Friday, 15 March 2013

Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is an annual 4 day horse racing event that literally takes over the whole town. All hotels are full, restaurants are totally booked. Many people open their homes and rent rooms and those near to the track, provide parking in their gardens. Each day there is a theme and special races in honor of someone related to racing or now more often named for sponsors.  

I went for Ladies Day with several spouses of Andrews coworkers. Despite growing up in Maryland, home to the 2nd jewel in the Triple Crown, at Pimlico (the Preakness) and Laurel Racetrack, I have never been to horse race. So I wasn't sure what expect. The weather forecast was for COLD but fortunately sunny. Thank heavens for that!

On Ladies Day, ladies are encouraged to really go all out dress up. Even though the temps were low, the ladies did not disappoint! People-watching was the sport of the afternoon for us. Some REALLY dressed to the nines. Don't you agree?
Fashion Contest Winner

There was a contest with some pretty impressive prizes. Mink coats, holidays, spa and shopping packages. I'm not sure how the ladies survived with short skirts, stilettos and no nylons. Freezing cold and sore feet! Not my idea of fun. I'm sure the champagne kept them warm. NOT.

Most sensible hat!
Feathers were the most use hat embellishment.

Fur is back.
The only person in our party who dressed for the occasion!
Quite the ensemble.

 The horse racing was so exciting and the atmosphere in the park was truly electric. Many races were very close, neck and neck. In one memorable race the two horses fighting for first place approached the last fence but only one made it over. Of course half the crowd cheered, now their horse would win!

We went to the winners circle and saw trainers and owners receive their prizes. They were interviewed by the press here also. Claire Balding, who hosted the Olympic coverage here in the UK was there.


We also went to the paddock, where the horses are walked before they race. This gives the crowd a chance to view them and help them make final betting decisions.

A few festival stats:

Crowds average 60- 70,000 a day. I can vouch for that!
15,000 come from Ireland alone!
Festival drinkers get through 18,000 bottles of Champagne and 214,000 pints of Guinness (a lot of which ends up on the floor!)
Prize money at Cheltenham exceeds £6m throughout the season with £3.67m on offer at The Festival alone, making it the most valuable and prestigious fixture in Jump racing.

I had a great afternoon with some great ladies.The week culminates with the Gold Cup on Friday, then things will quiet down until the Jazz festival later in the month. Then the madness all starts again!