Cheltenham Festival blog: Ladies’ Day – not that we noticed

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  • Apparently it was Ladies’ Day at Cheltenham today. You can’t go racing without it being Ladies’ Day now, it seems and, to be fair, they are proven to pull in the punters. Or puntresses.

    Looks at Oaks day at Epsom. A few years ago the stands were nearly empty on the day before the Derby, but clever branding and promotion has turned it into a really well-attended day’s racing. Newmarket has done the same with one of the days of the July meeting. And the larger proportion of women in the crowd does keep the number of fights down — girls tend to giggle, be sick or cry when they are plastered, but they rarely take a swing at each other.

    But Ladies’ days are usually used to boost attendance on a less popular day — Cheltenham is packed to the rafters on all four days, so it hardly needs the help. It is well-attended by women anyway — of the actually-interested-in-racing type, not the let’s-get-lashed-type.

    Not that it seemed to have a huge impact — there were a few pairs of bare legs in skimpy frocks (and a few bare shoulders — in March!) and a sprinkling of hats made from flowers and sequins rather than fur, but as a general rule the Cheltenham ladies are a wise old bunch. They are well aware that however sunny it maybe at Cheltenham early in the day, it’s always freezing by 4pm, and that 40 denier is better than 10. And let’s face it, for most of us the truth is that we look far better covered up than when exposing a couple of square feet of goose-pimpled, winter-blue flesh to the world. Who was it who said something about not frightening the horses?

    Mind you, most of us make a pretty decent effort for Cheltenham — long tweed coat, short skirt, long boots, that sort of thing. Not so the former young rider team gold medal-winning eventer who wore ripped white jeans in the paddock…

    The eventing crowd were out in force today. Matthew Wright has been here both days so far — and winning lots of dosh, I’m told — Karen Dixon, Antoinette McKeowen, Zara Phillips, the aforementioned former young rider and her best friend and team-mate, Lucinda Green… They almost outnumber the Flat trainers, led by John Gosden and Ed Dunlop.

    Quotes of the day:

    “It’s not Aintree, is it?”
    A man referring to the lack of strapless dresses and fake tan on display on Ladies’ Day. Aintree Ladies’ Day is a jaw-dropping sight, but apparently Doncaster beats it.

    “It’s like a whole day’s hunting in 10 minutes”
    A lady neatly summing up yesterday’s cross-country race.

    “If an English jockey wore a Union flag into the winner’s enclosure at Punchestown, he’d probably get shot”
    An only-slightly-joking Irishman commenting on the practice of Irish jockeys draping themselves in the national flag on the way into the Cheltenham winner’s enclosure.

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