Five reasons why you should witness this sporting extravaganza
For four days in the middle of March, Prestbury Park will open its gates and allow the world to enjoy the incredible spectacle that is the Cheltenham Festival. Every horse racing enthusiast yearns to be part of the Gloucestershire festivities and to be in attendance on any day of the meeting will sit highly on most sports fan’s bucket lists.
If you are a fledgling fan of the sport, new to horse racing, or just want an adrenaline-packed day filled with fun and sporting drama, here are five reasons why you should attend this years’ Cheltenham Festival.
1. The History
The Festival was created back in 1860, but it wasn’t until 1902 that it was moved to the newly opened track at Prestbury Park and it’s remained there ever since. Prestbury Park is affectionately known as the home of British jumps racing and the Cheltenham Festival is the sports flagship event.
Over the past 150 years, all of the greatest names in the history of the sport have traveled to the Cheltenham Festival in search of fame, fortune, and eternal glory, from trainers like Martin Pipe to riders running in his legacy. You cannot be considered a legend in the world of jumps racing until you have tasted success at the Cheltenham Festival and many of the best hurdlers and chasers have established their legacy on the hallowed, Prestbury Park turf.
2. The Stadium
You cannot scale a single staircase, fling open a single door, or walk down a single corridor around Prestbury Park racecourse without being reminded of the incredible history that has been written here at the Festival and being filled with a spine-tingling sense of grandeur.
Whether you want to rub shoulders with punters along the rails, take your seat in the state-of-the-art stands or even enjoy the action from your very own private box, there is no better view in horse racing than watching a battalion of equine athletes thundering round the final bend of the Cheltenham track and bolting up the home straight towards the finishing post.
3. Meet Celebrities
The Cheltenham Festival remains the pinnacle of any horse’s, trainer’s or owner’s career, which means they all make the annual pilgrimage to Gloucestershire during the spring. The world’s press flock to Cheltenham that week to document the incredible sporting action and anyone who is anyone within the National Hunt racing fraternity will clear their schedule to make sure they are in attendance.
Celebrities and dignitaries rub shoulders with average punters alike across Cheltenham enclosures and racecourses, as they all find a comfy spot to watch the action unfold. The best trainers in Ireland will also make the journey over to Cheltenham, bringing with them an army of passionate, knowledgeable supporters, all hoping their countrymen can get the better of the British in the race for the Prestbury Cup.
4. The Atmosphere
Having such an eclectic mix of people packed into Prestbury Park is not only a wonderful spectacle to behold, but it also aids in creating a unique atmosphere that will have you craving a return to the Cheltenham Festival as you make your way home on Friday evening.
Excitement and anticipation courses through the stands as punters prepare for the upcoming race and rush to the Cheltenham betting tips ring to place their final wagers. As the starter sets the horses on their merry way, the stands erupt into a feverish frenzy, which continues throughout the entire race and only dies down when the victor has finished drinking in the applause in the winners’ enclosure.
5. The Racing
Whether you purchase tickets for the first day of the Festival or the last, you will experience some of the best action National Hunt racing has to offer.
Day one kicks off in thrilling fashion with the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Young chasers then take center stage in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, before the best two-mile hurdlers in the business do battle in the feature contest on Tuesday, the Champion Hurdle.
Wednesday’s festivities are highlighted by the Queen Mother Champion Chase, a contest which is surrounded by prestigious races like the three-mile RSA Chase and the vastly popular and unusual Cross Country Chase.
The third day of the Cheltenham Festival features the oldest race of the week, the Stayers’ Hurdle. Thursday’s card also features two other prestigious Grade One contests, the JLT Novices Chase and the two-and-a-half-mile Ryanair Chase.
A field of talented juveniles will get the final day of festivities off to a fitting start as they battle it out in the Triumph Hurdle, before some of the strongest first-season hurdlers in the sport fight it out over three miles in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle.
The final Group One of the meetings is also the most famous, most lucrative, most sought-after prize in the world of National Hunt racing – the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The entire sporting stratosphere will come to a stand-still when the starter drops their flag at 3:20pm and it will take a horse of the highest caliber to navigate three-and-a-quarter miles of turf, scale 22 fearsome fences and win the furious sprint to the line to earn the right to be called the best staying chaser on the planet.