A horse racing festival can often be a brilliant choice for holding a corporate event, employee team building or even as a well-earned reward for staff. In the UK, there are lots to choose from, including the world-renowned Aintree Grand National and the historic Royal Ascot.
However, for sheer thrills, nothing beats the Cheltenham Festival (12th-15th March, Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire). It really is an extravaganza, with Guinness and champagne flowing like there is no tomorrow. Here is a guide to everything you need to know:
Why you should be interested?
Cheltenham has grown in recent years, from the brash younger cousin of Royal Ascot to be the Festival of British horse racing, with many pundits arguing it’s the best of all. But it transcends the action on the track, with a unique carnival atmosphere. Put simply, it’s a sports event and a massive party.
What’s the corporate hospitality like?
You can get tickets for the Club Enclosure – meaning you can literally get close enough to touch the finish line – for about £75. If you want to go a step further, tickets for a suite with private bar start at around £150. But if you want to mingle with the masses, tickets shouldn’t be much more than £20.
Does it have a good atmosphere?
Electric. Thousands of horse-mad Irish fans make the trip over to southern England to make it a festival like no other. All the fans love their racing, so listen out for the famous “Cheltenham Roar”, a huge bellow that greets the first race.
Who will win the big races?
Buveur D’Air is 1/1 for the Champion Hurdle, Altior is 11/8 for the Champion Chase and Penhill is 6/1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle (all odds from William Hill). The biggest race of the week, the Gold Cup, should be contested by Presenting Percy (9/2), Native River (5/1) and Might Bite (6/1).
What about some long-shot tips to recoup ticket money?
Bristol de Mai is an all or nothing type of horse, who has been given odds of 20/1 for the Gold Cup. Definitely worth a shot to nothing, especially as you can get the latest Cheltenham betting offers and free bets to use on any race. Also, you might want to look at the underrated Sommerville at 20/1 for the Champion Hurdle.
What should I wear?
Cheltenham doesn’t go in for the top hats and frocks of Royal Ascot, but you should probably dress for the occasion. A suit for a man and something reasonably formal for a woman. Dress comfortable too, you will literally be tramping through the English countryside and the weather is questionable.
Anything else to note?
Plenty, we mentioned the Irish earlier and there is a brilliant Guinness village at the Racecourse. The “craic” and the “black stuff” flows all day. If you want something a little more sophisticated, there is plenty of fine dining on site.
What’s the deal with all the Irish?
Cheltenham is national hunt racing – not to be confused with the flat racing you see at the likes of the Kentucky Derby or Belmont Stakes. It’s a discipline almost unique to Britain and Ireland. The Festival becomes an unofficial contest between the two nations. It’s friendly but fierce.
Give me one more compelling reason to go?
13 of the 28 races held across the four days are Grade 1 races, meaning only the best horses get to contest Cheltenham. It’s the Super Bowl or Champions League of national hunt racing. To catch the action, is to witness history.