This week kicks off the most wonderful time of the year, in my mind. It’s the beginning of horse-racing season. In the UK, this season is launched with the massive Cheltenham Festival of Racing. For 51 weeks of the year, Cheltenham is a small Regency town nestled in the Cotswold hills,but for Festival week, more than 237,000 people arrive to take part in the racing. A huge contingent of more than 20,000 arrives from Ireland, as there are a significant number of Irish-bred horses and jockeys racing. Of course, the Guinness Racing Village is an attraction, too!
Special steam trains come from London bringing racing fans who bet millions of pounds during the week. That’s one thing that was fun about living in the UK: I could bet on anything and everything. I even went to the local betting shop to put down a fiver on the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
The races are broadcast live via some of the betting sites like Paddy Power (it’s Irish!) and BetFred, but you have to do a bit of fiddling to be able to watch and bet if you have a US-based IP address. Luckily, I know the way around that obstacle and time my Friday lunch hour to coincide with the running of the biggest race of the Festival… the Gold Cup. And using my UK bank account, I put a couple of pounds down on a favourite, like Sam Waley-Cohen, an amateur jockey who won the Gold Cup several years ago (and who fell in the Maryland Hunt Cup, a much harder race!).
The other attraction of these races is seeing what everyone wears. When I used to go to the races at Chepstow, the course closest to where I lived in Wales, the dress of the day was something that kept you warm, something that kept you dry, and something to keep the sun out of your eyes. That generally meant wool trousers, waterproof boots, a heavy cashmere sweater, a long Barbour coat and of course, a hat. Unlike some of the other races, like Ascot, Cheltenham doesn’t have a dress code, although there is a preponderance of tweed and Tattersall. And hats.I much prefer the looks above to this look.
I love this picture of the Queen’s grand-daughter Zara Philips-Tindall, although she doesn’t look too thrilled about being kissed.