As we all start to recover from the festival we look back on what a fantastic week we had, the festival lived up to every meme, montage and all expectations. It was one of the of the greats as it proves to be year on year!
Firstly the experience
Cheltenham pride themselves in their customer experience and the course always transforms for the four days. We were lucky enough to have been invited to a few different spots so really got a feel for everything. Like most of you we started each day with a Guinness, just a half for me which was delicious and the village is just busy enough early on to still enjoy. We then slip back up to the champagne bar, which I of course love but HATE those plastic things you drink out of! The novelty is not for me, and I swiftly pour mine into a plastic cup. After we tick off the top stops, it’s time to get in amongst it for the first, and head straight out into the stands to awai the ROAR. This is something you really have to hear to believe and really is as spine tingling as they say, the first one is always the best but they still bring a smile every time.
After the first race, I am normally freezing and we retreat somewhere warm, we were lucky enough to be invited to the permanent boxes which are there all year. These are great and all have a fantastic view of the track the staff are so helpful and if ever you have considered it they are totally worth it. We also got to experience the temporary boxes which overlook the walk-in to the parade ring. Although these don’t overlook the track, you’re right in the middle of the action and seeing the crowd cheer in the winners is amazing, this was my first time in here and I was so impressed. The boxes are much lighter and really good fun, and provide fantastic value for money.
After the races there are a few options, if heading into town is not your thing the Final Flight is brilliant, such good fun and whatever you do next year get a ticket! I thought it was awesome and whether or not you go into town this is a great way to break it up, tickets aren’t too much extra and I can’t recommend it enough. The Final Flight is also open all day and is much quieter during the racing so is a great spot to grab a drink too, you must buy your tickets before though.
If you do want to head to town there is no better way than the bus, it works so efficiently and is so easy to use, Cheltenham have really nailed this. The bus drops off in town and at the station. Once in town we went for a few drinks and enjoyed all Cheltenham had to offer!
Onto the Racing
Like we said it was a year to remember and for me top of the list has to be ALTIOR, winning for a third year in a row is some triumph and is great for everyone involved especially Nicky with two massive winners, the other being the dominant Buveur D’Air.
Next has to be NATIVE RIVER what a horse and what a race, we had such faith in him and he has become a horse of the people, with everyone attached to the Tizzard family and Richard Johnston.
Unfortunately, these British trained winners were few and far between, with the rest of The Festival dominated by The Irish headed by Gordon Elliott (8 winners) and Willie Mullins (7 winners). My favourite of these winners was Gigginstown’s Tiger Roll (Gordon Elliott) ridden by Keith Donoghue in the Cross Country Chase. It’s a favourite race of mine as the horses tackle all sorts of different obstacles and you are allowed into the centre of the course to watch the horses thunder by.
The festival also proved to be one for the ladies, rather fitting in The Year of the Woman, with four different lady jockeys winning races. Congratulations to Lizzie Kelly, Harriet Tucker, Katie Walsh and Bridget Andrews. I was also incredibly impressed by the mare Laurina who hacked up in the Mares Novices’ Hurdle and is a definite horse to watch out for in next year’s Mares Hurdle.