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Cheltenham and Ascot. A history of two of the UK's great racing festivals
From Ilana Kaps: January 2018

Say what you want about England and the United Kingdom, they are awful at cricket, their food is pretty awful and weather there is beyond drab, but they know how to host a race meeting. There are so many superb events there that are almost bigger than the sport of horse racing. The names of some of their festivals just conjure images of posh people in hats, glasses of champagne clinking and even royalty before they every do a horse entering a gallop. As with The Melbourne Cup there are just certain events that everyone, even people who have never watched a meet in their life, just know and a great deal of these take place in the United Kingdom.

But what is it that makes these festivals so special and steeped in history, what allowed people to fall in love with them they way they have. It is, as with many events, a mixture of things from historic races, to the fact they are crawling with celebrities to the media coverage which have turned these events in national and international talking points. There are though, two events in particular, which stand out and which have a particular prestige and history that make them special. Cheltenham and Royal Ascot, these are two events that ooze class, that are full of history and that are enjoyed across the world.

Both festivals have superb stories behind them, interesting quirks and world class races all underpinned by fastidious and committed organisers who ensure that every edition of these famous festivals occur without a hitch and delight their attendees. So without further ado here are some fun facts and interesting tidbits about two of the world's most famous festivals of racing.

Cheltenham:
Cheltenham always takes place in March so is one of the calendars earlier dates and always brings out the creme de la creme both in terms of on and off track talent. It was first held way back in 1860 and has taken place at many different locations in its history so was originally called the National Hunt Chase rather than being named after one specific place. It was held on a number of occasions in Warwick but eventually settled in Cheltenham and thus one of the biggest festivals in the world found a new forever home. The oldest race held that is still on to this day is the stayers hurdle which was first run in 1911 but it is the Gold Cup for which Cheltenham is most known for.

First run way back in 1927 and is now one of the highlights of the festival and of Horse Racing in general, it is a top tier race that jockeys dream about participating in, never mind winning. It is held on the final of four days which begin on a Tuesday before finishing on the Friday. It is watched across the world and seen as a special event. It is a festival that has to be attended to really be understood but if you cannot make it there is always cheltenham live streaming online which means you can see all the action from your own home. Around 230,000 people attend every year and around 250 million is bet by punters.

Royal Ascot:
The Royal in the name comes the fact it was first set up by Queen Anne in 1711, so is one of the oldest festivals that is still around to this day. It reflects its royal origins and the fact that the British royals still attend every year and are welcomed with fervour. It is Europe's best attended racing event with over 300,000 people attending over the five days making it a rather long festival but increasing the opportunity to get down and experience it.

It is a festival where fashion and glamour is almost as important as the racing with smart dress a requirement and the hats worn often the talk of the gossip pages in the UK. It has a number of prestigious races including the Commonwealth Cup, The Diamond Jubilee Stakes and its very own Gold Cup. With a prize pool of over 6 million it is no surprise it attracts competitors from all over the world, it is one of the most talked about and written about events in the British sporting calendar and a visit there is always a joy.

 


 

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