If you love Fossil Coast you will love the excitement of outdoor sporting events such as the Cheltenham Festival (@CheltenhamRaces). This festival has become a prominent annual National Hunt Horse Racing fixture of our British sporting calendar for over 200 years.
(Image by Philippe Oursel)
From my own personal experience this is a fabulous day out with friends and colleagues and there is nothing quite like adding to the intensity of the “Cheltenham Roar” along with thousands of other spectators when your horse is either an also-ran or boxed-in charging for the final post in the final furlong.
Depending on which day you go its also an opportunity to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on the 17th March from the Guinness Village the biggest three-tiered temporary structure in Europe. Alternatively, enjoy coverage on television with a cold glass of Lime Stone gin and tonic.
Today the Cheltenham Festival is a 4-day jump racing and must-do hospitality event held each March where the best horses, trainers and jockeys go head-to-head over 28 races with an average attendance over the four days of 65,000 and over 71,500 on Gold Cup Day. The festival closes with the Cheltenham Gold Cup where 22 fences are jumped over 3 mile and 2½ f course. Both jockeys and horse’s race for their place in sporting history as well as the prize money.
This festival has grown significantly since its first meeting was held in 1815 on Nottingham Hill before moving to Cleeve Hill in 1818. To put this into context. In 1818 George III was the King; Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus" is first published; the US president was James Monroe the fifth President of the United States and the last President from the Founding Fathers.
So its not surprising to learn that in 1829 Cheltenham’s Parish Priest, Reverend Francis Close, preached the evils of horseracing and aroused such strong feeling amongst his congregation that the race meeting in 1830 was disrupted and before the 1831 festival the grandstand was burnt down. It was not until 1924 that The Gold Cup was introduced as the marquee event. (Image by Evy Prentice)
Even if you are not familiar with the festival you would be hard pressed not to have heard of Cheltenham Gold Cup Winners Best Mate, Kauto Star, War of Attrition and the jockey Ruby Walsh who won seven races in 2016. In 1934 Golden Miller became the first horse to win both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in a single season. The first female jockey to win a Grade 1 race was Katie Walsh in 2018, winning The Weatherby's Champion Bumper. Both Bryony Frost and Racheal Blackmore won Grade 1 races in 2019. In 2019 and pre-COVID-19 the Cheltenham Festival attracted over £4,590,000 in prize money the most of any Jump festival in the world at over £1,000,000 per day.
My recommendation, is to consider dressing for the occasion with tweed, sturdy shoes, and be warm - so keep an eye on the weather forecast. Plan ahead and enjoy a good breakfast in Cheltenham Town at a number of quality venues - book early. The walk from Cheltenham Town centre is not far or take a bus. In terms of betting always put limits in place that will control how much you spend and choose a horse with a name that sparks your imagination. I once won a 33/1 bet on a Irish horse called, Hairy Molly at Cheltenham Festival in 2006. Above all have a great day out and soak in the experience.