Forget Coronavirus – it’s time for Cheltenham fever.
The Festival jumps off today and I’ve been stockpiling winning tips like idiots have been stockpiling toilet rolls.
Over the next four glorious days I will chip in with tips, facts, betting advice, funny stories and all the inside info you will need to survive Cheltenham 2020.
From betting tips to a guide to backing each-way, tales around the course and advice to avoid a fashion faux pas, here's a guide to the first day at Cheltenham.
The clock is ticking to the famous Cheltenham Roar – and where better to start than with the very first race of the festival.
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The first race
1.30 – Heaven may have helped us get the Festival on – and HEAVEN HELP US could get us off to a miracle start at a MASSIVE price. Have an each way punt on the Paul Hennessy trained horse at 150/1.
SHISHKIN is an exciting prospect and is my best of the rest.
Each way betting
If you’re new to betting here’s a little guide to betting each way – which means you get a return if the horse wins or is placed. The stake involves two bets – one on the win part and the same stake on the place part. So £1 e/w equals a £2 bet.
In Handicaps of more than 16 runners – you get 1/4 odds on first four places.
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Handicaps of 12-15 runners – 1/4 odds on first three places.
All other races of more than 8 runners – 1/5 odds on first three places.
All races of 5-7 runners – 1/4 odds on first two places.
All races of less than 5 runners – place money goes on to win.
Bookies often offer odds on first 5 or 6 places – so it’s wise to shop around.
The best fest
To many fans the Cheltenham Festival is better than any Glastonbury… and at Prestbury Park it’s only the horses that have to plough through the mud. All of jump racing superstars are here this week – and this is what the poster could look like…
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Some get all the luck
To horse owners the dream of having a rider at the Cheltenham Festival is like winning the lottery. Well Simon Fagan has hit the jackpot twice. Seven years ago he scooped £3.1 million on the lottery. And today he has a runner at the Festival.
He’ll be cheering on DARVER STAR in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
He said: “You dream about winning the lottery and this is the stuff of dreams too – to be honest just having a runner at Cheltenham is like winning the lottery again.
“I’ve an interest in all sports, although horse racing was never something I’d have visualised myself getting involved in.”
And I reckon lightning could strike twice for the lucky sod.
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Price not right
A few days at the Cheltenham Festival is an easy way to the poorhouse. On top of the travel there, entry fee, bets and food costs – most punters knock back enough Guinness to down a thirsty hurling team. With around 265,000 pints of Guinness and 120,000 bottles of wine seen off every year, Cheltenham festival has become one of the booziest events of the calendar.
It’s upsetting then to find that Cheltenham one of the most expensive racecourses when it comes to pints of Guinness.
Research carried out by Grandnational.org.uk has revealed that Cheltenham Racecourse is one of four venues offering the priciest pint.
At £6 a pint of Guinness at Cheltenham is £2 more than that of the cheapest racecourse.
New rules mean you may have to take a few more trips to the bar though.
Revellers are given a four pint limit when buying alcohol at the bar.
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The drinking rules were introduced a year after Cheltenham suffered a string of embarrassments during the race meeting in 2016.
Love Island babes Jessica Hayes and Katie Salmon flashed their boobs for cameras from a plush suite.
And footie stars Samir Carruthers and James Collins were caught urinating into a pint glass and throwing it off the balcony.
And a streaker managed to evade security and gyrate on the racecourse before being rugby tackled to the ground.
Finding a few winners at the Cheltenham Festival is always tricky. But Paddy Power have enlisted the help of beanpole Peter Crouch to be a racing ambassador for the Festival – and if his taste in women is as good as his tips, I’m backing him all the way.
Paddy says: “Peter Crouch, eh? Footballer, beanpole, podcaster, former virgin, and now jockey.
Yes, you read that right. Here at Paddy Power we’ve only gone and made the lanky b*stard don some silks and throw his leg over a thoroughbred racehorse.
Why? Well, just because. He’s our brand ambassador now, so we can pretty much make him do whatever we want.
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And anyway, who wouldn’t want to see a seven-foot-six ex-England international footballer jumping aboard one of the very few beasts we could find that was big enough to accommodate him.
To be fair to the big lad, he was a great sport for giving it a go at Windsor racecourse, where he was joined by racing legend Ruby Walsh and professional ne’er-do-well of this parish, Patrick Power.
As you can see, however, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Crouchie.”
Wardy's Wagers is always the most stylish man in a Wetherspoon – and will be dusting off the old Whistle for another Cheltenham.
But for a more expert look at what you should be wearing, here are my pals at Horse and Hound with a run down. I especially agree with the last bit of advice for lads – wear socks!
Horse and Hound says: “There is no official dress code at the Cheltenham Festival (10-13 March), however there are certainly some unwritten faux pas when it comes to dressing for the four-day highlight of the National Hunt season.
With the Festival taking place in March obviously the weather has a big impact on what racegoers opt to wear and the racecourse advises dressing for the conditions.
Say no to summer dresses
It may be the turn of spring but the ladies should not get too carried away with bringing out the “summer wear” too early. Floral strapped summer dresses should remain in the wardrobe for a few months longer — ready for the Flat season over the forthcoming summer. After all, summery dresses are much more suited to sipping Pimms in the sunshine than battling the potential blustery elements at the Festival.
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Ban the bare legs
The sight of bare legs on a cold day’s jump racing is enough to send shivers down your spine. Investing in a pair of tights for the Festival will be the saving grace to keeping your pins warm.
Fascinator faux pas
Many of the ladies at the Festival opt to wear hats or stylish pillbox hats, which radiate sophistication. It is personal preference, of course, but let’s be honest, extravagant, brightly coloured fascinators should really stay in their box until Royal Ascot…
Cheltenham is busy, with large crowds and people bustling for the best spot. So choose a bag that is compact and not overly big to prevent any unnecessary argy-bargy. The last thing you want is to be bashing people’s pints all over the place.
Save the shawl for another day
A sassy silk shawl draped over the shoulders is a great look for a summer evening at the races, but Cheltenham Festival? Not so much. Save yourself from the shivers and invest in a warm coat, or even some quintessentially British tweed.
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A shoe dilemma
If you are one of these iron ladies who can, indeed, last a whole day in stiletto heels, then great and I truly take my hat off to you. However for most of us, just the thought is pain inducing and there is nothing better than a stylish (comfortable) boot. Although, if you are one of the lucky people being treated to lunch and have somewhere guaranteed to sit down, brilliant — get those stilettos on show.
It is most probably easier for men to dress for the Festival, donning a suit or a pair of smart chinos and they are sorted. However, one note for all the male racegoers out there, PLEASE WEAR SOCKS. There is nothing more offensive to the female eye than a bare ankle on a man…
Day 1 tips
1.30 – HEAVEN HELP US
2.10 – NOTEBOOK
2.50 – WHO DARES WINS
3.30 – DARVER STAR
4.10 – BENIE DES DIEUX
4.50 – ESPOIR DE GUYE
5.30 – NEWTIDE
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