long Run return to glory and claim his crown after an unlucky start to the season, or will we be cheering home the legend that is Kauto Star? Make sure you are there to witness the climax of the jump-racing season and revel in the exhilarating atmosphere on this final, historical day at Cheltenham.
To buy your tickets and enjoy a piece of the action, visit the Cheltenham website.