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Hold Your Horses- it's Cheltenham Festival
Yup, it's that time of year again. The cold, cruel spectre of winter is heading off and down here in this part of the world, spring has never truly sprung until we hear the thundering hooves over the gallops round Cleeve Hill.
Cheltenham Festival is held every March over four days which always coincides with St. Patrick's Day. There are more Irish punters clogging up the Bed and Breakfasts within a twenty mile radius over these few days, than there are in Ireland itself. To Irish racegoers, Cheltenham Festival is Mecca, the holy day of the racing calendar.
The Cheltenham National Hunt Festival is a big event. It attracts both royalty and the more humble punter. Segregated by price and privillege you can slum it in the main stands or lord it in the boxes.
But all options offer a good package. The three different enclosures each has its own special appeal and character. The Sun’s Best Mate Enclosure offers outstanding value for those who want an informal environment, great views over the track and a variety of betting facilities, with plenty of food and drink outlets. There is also live entertainment, usually cover bands to add to the party atmosphere.
Tattersalls and Club are two enclosures which combine during all racedays.Tickets for Tattersalls and the Club allow admission to the Member’s Lawn, Paddock, and viewing steps. Guests can also access the centre of the course adjacent to the final fence. If you want great views these are the best options. They also feature access to bookmakers and the betting ring, the unsaddling enclosure, the paddock and the Hall of Fame. The Gold Cup and Fetival restaurant offer first class dining if you really want to puh the boat out.
Finally, the third option is the Centaur which provides a 1000 seats and a huge widescreen to watch all the racing. Again it offers more entertainment, bars, restaurants and betting facilities.
On day one it is the Champion Hurdle, day two St. Patrick's Day, then it is Ladies Day which is just a big excuse to celebrate the latest fashions and then on the last day, the pinnacle of the whole event, the Gold Cup, the most important race over the National Hunt calendar. It is a Grade 1 National Hunt chase run over 22 fences and is 3 miles 2 ½ furlongs. The terrific atmosphere at the event is synonymous with the ‘Cheltenham roar’ as the horses enter the home straight. There are few racecourses in the world that can compete with the sheer thrill and fun of Cheltenham Races during the festival and like the Grand National, the Gold Cup attracts people to bet that wouldn't normally bother to follow horse-racing. It's jut great fun and an excuse to win (or lose) some money.
The horses that win become stars in their own right, Best Mate, Kauto Star and Desert Orchid are all celebrity gee-gees, and jockeys and trainers who win at Cheltenham are immediately given kudos and recognition in the racing world.
Of course, celebrations do not end at the racecourse and the whole town is alive with the buzz from the races. Pubs are packed and traffic comes to a stand still. Cheltenham and its surrounding area is as much as a draw as the Festival itself. It is a beautiful spa town in an area of outstanding natural beauty and country villages steeped in the past. Racing and anything to do with horses is very much part of the Gloucestershire tradition. So if you want to experience the real buzz of a racing event, make your way down to the Cheltenham Festival. Just remember to bring plenty of money!