When planning a trip to the UK, you’ll doubtless have some key tourist attractions in mind that you want to see while you’re there. London, for example, is packed with so much culture and history that you probably could visit the city numerous times over and still never manage to see everything that it has to offer. And there are many other major cities that you could say similar things about across the breadth and length of the country.
But one way to get a real flavour of a certain slice of British life is to spend a day at the races. Britain is the home of horse racing historically speaking and it has a number of great racing events throughout the year in different parts of the country. The biggest National Hunt fixtures are the Cheltenham Festival in March and the meeting at Aintree in April.
Both have prestigious races held at them. Probably the most well-known race of all is the Grand National at Aintree, but for National Hunt racing fans the Cheltenham Festival really is the pinnacle of the whole season. The four day meeting features a Champion level race every day; these are the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the World Hurdle and the Gold Cup. The most well-known of these is the Gold Cup, and it has a prize fund that is only second to the Grand National.
The Cheltenham Festival takes place in March every year and in 2015 it will run from 10th – 13th March, with the Gold Cup taking place on Friday 13th March. You may not necessarily want to go on Gold Cup day though; each of the days has its own charms. If you like getting dressed up for a big occasion, then the Wednesday, Ladies’ Day, may be the best choice. The feature race on Ladies’ Day is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which was won last year by a horse named Sire De Grugy. If you want to get your Cheltenham Festival bets on early, you can already find odds on most of the key races at sites like Betfair. Sire De Grugy is currently second favourite at prices of around 3/1, though the odds may change as race day draws closer.
Another of the days that’s always popular is St Patrick’s Thursday, when the World Hurdle is run. Aside from the Champion race, Cheltenham race course is a great place to be to celebrate St Patrick’s Day a couple of days in advance. The Irish presence at Cheltenham is a strong one, so you’ll feel like you’re in the right place for a St Patrick’s Day celebration.
Going to the races is a great way to spend the day as you have the spectacle of the horse racing for one thing, but then you’ve also got the people-watching benefits too. Everyone likes to have fun at the races, and going on Ladies’ Day, you’ll see a wide range of different fashion statements. Beyond having fun listening in to the conversations in the grandstand and at the hospitality tents, there is also the possibility of having a big win with any of the bets that you choose to place.
Cheltenham is one of the most beautiful race courses in Britain, and is situated in a natural amphitheatre below the Cotswold Hills. It has the capacity for upwards of 67,000 spectators and there are actually two separate courses that run next to each other. The New Course has a difficult downhill fence and the run-in is longer for steeplechases than on the Old Course. Inside the main race course, there’s also a course for cross-country steeplechases. The atmosphere is always spectacular at Cheltenham, and things get off to a great start with the sound of the Cheltenham Roar – the huge sound created by the crowd when the starter raises the tapes on the first race to get the Festival started.
Going to a big sporting event like Cheltenham will certainly flavour your trip to the UK with some special memories. Of course, you may not be visiting at that time, but you’re bound to find another big British event that you can be a part of whenever you plan to go.