Four days of top class national hunt racing at the country’s most spectacular race-course. Thousands will come to witness horse and jockey do battle for some of racings most coveted prizes. Whilst the Grand National in April may capture the public's imagination, for anyone with more than a passing interest in national hunt racing Cheltenham is the place to be.
Even if you are not interested in racing, the venue, people, atmosphere and pure bloody spectacle make this a must for anyone who has ever felt the pulse quicken at a live sporting occasion.
So a visit to Cheltenham is a must and if this is the first time you have visited the course then below are some simple do's and don'ts to make your visit more comfortable, enjoyable and - hopefully - profitable.
You will look like a twat and nobody will like you
1. Get too pissed. If you can keep your head whilst all around you are drinking brandy with breakfast, falling over and being sick on their brogues then you’ll be a wealthier man. Six cans of Stella before 10 am on the train to Cheltenham and your judgement will go out the window, you'll spend too much and you'll spend all day either at the bar or in the toilet and miss the best quality racing all year.
2. Get too involved in a card school on the 8.44 from Stoke-on-Trent. Keep the powder dry for doing battle with the bookies not for playing three card brag with Tim The Screw.
3. Go dressed as a baby, or a jockey, or a baby jockey, or in a comedy hat. You will look like a twat and nobody will like you.
4. Believe that there is such a thing as a sure thing. There is a long history of short priced favourites getting stuffed at Cheltenham. Also remember you don’t have to bet in every race, if you don’t fancy anything don’t have a bet.
5. Bother with the bus from the train station. It takes an age and it's usually just as quick to walk into town, have a beer and then walk to the course. The atmosphere is great and it's a lovely walk.
It's your day, study the form and make up your own mind
6. Cheer if there is a faller. Never, ever, ever do this. Ever.
7. Listen to tips. Especially if it's from an Irishman and they claim it's their banker. It's your day, study the form and make up your own mind. Also don't give out tips to friends, they won't thank you when the horse wins but they'll moan their bollocks off when your pick gets done by a nose on the line.
8. Back the favourite in the first race on the first day - the Supreme Novice Hurdle. It always loses. This is as much a part of Cheltenham tradition as Guiness, the hill, men in tweed and suspicious, late-night goings-on at the Queens Hotel.
9. Do your dough before the third race. Work out what you can afford to spend and then pace yourself accordingly. If you spend your cash before the last few races you'll find yourself borrowing and chasing losses. It's undignified and expensive.
10. Forget to enjoy the moment. It’s another year before it all starts again and if you’ve been once you’ll be coming back again, so take the time to look around you and take it all in.
You don't have to festoon yourself in tweed
1. Have a big breakfast. It's a long day and the food available on course is always expensive and often inedible.
2. Arrive well before the first race is due off. You'll avoid the crowds, the ticket touts, the lucky heather ladies and the hide the lady gentlemen. More importantly you'll give yourself plenty of time to take a look around the course, enjoy the pre-race atmosphere and take a have a look at the fascinating museum.
3. Dress for the occasion. You don't have to festoon yourself in tweed - however some do - and you can leave the red cords at home but it's worth making an effort. Also it's worth wearing something comfortable and something warm as you will be standing up outside for a long time.
4. Enjoy the roar that greets the first race - particularly on the Tuesday. This is a fine sporting occasion with a splendid tradition and some people spend all year dreaming of the moment the tapes rise on the first day. Respect the people and respect the traditions and you will have a fine time.
Look out for longshots, especially in handicaps
5. Look around for the best bookmaker prices on course. Don't just take the 11/4 available with Joe Smith & Sons when if you have a look around you may well get 3/1 or 7/2 elsewhere.
6. Look out for longshots, especially in handicaps. There are usually plenty of big-price winners at Cheltenham. Speculation abounds as to the reason for this, some horses just come alive at the course having shown nothing all season, others are trained specifically for the Festival..who knows. When betting in the handicaps have a 20/1 plus horse on your side and back it each way as most handicaps will have over 16 runners which means the bookies will pay four places.
7. If you're going to back a long shot back it with the Tote. Tote-pool betting works differently to conventional betting with the bookmakers and usually horses with big odds are much bigger prices. For example 10 years ago a horse called Ilnamar won the Coral Cup - a splendid 26 runner handicap hurdle - at odds of 25/1. Happy days if you've backed the horse until one glance at the Tote boards shows you could have backed the animal at equivalent odds of 92/1 with the Tote.
8. If you back a 92/1 winner don't shout too much about it. Nobody likes a show off, especially the man stood next to you who's just done his bollocks on the 'Irish good thing'
9. Stand by the rails for at least one race and enjoy the exhilaration as several tonnes of prime equine athlete and jockey thunders up the famous hill straining every muscle in pursuit of glory.
10. Have a bloody good time!
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