A Gentleman’s Guide to Cheltenham

What to wear, what to say, what to eat and what horses to back.

Sizing John celebratesImage Getty

With the biggest meet of the racing calendar upon us, it’s time to gear up for the famous Cheltenham roar.

Around 250,000 people will flock into Prestbury Park over the four days of the Festival, where a staggering £500 million is expected to be wagered in bets this year.  Meanwhile, £4.5 million is up for grabs in prize money, more than any other jump festival in the world.

Cheltenham is just as much a social occasion as it is a spectacle of top class racing, but if you’re a newcomer to the races, fear not – loaded has teamed up with Genting Bet to provide a handy guide to successfully negotiating the Festival.

What to Wear

You could say there is a need for tweed at the Festival. Those in the know advise “smart country clothing”, with plenty of tweed and fur. Whilst there is no official dress code at Cheltenham, and it is less strict than a Royal Ascot meet, it’s still very much a case of dress to impress. Men will tend to suit up, especially for the Club Enclosure. It’s worth noting that although fancy dress is not barred, the racecourse will stop you from coming in if you’ve got a bit carried away…

What to Say

Ensure you’re not hoarse for the horse, so don’t lose your voice at the start of the day but do embrace the famous roar of the first race. Horse racing terminology can stump even the most devoted of sports fan. If you’d struggle to explain the difference between a horse’s blinkers and visors, then perhaps it’s worth getting clued up on some key lingo to drop into conversation throughout the day, for example:

  • “The Talking Horse” – a horse that is highly fancied
  • “Maiden” – a horse that has never won a race
  • “Stayer” – a horse known for its incredible stamina
  • “Bug Boy” – an apprentice jockey
  • “Washed out” – a sweating horse, showcasing pre-race nerves
  • “Monkey” – slang for £500
  • “On the nod” – equivalent of a photo finish in the 100m – race decided by tight winning margin
  • “Over the top” – a horse who has already hit its peak in the season
  • “Tic-tac” – hand signals bookmakers uses to communicate with one another

Which Horses to Back

For the Supreme Novices Hurdle, which kicks off proceedings at the Festival, you should be mindful of backing the favourite in the first race if history is anything to go by – the odds on favourite has not won in either of the last two years. You’re better off doing so in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, the second race on the opening day, where the favourite has won for three consecutive years. Do lap up the atmosphere and get in the grandstand if you can to take in the atmosphere.

What to Eat

You’ll be spoilt for choice in the food department at Cheltenham, with the mobile catering units in all enclosures serving up tasty dishes such as fish and chips, hog roasts, burgers and hot dogs, and doughnuts. Some 8,000 gallons of tea and coffee are served, whilst 9 tonnes of potatoes and 5 tonnes of salmon are consumed – prepared by the 350 chefs on site. What better way to wash it down than with one of the 120,000 bottles of wine or 20,000 bottles of champagne expected to be drunk at the Festival.  

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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.