I arrived in Cheltenham ridiculously early so as to avoid the traffic and then enjoyed the next couple of hours in the Pitville Pump Rooms soaking up the atmosphere (together with a hearty fried breakfast!). The rooms were buzzing, racing papers on the tables and outside, the Guinness bar was equally well attended,
I walked up to the entrance to meet my hosts for the day and, without a cloud in the sky, we walked through the crowds towards hospitality where, thankfully I would have a base to wander and return for a welcome lunch and later cup of tea. With my bet placed on the tote, I then set off with camera to explore.
The horses for the first race were beginning to parade. Beautiful, fit and spirited horses, I could watch them all day. The jockeys mounted and they made their way down the enclosed lanes towards the race track. Along with much of the crowd, I slowly moved towards the finishing line of the track and was able to catch glimpses of the horses as the raced round. The finish has to be experienced – the crowd go mad! It’s a roar!
I lost my first bet! 🙂
With the huge volume of people there, I was surprised as to how much you can see. It is extremely well organised and it would seem you can choose the type of day you wish – some stay in the grandstand and enjoy each race from a height, others wander and some appear to stay and watch from the Guinness Welcome area! The festival really is a spectacle and has an atmosphere hard to describe.
After race three I decided to go back to hospitality and sit down for a much needed cup of tea. And from the table, it was possible to watch and enjoy race 4. So much to take in, the races follow on quite quickly. So then back out for the next race. By now the sun is getting low and I am finding the photography easier and more exciting, lots of shadows and atmosphere.
This time I decided to see if I could get to the start line and it was easier to get to the front. It was great to feel the anticipation of the start and fabulous to watch the horses ready for the race ahead. Thankfully I don’t think there were many injuries on the day, although there were a few dismounts and a couple of horses finishing the race on their own. The horses look hot when finishing, their coats glossy with perspiration and veins prominent on the skin, but I know that these very treasured horses are well cared for and are all in the most fabulous condition.
It was time to bid a fond farewell to my hosts and make my way back home to Somerset. The atmosphere on the way out leaving the festival was still amazing and friendly – free bottles of water and smiles. This will be a day that I will never forget and I have just a few photos for inspiration 🙂