The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most prestigious and highly anticipated events in Britain’s horse racing calendar and has achieved almost the same level of fame as the Grand National.
Each year, the event attracts up to 70,000 attendees per day from around the country.
Set over four days in mid-March, the festival is made up of 28 races and has around 500 horses all competing for winnings of over £4.59 million (in total). Attending Cheltenham Festival is a tradition for almost everyone in the racing community and is the bookmaker’s equivalent of Christmas.
However, it isn’t just horse racing fanatics and keen gamblers in attendance at the Festival, the event draws in crowds of other people looking to participate in the experience. Drawn in by the excitement surrounding the event and its exhilarating atmosphere, these attendees are there to drink, socialise and partake in the event’s traditions
If you are a first-time festival goer, the size of the Gloucestershire based racecourse, the busyness of the crowds and the lists of rules set by the organisers can be a little daunting.
That’s why we have put together this handy checklist for you to use as a guide when planning your day out at the races.
Let’s begin with what events you should look out for…
Each day is marked by a different name and featured event.
Day One is known as Champion’s Day. The festival kicks off at 1:30 with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and closes with the National Hunt Challenge Cup Chase at 5:30. Be sure to catch the event of the day at 3:30, which is the two-mile UnibetChampions Hurdle Trophy.
The second day is Ladies Day and is a favourite amongst attendees who like to dress up in their finest occasion wear. The featured event on this day is the Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase at 3:30.
St Patrick’s Day is on the Thursday. By day three the event is in full swing, with a number of great races still to come. Today the big event to watch is the Stayers’ Hurdle. This 3-mile race is scheduled to take place at 3:30.
The festival closes with the most anticipated day of them all. At 3:30 the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase takes place, with the very best of the best horses and jockeys competing for the festival’s most valuable prize. This is followed by three more races and closes with the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at 5:30.
Where should I eat?
The food and drink options at Cheltenham Festival are top quality, there are outlets and restaurants to suit everyone’s tastes. While some venues are only accessible to certain ticket types, there is enough variety to ensure that all dietary requirements can be catered for.
Those who have managed to secure themselves Club Enclosure tickets will have exclusive access to The Orchard. Situated in the Tented Village, this area is host to a number ofluxury brands, including Glenfarclas Single Malt Whisky and a collection of 16 wines from Fine Wine Partners.
In the Tattersalls Enclosure you will find a number of great bars, such as the Golden Miller Champagne Bar and the renowned Guinness Village. If you’re peckish you can grab a bite to eat from outlets like Tom’s Pies and Tommy’s Shack.
If you venture into the Best Mate Enclosure you can also find a range of mobile caterers with fish and chips, toasties and burgers, as well as beer and cider on tap. There’s no need to worry if day drinking isn’t your thing, there are a selection of stands selling soft drinks and hot beverages too.
While there is no actual dress code, you should be sure to follow these dress expectations:
Obviously, as the festival takes place in March it is important to take into account the weather forecast when planning your outfit. Taking a jacket and an umbrella with you is a sensible idea.
The organisers do recommend dressing formally, particularly if you are in the Club Enclosure. For men, suit or smart trousers with a shirt and blazer style jacket are essential.
Women are expected to wear smart dresses or trousers or a skirt with a smart shirt and jacket. It is also recommended that women wear a hat or fascinator style hairpiece.
Fancy dress is surprisingly allowed, as long as it is worn outside of the Club Enclosure and not on Gold Cup Day.
The organisers reserve the right to deny entry to any attendees wearing outfits deemed offensive or inappropriate.
Lastly… Cheltenham Festival is a large event, it is recommended that you use the Racecourse Map to help get around.