Cheltenham Festival is one of the biggest meetings in the National Hunt calendar in the UK. It is an event where the best British and Irish trained horses, jockeys and trainers compete against one another at the wonderful grounds of Prestbury Park. This is relatively uncommon during the remainder of the season hence why the Festival is such a big event.
The Festival spans over 4 days; Tuesday 'Champion Day', Wednesday 'Ladies Day', Thursday 'St Patricks Thursday', and Friday 'Gold Cup', with 28 races, 7 races a day, with each day including a 'Championship' race. Of course the race we all know and hear of most is the penultimate 'Cheltenham Gold Cup', which often is the main topic of discussion from the beginning of the Festival. I remember the days of Kauto Star and Denman; those horses were beautiful, and without fail the punters were split with who would take home the Gold Cup.
The Festival epitomises and encompasses everything that is great about Jump racing, whilst delivering an unbelievable occasion as the finest horses, jockeys, owners and trainers battle it out for the highest racing honours.
This year I was very honoured to have been chosen by Ladbrokes to attend the Festival on 'Ladies Day' with several other bloggers. Of course, incredibly excited to attend this event this gave a perfect opportunity to dress / glam up for the day, and really 'go to town' on an outfit of choice. Not only was I given the privilege to attend but also enjoy the newly refurbished Festival Restaurant and the wonderful food on offer.
The ticket provided, 'Festival Package', was one of a range of hospitality passes that enables you to move freely around the racecourse throughout the day. This ticket included: Club admission, giving opportunity for the best views, such as the main grandstand, the paddock, winners enclosure, and a wide selection of bars, betting and eating options. Also included, Car parking pass, Official Racecard, TV racing coverage, Tote betting service, food and drink, and a Hospitality team to ensure the smooth running of the day.
The Festival restaurant was impeccable; clean, fresh, light and bright, buzzing with lots of people excited for the day ahead. The 'meet and greet' lady in the restaurant was incredibly friendly, introducing herself and then directing us to the allocated table we had for the day. The table was beautifully set; white table cloth, with blue napkins, good quality silverware, and enough wine glasses to sink a ship! 😀
The restaurant was full to capacity; several tables of large groups, followed by a few tables for two. The tables were set apart equally, giving plenty of room to move in / out as freely, without bumping into someone. The room was well equipped, with several large screens placed evenly throughout, so you could remain seated, whilst watching the races, unless you had a winning horse, then staying seated isn't really going to happen! Free wifi was also available so you could catch up with the latest / best tips online before placing any bets.
I was particularly impressed with the walking betting service on offer. Someone would approach the table and ask if you'd like to place any bets, which I think is a really good service, especially for those who may be unable walk long distances / wheelchair bound. I did not use this service as I preferred to go outside, mix with the crowds and place my bets with the bookmakers outside.
With the day being extremely busy, I was expecting the ladies bathroom to be a nightmare, but lo and behold, the restaurant building has its own allocated restrooms. They were incredibly clean and spacious and often pretty quiet so no waiting in a queue that cascades outside the door. And to ensure those who were not permitted to be in the Festival restaurant at any time, a security officer remained on the door at all times, which I felt gave reassurance I could leave some of my possessions and not worry.
Food and Drink
Fooood . . . . now where do I begin? It simply was divine! I kid you not. By the end of the day, I was literally bursting out my skirt, even when I got home I could not face eating anything else. It really was beautiful. This package included Morning Coffee / Tea and Biscuits, Four Course Á La Carte lunch, followed by Afternoon Tea and a selection of the finest cheeses. I assumed it would only be bite sized amounts and small portions, oh how wrong was I . . . .
For my starter I opted for the Coin Valley Tsar Salmon; two beautifully square cut pieces of smoked salmon, with beetroot, caramelised hazlenuts and horseradish yogurt. At first I thought ''I'm not going to like this'', but it was absolutely delicious. Although the pieces of salmon were small, they were very filling and tasty too. Shortly after, I 'nipped' out for some fresh air and placed more bets. Not long after coming back to the table, I was impressed to see the main courses were en route to our table. Now that's service!
