If you are a newcomer to Cheltenham’s course, it helps to have an idea of what to expect. The Major has collated a few thoughts and offers my personal view on a few things….
There are three enclosures at the festival. The Best Mate, Tattersalls and Club.
Starting at the top, a club ticket gets you access to all of the course including the grassy area and stand in front of the winning line. There are a few dedicated bars to club too, nothing to shout about and in the Major’s view, it is as crowded as the Tatts enclosure.
Having a Tatts ticket leaves you short on those few areas and the major inconvenience of that is not being able to walk down the front of the course.
Best Mate is on the other side of the run in. It does not give you access to th winners enclosure, the Guinness village, the stalls and the main enclosures. Yet, it is not all bad. Firstly, it is great value and you also get a terrific view of the main stand which when packed and giving out a mighty roar to cheer a winner home, is a sight to behold.
The Arkle Bar and Nicky Henderson!
Back over on the main part of the racecourse, the Arkle bar is well worth a visit. It is situated towards the bottom of the main building and like all places in festival week, is jam-packed! However, it is a cracking atmosphere, well-heeled folk and a stumble from the track.
Now Nicky Henderson does not in my knowledge drink in the Arkle bar but if you happen to be there and he has a runner in the next then you can stand right beside him.
He watches every race from the same spot. Come out of the Arkle bar through the exit under the walkway, turn left and walk 40 yards. Henderson and entourage will be standing right there.
While on the subject, if you are that way inclined (and the Major is not) there are plenty of celebrity sorts to be spotted. The Channel 4 team will be at the top end of the Club enclosure close to the barrier separating club from tatts. Don’t be a grinning idiot poking your head into shot though, it is not a good look.
The Parade Ring
The parade ring and winners enclosure are well worth a visit during your day out. Watching the horses parade before racing is a sight. Cheering a winner back in is special, particularly if you backed it. Make sure you take it in.
Next best would be to get a standing point right on the rail for the walk in to the parade ring. Here you can cheer your winning selection and horse and see the spectacle up close.
The Middle of the Course
If you head down to the bottom of the lawn on the front of the racecourse, you will see a stream of people heading under the barrier, across the course and to the centre.
It is a fantastic place to watch a race from. You can get very close to the final obstacle and watch the horses jumping up close. You get the shouts of the jockeys and a real personal feel for the sport. You need a club ticket but well worth doing, particularly for the cross-country race which zig zags the centre of the course. You need a club ticket.
The Guinness Village
The Guinness Village is located near the bottom of the course and is accessible to anyone with a club or tattersalls ticket.
They say that hundreds of thousands of pints of Guinness are sunk during th festival. Your grateful correspondent can lay claim to a fair percentage of those.
The atmosphere there is superb, there is a huge Guinness wagon in the open air dispensing the black gold as well as numerous bars which line one side of the village, which is effectively a square.
There is a music stand adding to a party atmosphere and with a big screen showing the racing, there is a danger you might not move to actually see any horses!
In bad weather, the screens and bars of the Centaur building are a bit of a saviour. That is the only value of the space for the Major, feels a bit lifeless otherwise.