12 things racegoers need to do at The Cheltenham Festival 2019
PUBLISHED: 12:54 11 March 2019
The finest horses, jockeys and trainers are preparing to battle it out at The Cheltenham Festival. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 12 suggestions on what a racegoer needs to do during the four days of racing...
The Cheltenham Festival is one of the highlights of the racing calendar. Presented by Magners, the four-day festival is not just a firm favourite of The Royals, but racing fans across the globe. Crowds of more than 260,000 spectators will enjoy the spectacle of some of the world’s top jockeys battling it out for over £4 million in prize money.
On top of the action on the course, the racecourse in the heart of the Cotswolds is a haven for great food and drink, wonderful retail opportunities and more.
Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares 12 suggestions on what to do at the Cheltenham Festival...
1. Get there early
As the biggest event in the racing calendar, you can expect some crowds. The Festival attracts 260,000 visitors over the four days, with 70,000 maximum capacity on Cheltenham Gold Cup Day. Gates open at 10.30am but I’d recommend you get there early. You’ll still hit the crowds, but you’ll really be able to make the most of your time there and you’ll also be able to feel the buzz building as the day progresses - that unmissable Cheltenham magic.
Did you know...134,600 people use Cheltenham Spa train station over the four days of racing.
2. The Horse & Groom overall
New for 2019, The Horse & Groom is Cheltenham’s pub. Overlooking the final two fences of the racecourse, it offers real ales, fine wines and great food. Dishes on the menu include ‘The Bookies Favourite’ Manchester egg, beer battered cod and mushy peas or 30-day dry aged rib-eye Hereford beef followed by traditional desserts like treacle tart. Enjoy them alongside a range of real ales and a comprehensive wine list.
There are plenty of great wines to choose from. If you’re after a red, Tabula 2015, from Ribera del Duero in Spain, is a wonderfully intense, memorable and complex red. Journey’s End Chardonnay from South Africa is a wonderful, full-flavoured complex white with a lovely balance of fruit and oak. And when it comes to bubbles, Moët & Chandon Rosé is a fabulous, elegant and stylish pink.
On top of great food and drink and a stunning view, The Horse & Groom completes its quintessential English pub feel with traditional pub games for racegoers to enjoy throughout the day.
Did you know...A whopping five tonnes of smoked and fresh salmon will be consumed at The Festival.
3. The Horse and Groom real ales
If you want real ales, the Horse & Groom will have plenty to keep you busy throughout the Festival, including plenty from breweries local to the racecourse at Cheltenham.
They include Cotswold Gold, an American hopped golden ale declared Gloucestershire CAMRA’s 2017 Beer of the Year, and pale ale White Knight. Both are brewed by Goff’s Brewery in Winchcombe, just over seven miles from the course.
Also on offer is Battledown Original from Cheltenham’s Battledown Brewery and Cotswold IPA from the Cotswold Brew Co, also based in Cheltenham. Into the Haze, an India Pale Ale from DEYA Brewing Company in Cheltenham, is another local ale along with Best in Show, a traditional Best Bitter from Cotswold Lion Brewery.
There are some other great tipples on offer from slightly further afield - by a few miles - like Hook Norton Brewery’s Hooky Gold, Hillside Craft Lager, brewed in Longhope, Gloucestershire, and Six Malt Porter from Gloucester Brewery in Gloucester Docks which was voted 2017 Beer of the Festival by Tewkesbury CAMRA.
Did you know...Goff’s initially brewed Cheltenham Gold for race week but demand was so great it was promoted to its permanent roster of core beers.
4. Grab a coffee and buy a race card
Part of the fun of racing is in placing a bet. Start by looking through the Race Card , which will give you a map of the racecourse, so you can get your bearings, and the line-up for each race so you can pick your winners. Then study the form, check out some tips (I’ve got plenty for you) and get your bets placed. A popular way to have a flutter is The Tote Placepot, which gives you the opportunity to get a great return for a relatively small outlay. To be in with a chance of winning, The Tote Placepot requires punters to pick horses in the first six races of a meeting to be placed. This is a great bet to do with a group of friends or family on raceday.
Did you know...In 2018 there was a record amount of prize money on offer at The Festival, at £4,590,000 – over £1,000,000 per day.
5. Chefs at The Festival
A haven of fine food and drink, The Festival and Cheltenham itself brings some of the country’s top-name chefs to the area. Chez Roux at Cheltenham is hosted by world-famous culinary icon Albert Roux OBE and supported by son Michel Roux Jr, with Albert’s granddaughter Emily Roux hosting Chez Roux at Cheltenham.
Alongside them is the man behind all of the food at Cheltenham - Tom Parry, Regional Executive Chef at Jockey Club Catering. With 30 years experience under his belt in hospitality and catering, Tom has worked everywhere from The Savoy to Wembley Stadium, Chelsea Flower Show, The Masters Gold and the London 2012 Olympics. Over the four days of The Festival, Tom and his team of private boxes serving over 40,000 four-course hospitality meals from 65 kitchens. No mean feat - and something that helped scoop him the title of Chef of the Year in the Foodservice Cateys 2018.
Did you know... Cheltenham hosts 40,000 hospitality guests over the four days of The Festival.
6. Food glorious food
Even if you haven’t opted for one of the fabulous hospitality packages, there’s plenty of great food and drink to explore during The Festival. Visit Mandarin Kitchen for traditional hot meals, soups, locally-produced award-winning pies and deli sandwiches or try a burger from Tommy’s Shack at Tommy Atkins Bar. Sip on some bubbles and treat yourself to tapas at the Golden Miller Champagne Bar or grab a stone-baked pizza in the Betfred betting shop area. Grab a drink in the Garden Bar, or try an ‘Arkle Ale’ from the Arkle Bar.
