The Cheltenham Gold Cup Festival Virgin Guide
Here, straight from the horse’s mouth, is our Cheltenham Gold Cup week survival guide.
First of all the day break down:
Tuesday 14th March – Champion Day
The big race is the 3.20pm Champion Hurdle.
Wednesday 15th March – Ladies Day
Day 2 is Ladies’ Day. Big race? The Queen Mother Champion Chase
Thursday 16th March – St Patrick’s Day
The Irish attend Cheltenham in huge numbers and provide much of the atmosphere and fun. The Ladbrokes World Hurdle is the feature race.
Friday 17th March – Cheltenham Gold Cup Day
This is the big one, in a week of already high quality racing.
There’s no formal dress code for Cheltenham, although fancy dress is a pretty bad idea. Basically, the only fashion crime is to look cold, so suits, tweed and overcoats win respect. Due to the size of the event there’s a fair bit of walking at Cheltenham Gold Cup so, ladies, those stilettos won’t get you through the whole day. A friend was offered cash for her flatties a couple of years ago.
Cheltenham Racecourse is on the edge of town of 110,000 people. The population seem’s like more in race week. Things get busy. By far the best way to arrive is in a helicopter, landed a short buggy ride away from the Winner’s Enclosure. However, if your chopper is being serviced (oh do behave…), the next best (car traffic gets a bit heavy) is to arrive at Cheltenham Rail Station. Boost your betting fund by buying tickets in advance.
Cheltenham Racecourse is, sadly, on the other side of town from the rail station. As a result shuttle buses run and taxis exist (they’re at a premium, to say the least). Best to arrive early and walk into town centre which is about half way to the course. On leaving the station cross the road and look for the footpath to the right of the Green Coffee Machine (good coffee) called The Honeybourne Line. This former railway line path will take you to the centre of town.
The craic is definitely on in Cheltenham and it seems a shame to head straight to the course and miss the atmosphere in the town centre.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup Festival Betting and Drinking Strategy Guide
Gambling and alcohol. Those two things that your mother warned you about.
Cheltenham Festival used to take a lot of pride in the quantity of Champagne and Guinness consumed, but has decided to downplay things this year, with the introduction of a restriction on the number (four) of drinks that can be bought at once. We’ll see how that goes. The best tips are a) have a really good breakfast b) pace yourself c) use the new free water points in the bars and, most of all, d) don’t make a prat of yourself.
Outside the course, we think the best three places to be seen are The Sandford Park Ale House, the Royal Oak in Prestbury (Paddy Power was spotted there last year) and the Queen’s Hotel, which has a long pedigree (although these days nearby Crazy Eights, part of No 131 is a bit more hip, not to say youthful).
If the madness gets to you and you’re looking for somewhere quiet, you could try, say, Edinburgh, or you might find a quiet corner in an off-centre pub such as The Kemble Brewery Inn (no website), the Exmouth Arms or the Jolly Brewmaster (no website)
Betting strategies are up to you. It’s not a bad plan to follow a single trainer or jockey, if signs are vaguely promising or there’s a buzz from the Irish contingent. Get yourself to the parade ring to see how good the horses are looking or eavesdrop on someone dressed from head to toe in tweed. Ignore touts offering to sell you tips – usually they’re just, as Trump would say, bad hombres looking to score some stake money after a bad few days on the nags.
Try to stick to a betting budget. If you can’t, there are cash points around the course although perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you that… If you win big, don’t tell everyone – and keep your cash somewhere safe.
In conclusion – have a great Festival!