Katie Allen-Clarke of Horse and Country has provided That’s Farming’s readers with the ultimate guide to the Cheltenham Races this year.
Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest events in the horseracing calendar, and this year, it is taking place from March 14th to March 17th, 2023.
While long-time fans might say that this weekend cannot be put into words, it is safe to say that attendees should expect an electric atmosphere, fabulous fashion, and packed grandstands.
So, if you are off to the races and want to plan the perfect weekend for you, your friends, or your family, here is an ultimate guide to Cheltenham.
From top attractions to this year’s newcomers and favourites to win, here is everything you need to know about the biggest horse racing event in the UK.
What to wear
Cheltenham Festival does not impose a specific dress code and instead operates a ‘dress to feel your best’ policy (The Jockey Club).
This means that comfortable, practical clothing such as a smart shirt, jumper, jeans, and clean trainers are accepted at the racecourse.
However, most attendees take the opportunity offered by a traditional event like the Cheltenham races to step out in their Sunday best: think dapper suits, floral spring dresses, and elaborate, almost regal headwear.
Nowhere is this flair for country fashion more apparent than the much-anticipated Ladies’ Day.
Taking place on Wednesday, March 15th, this year, Ladies’ Day is a time-honoured tradition that is recognised by a best-dressed award.
Bold choices and chic ensembles take centre stage here and are only just overshadowed by the races themselves.
Whether you opt for an elegant dress or a chic jumpsuit, do not be afraid to experiment with bright spring colours and patterns.
The finishing touch should, of course, be a hat or fascinator: these accessories are synonymous with any British racing event, and Cheltenham is certainly no different.
After all, where else can you get creative with show-stopping headwear if not at the races?
While Ladies’ Day is a famous part of the festival, men can, of course, have just as much fun with race attire.
Sophisticated suits, tuxedos, dress shoes, and even top hats are all welcomed and encouraged at Cheltenham and can help everyone get into the spirit.
Finally, all attendees are advised to bring a light jacket and an umbrella, so they are prepared for anything the changeable British springtime may throw at them!
Where to visit
In between the feature races of the festival, you will want to make the absolute most of your trip to Cheltenham Racecourse.
For instance, fans who come as soon as the gates open might be able to catch an exciting glimpse of the equine and human stars as they arrive at the racecourse.
Similarly, to get an even closer look at the day’s racing stars, head to the pre-parade ring twenty minutes before the race begins, where the horses will be walked and warmed up before saddling.
Also not to be missed is the Winner’s Enclosure, where you can witness jockeys and trainers alike celebrating unforgettable victories and be part of this electric atmosphere.
Lifelong racing fans will also want to check out Cheltenham’s Hall of Fame, which contains key pieces of racing history like the silks of every single Gold Cup winner as far back as 1924.
All the legendary trainers, horses, and jockeys have a restaurant, bar, or statue dedicated to them throughout the racecourse (such as Dawn Run, Best Mate, and Sir Anthony McCoy), so keep your eyes peeled and soak up the history of this iconic sports venue.
While you are spending a long weekend in Cheltenham, why not sample the rest of what this Gloucestershire town has to offer?
Enjoy a taste of the high life in the French-inspired Montpellier district, where you will find luxury shops, bars, and restaurants.
Or, make the most of the mild spring weather and take your family to the petting zoo at Cotswold Farm Park, the café and boating lake at Pittville Park, and the historic ruins of Hailes Abbey.
Who to watch
Whether you are a seasoned punter, placing your first bet, or simply want to cheer on a promising newcomer, here is who to keep your eye on at Cheltenham this year.
The festival kicks off with Champion Day on March 14th, with the feature contest of the day being the aptly named Champion Hurdle.
Favoured to win here is the impressive Constitution Hill, last year’s winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Following this is Ladies’ Day, which, aside from the show-stopping fashion, features the iconic Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Irish trainer and racing legend Willie Mullins is tipped to have the winning horse in the Champion Chase, with Energumene looking for a second win in this category.
However, it is also believed that Edwardstone — last year’s winner of the Arkle Chase — is set to provide some strong competition.
Many people will be hoping for the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but two main betting heats are the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Look out for Allaho defending his title in the Ryanair Chase from the tipped favourite, Shishkin.
Finally, the most anticipated event on the festival schedule is Cup Day.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the blue riband event in steeplechasing, where the best horses in the game meet at level weights and compete for over three and a quarter miles.
If you plan to place a bet on the Gold Cup, a strong favourite is last year’s winner A Plus Tard, whose odds are sitting at 6/1 after a heroic victory in 2022.
However, newcomer Galopin Des Champs is undoubtedly another one to watch, coming in at as little as 11/8 with some bookmakers after winning all his starts so far this season (Cheltenham Festival).
If you are looking forward to Cheltenham Festival this March, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind to make the most out of this iconic racing event.
While some of us are picking out the perfect outfit for our changeable British springtime, others are scouting out promising newcomers, returning favourites, and the best betting odds.
As well as cheering on your favourite at the scheduled races, be sure to make the most of everything else that Cheltenham has to offer.
Visiting the Hall of Fame, the Winner’s Enclosure, and seeing the sights in the surrounding Gloucestershire town will help you turn this iconic racing weekend into a staycation to remember.