The Pre-Parade Ring is home to The Pizza in the Park, Mac n Cheese and Carbonis BBQ grill, and in the Club Enclosure, you could try Quevega’s which offers a great selection of Champagne, cocktails and wine on tap as well as traditional tapas boards, hot sandwiches and signature burgers.
Did you know...100% of the cheese used in the menus at Cheltenham is produced within 50 miles of Cheltenham and 100% of all salmon is cured or smoked within 50 miles.
7. Visit the pre-parade ring
Whether you know about racing or not, the pre-parade ring is a great place to check out the horses ahead of their races. You can see them saddled up about half an hour before each race before they move to the main parade ring. Keep your eye on things like muscle tone, strength and mood to help you make your choice about which ones to have a flutter on.
Did you know...21,120 – distance, in feet, run during the National Hunt Chase, The Festival’s longest race.
6. Presented by Magners
Magners is the exclusive sponsor of Cheltenham Gold Cup and the presenting partner of The Festival. The four-year deal, announced last July, will see the first ‘Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup’ on Friday, March 15, 2019. It’s Magners’ first major horse racing sponsorship and the partnership with Jockey Club Racecourses celebrates Magners’ Irish heritage. You’ll be able to try Magners from outlets around the course - from their Original and Original Draught to Classic Pear or Dark Fruit.
Did you know...Ryanair puts on an extra 30 flights on the Dublin to Birmingham route during The Festival period.
7. Get closer to the action
If you want to get really close to the action, club ticket holders can cross the racecourse to watch a race from the centre of the course. Make sure you head out as soon as the preceding race has finished so you have enough time to get there.
Another way to get close to those thundering hooves is to catch the Glenfarclas Cross Country Race on Wednesday, which takes place in the centre of the racecourse over 32 obstacles. Sponsored by Glenfarclas, one of Scotland’s only family-run distilleries, the race is a must-see experience, challenging the horses over three miles, seven furlongs and a host of quirky obstacles.
Did you know...Some of the Spanish sherry casks used to aged Glenfarclas whisky have been incorporated into one of the fences on the course.
8. Retail Village overall points
The Festival is a shopaholics dream, with The Festival providing the chance to find hand-picked collections you won’t find anywhere else. From couture bags and belts to home accessories, childrenswear, bespoke tailoring, hats, art and race day outfits, there’s plenty to keep you busy between races. A popular choice is real Argentine leather company Estribos.
This year you’ll also be able to check out The John Fitzgerald Collection from The-Collections. Created in collaboration with renowned Irish Equestrian and Sporting artist John Fitzgerald, the 100% pure silk scarves feature a piece of John’s original artwork. Each scarf is 100cmx100cm, with hand rolled hem and presented in a hand tied gift box with a certificate of authentication. Pocket squares are also available. You can see the full range at Cheltenham at Stand 40 along with an exhibition of John Fitzgerald artwork.
Did you know...The local economic impact of the festival each year is around £100,000,000.
9. The Winners’ Enclosure
The Winners’ Enclosure is where you’ll see firsthand the celebrations not only of a successful horse or jockey, but to their whole team. The atmosphere is amazing and it’s great to get involved and give the winners a cheer.
Did you know...The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup has been won by an Irish-trained horse 24 times.
10. Enjoy a traditional afternoon tea
Cheltenham is the perfect place to partake in one of Britain’s best-loved traditions - afternoon tea. Some 45,000 afternoon teas will be served throughout the festival, complete with tea from classic English Breakfast to Earl Grey, served with finger sandwiches, scones and cakes. The only issue might be the age-old jam and cream debate.
Did you know...The Queen reportedly prefers jam first, according to a former chef who worked for the royal family from 1982 to 1993.
11. Boodles at The Cheltenham Festival
English fine jewellers Boodles sponsors the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and their display happens to be a great place to visit - either before or after placing your bet. I recently presented my Cheltenham Festival Preview at Boodles, charting the history of gems and wines. Boodles will have a feature on the course in the Club enclosure if you want to go and check it out. And if you’re planning on placing a bet on Wednesday’s Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, I think Fine Brunello has a great each way shout.
Did you know…Boodles now has nine stores including five in London: Savoy Hotel, New Bond Street, Sloane Street, The Royal Exchange and Harrods, three in North West England; (Manchester, Liverpool and Chester) and one in Dublin, Ireland.
12. Nyetimber Bus in The Orchard
One of the pioneers of English wine, Nyetimber, will be on hand at the Festival. The Nyetimber, in a converted 1968 Routemaster bus, will be serving glasses of its sparkling wine to owners, trainers and racing fans in The Orchard, providing the perfect spot to toast a day at the races.
Widely regard as one of England’s best sparkling wines, Nyetimber is made from 100% estate-grown grapes. Nyetimber was the first producer of English sparkling wine to exclusively grow the three celebrated grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
Did you know...Last year was a record-breaking year for the UK wine industry, with Wines of Great Britain confirming that 15.6 million bottles were produced - up 130% on the previous year’s crop in 2017 and far exceeding the previous record of 6.3m bottles in 2014.
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Illustration of The Wine Tipster by Darren Bird @Birdie.
The Wine Tipster will be offering his daily tips during The Cheltenham Festival for Cotswold Life. Look out for him at the racecourse.