Cheltenham Festival Guide

Features | 14th March 2022

The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most popular race meetings in the world. It’s the first date in the diary for the hundreds of thousands of jump racing fans who make the annual pilgrimage to the Cotswolds in mid‐March.

The four‐day Festival is the most fantastic experience but any greenhorns preparing to make their first trip to Cheltenham might need pointing in the right direction by seasoned veterans.

Here’s some handy hints to make sure you enjoy all the fun of The Festival. 

Be An Early Bird

After taking advantage of the many racing breakfasts on offer in the towns and villages approaching the course, it always pays to get to the track early.

Not only do you beat the traffic but it also gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the atmosphere as the excitement starts to increase the closer it gets to the first race.

You can also familiarise yourself with the best places to watch the racing from, how to get to the parade ring to see the horses and where your favourite food is served for when you get peckish.

Soak Up The Sights

There is so much to see and do between races at the Cheltenham Festival.

So it would be a crying to shame to stay in the same spot all day. Seeing the horses in the parade ring before the big races is a must‐see experience and you can also watch the horses being saddled in the boxes next to the pre‐parade ring.

Getting closer to the action in the middle of the course is a thrilling change from the electric atmosphere of the stands. It might be quieter among the spectators but the sounds from the horses and jockeys often surprise even the most seasoned racing fan.

Make sure you get a good position around the winners’ enclosure to help cheer home the successful horses and riders after the big races at least a couple of times during the day.

Weather Watch

Make sure you study the weather forecast as closely as the form.

The changeable March climate is harder to predict than The Festival’s big‐field handicap races.

It always pays to be prepared for everything the skies can chuck at you. It’s not unheard of for The Festival to see some snow showers but there’s been far more days of glorious sunshine.

No one wants the enjoyment of a superb day’s racing to be compromised by misjudging the required clothing.

There’ll be plenty of people on track with tweed down to their underwear but the jumping fan’s unofficial uniform is far from compulsory.

Some dress up, others dress more casual but getting the right clothes for the weather is crucial to enjoying everything about The Festival.

Well Watered

There are dozens of bars where thirsty racing fans can enjoy a drink but it always pays to pace yourself.

It’s always a long day at the Cheltenham Festival so make sure you keep yourself hydrated by taking on plenty of water in between drinks.

Take advantage of the free water dispensers in the bars and, like the jockeys in the races, try not to go too quickly too soon.

The Guinness Village is one of the most lively areas of the track. More than 250,000 pints of the popular drink will be served in the racecourse bars during The Festival and there will be live music throughout the week at the dedicated venue situated below the parade ring.

Irish Invasion

There was a time when everybody loved to see an Irish winner at The Festival.

They popped up here and there when it was a three‐day meeting, sparking some of the most astonishing celebrations. The likes of Danoli, Istabraq and Florida Pearl are etched into Cheltenham folklore.

These days it’s the rule rather than the exception. Last season there were an unbelievable 23 Irish‐ trained winners leaving British trainers to squabble over just five trophies.

The Irish domination is unlikely to change any time soon so make sure you’ve tuned into the Irish preview nights, studied the form from Leopardstown to Listowel and have mugged up on the top horses making the trip over.


History Lesson

The Festival, in some form, dates back more than a hundred years and there are plenty of opportunities to find out about the history of jump racing’s greatest meeting.

Some of the legendary horses, trainers, jockeys and owners are highlighted in the Hall of Fame found next to the Centaur building.

Spending a few minutes enjoying the exhibits will give racing fans new and old a flavour of why the four days is so special.

There are also statues of some of the great champions dotted around the course. Arkle, Dawn Run and Best Mate are among the Festival heroes immortalized in bronze by some of the world’s most talented equine sculptors.

Some snippets of history can also be found in the many bars named after championship race winners.

Pop To The Shops

Dozens of tradestands to suit all tastes and budgets are housed in the Shopping Village.

Kit yourself out with the latest racing fashions, treat yourself to some designer jewellery or pick up a painting of your favourite horse.

There so much to see and even more to buy in the substantial indoor shopping centre. Much of it is, obviously, with a racing theme but, be warned, it’s hard to browse the complex and leave empty handed.

Don’t Hurry Home

Just because the last race is run doesn’t mean you have to hit the road.

Rushing to the exit will mean you miss all the fun of the after parties. There will be live music from a different band in the Centaur after racing each day.

It’s an ideal way to beat the worst of the traffic and it is a perfect way to end your Festival experience.