The eagerly awaited festival at Cheltenham Racecourse

by Emma-jane Brown


Let the Festival begin!

Emma-Jane Brown looks forward to the eagerly-anticipated Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse

It’s almost time for The Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse – a four-day spectacular that is among the finest Jump race events in the calendar.

More than a quarter of a million spectators go through the gates every year for this fabulous event, which means the estimated gate receipts will be about £7 million.

Prize money at this year’s Festival stands at almost £3.38 million – it is no wonder that the main five races are so eagerly anticipated – and with more than £600 million expected to be staked on the outcomes during the four days, you can see it is a hugely important event for bookmakers, too.

The Festival kicks off on March 13 with Champion Day. There are seven races altogether on this inaugural day, but riders vie for the most important hurdle race of the season, The Stan James Champion Hurdle. Champion Day also features a parade of past champions, entertainment, pre-racing interviews in the parade ring.

Wednesday is Ladies Day, which gives racegoers the chance to enjoy some wonderful sights on and off the racecourse as women dress to impress.  The real action is a seven race card, featuring the sportingbet.com Queen Mother Champion Chase.

It may be a couple of days early, but Thursday, March 15 will be the St Patrick’s Day races. A massive fundraiser for Cancer Research UK, the charity race will take centre stage on the Thursday to boost the £400,000 that has been raised for the charity over the past two years.

The day will also feature the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase, which was won last year by Alberta’s Run, trained by Jonjo O’Neill.

The Festival culminates in the legendary Betfred Gold Cup – possibly the climax of the entire Jump racing season. Last year, amateur Midland jockey Sam Waley-Cohen romped home on Long Run, beating Denman, Kauto Star and Imperial Commander, who had won four Gold Cups between them.

This year’s race promises to be just as exciting.

It is a huge operation, just to keep the spectators fed and watered. It is estimated that racecourse caterers Catering at Cheltenham will serve 20,000 bottles of Champagne, 30,000 bottles of wine, 240,000 bottles of beer and lager, and 220,000 pints of Ireland’s national drink, Guinness, as well as 10,000 gallons of tea and coffee.

About 12,000 people will sit down to three or four-course lunches every day in the various restaurants and hospitality areas, while the rest will eat into  burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches that, if laid end to end, would stretch almost three miles. Racing might be the main attraction, but the legendary Festival Shopping village is also a vital part of the four-day event.

This year, there will be 80 stands selling everything from wellies to wine, silverware to Spanish property and books to binoculars. You could even treat yourself to a hand-made rocking horse!

I am so excited about this year’s Festival and I hope to see lots of Touchbase readers there. Come and say hello if you see me!


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