What We’ll See At The Cheltenham Festival
We’re weeks away from the commencement of the UK’s spring season of prestigious horse races, and the action begins at Cheltenham. Located a short distance west of London in the region known as the English Cotswolds, Cheltenham has become a busy hub of horse racing over the ears, and its primary racecourse now has the distinction of hosting the first truly major event of the year. The Cheltenham Festival stretches from March 10 to 13 and consists of several significant races. But it’s also a lively experience for fans, who in many ways are as much a part of the festival as the horses, jockeys, and trainers out on the tracks.
Here’s a look ahead at the spectacles we’ll see at this year’s festival—including, of course, some of the bold fashions so often associated with this one-of-a-kind sporting event.
It’s not the most exciting aspect of race day preparation, but weather can be a factor at Cheltenham because it’s relatively early in the year. And once again, it looks as if conditions will be fairly cold when the festival rolls around. BBC’s outlook shows temperatures of 8 and 9 degrees Celsius up until the week before the event. You can visit the site to view a more detailed forecast, but the simple result is that we may see some different fashion looks. Additionally, some horses may be better off running in cooler conditions than others.
Before we get into the fashion we’re likely to admire among the spectators, a quick preview of the actual racing is in order. Cheltenham is full of fascinating races—there are over five per day—but four in particular stand out above the rest: the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, World Hurdle, and Gold Cup. And per the early racing odds posted at Betfair, the horses to watch in each respective event are Faugheen, Sprinter Sacre, Zarkander, and Silviniaco Conti. You can view the full analysis and odds of the various races here, but these four are the favourites early on. The closest race appears to be the World Hurdle, where Zarkander is only a very narrow favourite over Saphir Du Rheu. The most fascinating horse for spectators will likely be Sprinter Sacre, a famous champion who’s making a comeback from health issues.
And finally, the fun part! Like other horse racing events of its caliber, the Cheltenham Festival often attracts many fashion lovers among its spectators, and the festivity of horse racing style is in full effect. As mentioned, however, weather can be a factor and often helps Cheltenham to stand out among the world’s big races. Ultimately, this ends up making Cheltenham one of the best public events at which to observe techniques in layering! Racing fashion site Furlong Fashion pointed out as much (with regard to both men and women) before last year’s festival, recommending layering with fabrics like wool tweed, crepe, and brocade. Additional tips for Cheltenham dress included the stashing of a cashmere scarf in one’s handbag, just to be safe with the weather.
But really, as nice as it can be to get a look at stylish outerwear at the Cheltenham Festival, the focus, as at any big horse race, is on the hats. Race day hats have developed their own quirky little corner of the fashion industry, and they inspire more inventiveness and eccentricity than most any other garment for any other occasion. True to form, Cheltenham hats cover a huge range of styles and appearances, some dainty and delicate, some grand and overwhelming, and some tight-fitting and made with fur for the sake of warmth. You never know exactly what you’re going to see—only that it will be fascinating!