The Festival. Live it!

My favourite month of the year has finally arrived. Magnificent March is here, and with it the greatest four days of sporting action is just a Knockara Beau away. With tickets purchased and accommodation booked I’m left with the small matter of finding a few winners. But in truth, finding a winner merely adds a cherry to the top of the most delicious cake. The Festival at Cheltenham is more than just a sporting occasion; it is a truly memorable event. For many the experience is life changing. The excitement builds as soon as you arrive in Cheltenham. Every bar is crammed with people clutching a Racing Post. A pint and a ‘full English’ appears to be a common starting point for many, before minds are joined in finding the big priced ‘sure thing’ that Pricewise failed to spot. All too soon it’s time to head towards the course. A short stop at the bookies to invest in a life- changing ‘Yankee’, before that wonderful walk. There’s a gentle climb from Cheltenham town centre towards the racecourse. The anticipation rises as you pass through Pittville Park. The masses gather as the climb continues, until finally there it is, ‘Shangri la’. The entrance sets the perfect tone, with both grandstand and indoor arena (The Centaur ) suitably imposing. The vast racecourse with the beautiful Cleeve Hill in the distance is truly a sight to behold. That first view of the course on the first day of The Festival is exhilarating. This wonderful sporting venue has something to suit every taste. The stunning Centaur, delivers racing history, food and drink, betting facilities and a large screen showing every race. It’s a haven for any who wish to escape the elements. I hardly dare say it, but the shopping village is a must experience for many. A wonderful tented labyrinth for those looking for the perfect gift. Maybe a need for quality country clothing, perhaps jewellery or even a piece of beautiful equestrian artwork, the variety of exhibitors is incredible. And after a little retail therapy, what could be better than a trip to my personal favourite of The Festival. Photo by Nigel Keeling The Guinness Village may sound a little daunting, but for me epitomizes this great event. People from all walks of life gather, rubbing shoulders, laughing, drinking; living the Festival experience. A pint of the ‘black stuff’ and live Irish music enhance this great adventure. The Irish public play a crucial role in making The Festival a thing of beauty. At what other sporting event would it seem only natural to take a stroll from the Champagne Bar across to a Guinness Village. Then of course there’s the racing. It is, after-all, the reason that over 200,000 people flock to this small corner of Gloucestershire every March. A gathering of the greatest jump racing horses, trainers and jockeys. Over the four days, stars of the sport will attempt to defend their crowns. Hurricane Fly, Bobs Worth and the mighty Big Buck’s will all face their sternest tests. Willie Mullins and his powerful team will hope to arrive from Ireland and dominate the sport’s greatest stage. Britain’s finest will attempt to repel the inevitable onslaught. It could be epic. Each passing Festival creates new lifelong memories. Thrilling finishes, extraordinary riding feats, and incredible battling victories, will all be etched in the hearts of true Festival lovers. This event is unique. People do not simply attend the Cheltenham Festival, they live it! To maximise your enjoyment of National Hunt racing – join our Community!