How to survive the Cheltenham Festival

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  • Arrive at rented cottage early on Monday to bag biggest bedroom to accommodate hordes of different outfits brought for every conceivable weather permutation.

    Stuff the probably already defunct New Year’s diet. Cheltenham is a severe stamina test and must be attempted only on a full English every morning, supplemented at the races by the obligatory pint of Guinness and a king-size bar of Dairy Milk squirrelled away in an overstuffed handbag complete with hipflask (purely medicinal).

    While the fashion pages tell us tweed is back, we Cheltenham veterans know it never really went away. Dust off your finest Oliver Brown combo or even borrow Aunty Nancy’s fur coat. Layer up with thermal underwear or you’ll be bailing out before the Bumper.

    If temperatures rise above freezing (unlikely) you can always use the underwear to throw at Mick Fitzgerald while cheering his supposed last Festival appearance.

    Skipping and handbag-swinging are permitted on arrival on Tuesday, as everyone else is as excited as you are. By Thursday, the Georgie Girl routine becomes a bit of a bore.

    Get to the course early, grab a Racing Post and a seat in the Golden Miller bar (Arkle bar must be avoided at all costs: too full of over-friendly Irishmen and Cirencester students, even at 10am).

    Only chance to sit down all day so make the most of it, poring over the paper with furrowed brow, feigning intense form study. No one will guess you’re picking your favourite colours for the inter-cottage tipping contest, which the boys have overcomplicated by insisting on a scoring system based on SPs (whatever they are).

    Attempt to inveigle your way on to the weighing-room steps for some serious paddock-watching. Avoid being interviewed for Paul Binfield’s Fashion Focus on Festival FM. A trip to the hot toddy stand after the fourth race is obligatory.

    Endure 3hr traffic jam out of car park by tuning in to aforementioned station, especially if Tom Scudamore is on. With a bit of luck, you might make it over Cleeve Hill and out of range before Binfield is back on air.

    Practice best smug smile for your fluke win in the tipping contest, much to extreme annoyance of male Cheltenham companions.

    Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s Cheltenham preview (8 March, ’07) on sale now, which includes a form guide, an interview with ireland’s leading jumps trainer Noel Meade and a look at former champion chasers on the comeback trail

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