ITV’s Oli Bell, Race commentator and presenter, gives us his low-down on how to get the most from a day at the races:
There’s nothing quite like a day at the Cheltenham Festival... it’s the pinnacle of National Hunt racing - the best horses, the best owners, jockeys and trainers and the best winter outfits. There is simply no jumps racing festival quite like it. Whether you’re a first timer or a regular it’s important to know the keys to having the best time so here is my guide to enjoying a day at the races!
1) Get a good breakfast in you!
Fuel is important because it’s a long day, get up bright and early, pop down to the local newsagents, pick up your Racing paper so you can study the form and sit back and enjoy a big breakfast watching the Opening Show on ITV4 every morning of Cheltenham at 9.30. That way, by the time you arrive at the track you should be fuelled up with all the winners found ready to enjoy the day at the track.
2) Get to the track with plenty of time to spare.
With over 100,000 people heading to Cheltenham during the week the traffic is understandably fairly busy getting into the track so give yourself plenty of time to get there. The first race is always at 1.30 so you want enough time to find your spot, grab a coffee and have a look at the horses in the paddock. If you’re not able to get to the course then Cesca Cumani and Alice Plunkett will be in the paddock on ITV advising you which horses look the best in the paddock before the race.
3) Find the bet that suits you best:
There are a number of different bets you can do at the races. On the Tote you can do a jackpot or a placepot. These are pool bets so you are betting into a pool system with all the other racegoers. In a nutshell, The more money in the pool, the more money you win. At the big festivals the pools can get quite high so these are a good way to potentially win lots of money for not big stakes (depending on the number of permutations you do). The jackpot, (which golfer Lee Westwood famously won for big money last year), means you have to pick all 6 winners on the card. The placepot means you need a horse to finish in the first 3 in each race (depending on field size). These are fun bets to do if you are relatively new to the racing scene as it means you can hopefully have an interest in every race without having to spend too much money. If you are with a group then it’s quite fun to all put in say £5 and you can all have a team cheer.
Alternatively when you’re at the races go across the bookie boards and look out for the best price for the horse you fancy - when you’re betting at the races you want to get the best value for your bet so look for the best price.
One other key tip is that if you’re betting each way, check with the bookmaker you’re betting with how many each way places they are paying. Some bookies will offer an extra place In the each way market - this can be the difference between winning big or losing your bet so do check with whoever your betting with.
4) Find a good bar!
If you want to have a drink at the Festival then the Arkle Bar or the See You Then Bar normally have a good atmosphere but there are two areas to definitely check out: the Magners Orchard and the Guinness village. I’m from Somerset so I’m a cider man so when the show finishes I’ll be heading to the Magners Orchard for a cider!
5) Dress the part!
Montague Ede kit me out and they really get it right! It’s important to be stylish and classy, but comfortable and practical. There is also the varying weather so make sure you pack suitable clothing for the conditions. Tweed is obviously very common at the Cheltenham festival but there are a variety of different tweeds you can go for. Antonia has a number of different bunches to check out so you can keep on the Cheltenham brand but bring out your own personality. I like a grey and pink tweed which looks stylish and stands out but there are a host of different choices. With footwear, Cheltenham is quite hilly so wear comfortable shoes or at the very least...wear your shoes in before the event!
6) Have fun!!
A day at the races is so much fun so enjoy yourself, Chetlenham has it all, with the best atmosphere, best raging and best people so soak it all up and have the best time.