I absolutely love fish, so I could have easily opted for the cod as my main, but I opted for the Breast of Gressingham duck. I'm quite fussy with duck, because it can be tough, very fatty. However I was incredibly surprised at this dish. A beautifully cooked piece of duck, placed delicately on top of a silk sweet potato, with a crab apple and confit duck leg pie, braised red cabbage, fine beans and passion fruit and Glenfarclas single malt whisky jus. Even just writing about this dish is making my mouth water, but it was incredible; so beautiful and cooked to perfection. The pie was so tasty, and the passion fruit and whisky jus, a combination I would never have put together, but it worked incredibly well. After consuming this gorgeous dish there was no way I could possibly eat another thing, until I saw the dessert menu.
I make no secret of the fact that I love chocolate. So it would have been silly of me not to have opted for the Callebaut dark chocolate pavé. A gorgeous dessert created from the finest Belgium chocolate, layered on top of an almond crumb base, with a scoop of cornish clotted cream and black cherry glaze. This was very yummy, a mixture of bitter and sweet, although I unfortunately had to admit defeat and leave half, as I really could not eat anything more. The cheese platter looked delicious, but as I am not fond of cheese, I passed on that one.
For Afternoon tea, I made a little room for a small finger sandwich and a cake, but that really was the end of my dining marathon.
There is no official dress code for Cheltenham due to the unpredictable weather. However it is expected that people dress appropriately for the day. The majority of men opted for tweed / suits, typical / standard 'racing attire', which fitted well for the occasion (I have to say the men did look very smart). However as it was Ladies Day, to see an abudance of colours, outfits, fashion in all its glory from the ladies, was a wonderful sight. Even the manager in the Festival restaurant said how fabulous we all looked, kindly giving all a lovely glass of bubbly which I have to say was a nice surprise.
Without a doubt, the atmosphere for Ladies Day was absolutely amazing. There wasn't a person in sight who didn't smile, laugh or look like they weren't having a wonderful time. Everybody was so friendly, and what I enjoyed most was the fact that people would just randomly talk to you; whether they know you or not, sharing tips, friendly banter, what bets have been placed, you name it, it was up for discussion. Perhaps the drink did most of the talking, but nevertheless it was still nice to laugh and giggle with people who you will never see again.
Not only was the atmosphere brilliant, but the weather really did play 'ball'; bright, glorious sunshine, which was amazing. It felt like a warm summers day, even in the restaurant all windows and doors had to be opened to circulate fresh air.
Value for money
Well if we're talking about how much did I bet / win, over the course of 3 days (I decided to continue my flutter on Thursday and Friday as well), I made a grand total of . . . . .couple of pence! Seriously! This year really was not my year at all for winning any bets, although my Dad did give me a tip, I didn't listen, and then the horse won at 25-1! Booo! But nevertheless I still had lots of fun placing the odd few quid here and there, but I think I'll stick to my day job, safer option!
As for the package itself, I feel the day on the whole was lovely; exquisite food, with amazing service. The restaurant was stunning, it wasn't too busy, noisy, it fact I found it just right; nice, calm, civilised atmosphere. Being able to access other areas of the racecourse, such as paddock, winner enclosure, made the package that more exclusive, enabling you to really get a good vibe / enjoyment from a day at the races. However as this was a package on the lower end of the hospitality spectrum, drinks were not included, only tea and coffee (and water). I purchased one glass of wine (with lemonade), and that came in at £8.40, which is pricey, but I expected that.
The value of the ticket was reflected in the service I received during the day, which I believe was value for money.
📷: Outfit picture taken by @katiecharlotteblogs
Would I attend Cheltenham Festival again? Absolutely! I have always enjoyed the festival, purely because it's a great day out with family / friends, chance to unwind, socialise with lots of people, learn about horse racing, and dress glam for the day (or week if you're brave to do all 4 days).
Overall, I had an incredible day. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and it was an absolute pleasure to have been invited by Ladbrokes and Carrie (@CarrieRosePR). I honestly did not want the day to end (although my bank balance may disagree!) . . .
If, like me, you enjoy glaming up for the day, having a little flutter, and socialising with friendly racegoers, then tickets to the festival next year go on sale Tuesday 21st March 2017. Booking tickets in advance can save you a bit of cash, and if you fancy going on Gold Cup day, I would advise you book early!
Would you, or have you ever attended Cheltenham Festival, or any horse racing event?
Would love to hear your thoughts.