Horse RacingEngland has some of the world’s biggest, brashest and most ebullient horse races. The Epsom Derby, Grand National and Royal Ascot are all spectacular celebrations of our racing culture and heritage; but theres one upcoming event which stands head and shoulders above the rest – The Cheltenham Festival; this year held on March 10th-13th.

Big racing festivals attract bigger fields and faster horses; making them incredibly exciting for racing fans. These big events are also important for bookmakers – at Cheltenham, for example, an unbelievable £600m will be bet over the 4 days! Tipsters and “men of the turf” will also be busy studying form and fields as their tips for Cheltenham can make or break reputations.

Preparing The Festival is a year long operation involving thousands of staff. Organising, securing and running an event like Cheltenham requires rigid planning and preparation – even a tiny deviation from schedule can be a huge revenue loss if it prevents a race been shown on TV. If a frost is predicted all of the 21,120 feet of track and covered by plastic sheeting to avoid damaging frosts and workers have been busy installing new phone masts to cope with the surge of traffic generated by over 80,000 daily visitors.

Cheltenham, North West of London and close to the Welsh border, is one of the most easily accessible English racetracks for Irish horses to reach (with easy access to the Holyhead port) and so attracts many champion thoroughbreds from the Emerald Isle. Cheltenham’s association with Ireland is also bolstered by the fact that The Festival is always timed to fall over St. Patrick’s Day – this year celebrated on Thursday 12th March. I wouldn’t describe the atmosphere on St. Patrick’s day as “child friendly”, but it will certainly be a loud and raucous affair, fuelled by pints of Guinness liberally served in their sponsored tent.

The Festival closes on the day of its most famous race – The Cheltenham Gold Cup. It is run over a long, 3 mile 2½ furlong course with 22 hurdles (jumps) to navigate along the way. It is one of the richest and most prestigious English races, attracting only the very finest jockeys and mounts. Every year the Gold Cup winner writes an incredible story, and all eye this year will be on the battle between defending champion Lord Windemere and super steed Silviniaco Conti.

Horse racing is a sport which flies under the radar most of the time until one of the marquee events brings it back to our attention. Although The Grand National gets us all taking part in office sweepstakes; to most fans Cheltenham is racing’s unmissable event. Single day tickets start at £22 and if you make it to Cheltenham you’re unlikely to forget the experience quickly!