WHAT makes the Cheltenham Festival so special? It’s a question asked by non-racing folk every spring. Well it’s hard to sum up in a few words, but I’ll try.
It’s a place where heroes are born. Festival legends are made in the most picturesque of sporting amphitheatres. The greatest show on turf!
It is the Olympics of jump racing. A venue where all classes come together to enjoy the best equine athletes the world has to offer.
Around 260,000 punters will parade around Prestbury Park in their finest tweed, contributing £20million to racing while its worth £100m to the local economy of Gloucestershire. The average punter will wage around £200 per day.
It’s an occasion now synonymous with the ‘Irish Invasion’. Over a quarter of a million pints of Guinness will be consumed over the four days, mostly in the tented village, sponsored by the famous stout.
The word ‘Sport’ is not just confined to the action on the track. The sporting behaviour of connections, the sporting atmosphere between the patrons, and the sporting element of finding those all elusive winners.
It is the most competitive racing of the season, hence why those most addictive feelings over finding a winner are harder to come across. But when they are found, the rewards are of the highest order.
The handicaps are always the most difficult to fathom, horses been laid out for a single target, primed to run the best race of their lives, trained to the minute by their handlers. The problem is there are lots of them in every race. More plots than a Shakespeare production. The fight to be first is fierce.
All these unforgettable feats are achieved on the iconic green turf, at the base of Cleeve Hill. It’s akin to the Hollywood Hills for Horses. They have witnessed it all. From the inaugural action dating back to 1861 to Rock The World’s victory in the final race in 2017 and everything in between. Many many chapters have been written.
Every racegoer has their favourite memory of Cheltenham Festivals gone by. The five Gold Cup wins for Golden Miller (one for our older readers), the battles between Sea Pigeon, Night Nurse and Monksfield.
Or how about the legendary Peter O’Sullevan commentary on the gutsy Gold Cup victory of Desert Orchid in 1989? The 100/1 success of Norton’s Coin a year later? Who followed Istabraq for his Champion Hurdle hat-trick, or were present for the re-crowning as Champion of Spriner Sacre?
New memories will be made over four fantastic days in 2018. Will Buveur D’Air be crowned Champion once again? Will Un De Sceaux reign supreme in the Ryanair? Supasundae or Sam Spinner to score Stayers’ success? And who ‘might’ take Gold?
Whatever your thoughts and theories on these thoroughbreds, the very best of luck. But most importantly, Gamble Responsibly.