Cheltenham Racecourse For many, this venue is synonymous with ‘Cheltenham’.
The Longer Read Last year I was talking to a punter from Ireland during Gold Cup Week about Cheltenham Racecourse and the town. Looking around at the collection of bookies, bars and banks that make up Cheltenham’s High Street he smiled and said: “This… is… fucking.. paradise…”. And so, every year, they come. The Irish, the Royals, the City boys, the celebs, the WAGS and the Cotswold poshocracy. Over 225,000 attend over four days, including 10,000 Irish fans daily. Maximum capacity is 67,500.
Cheltenham, which is all about jump racing, somehow manages to be more democratic and yet more authentically stylish than Ascot and other flat racing venues. At Cheltenham, anyone will talk to you, no-one will smirk at a £1 Tote bet and the love of the sport is palpable.
March’s Gold Cup race is just one of the highlights of ‘The Festival’ a four day meeting in March. In turn, the Festival is a highlight of a programme of 8 meetings over the winter months through to April or May. Over the season, a visit to Cheltenham can be raw, cold and bracing excursion on New Year’s Day or a comparatively warm springlike experience. Either way, the highlights are the ridge of the Cotswold hills as an impressive backdrop, the excited roar from the crowd as the first race of the day starts off and the tense finishes on the ‘Cheltenham Hill’ up to the finishing post.
Locally, any resistance to March Gold Cup week shenanigans (petty crime, litter, some questionable nightclub ‘extras’, traffic) is more or less cancelled out by understanding of the economic benefit to the town and a little bit of pride in the fact that Cheltenham is at the centre of national life for a couple of days.
Finally a blatant plug for a new book by Robin Oakley with a significant introduction by the much esteemed ex-General Manager of Cheltenham Racecourse, Edward Gillespie. It’s a labour of love and highly recommended.