A Night at the Opera. A Day at the Races. It’s more than just consecutive album titles by arena rock band legends Queen, or how the other half live.
Horse racing is considered the sport of kings around the world. Sheikhs and princes pay hundreds of thousands – sometimes millions – of guineas to buy thoroughbred racehorses, and visitors to the tracks often splash out on a bet or two themselves.
It’s so quaint that these equine animals are bought and sold in old money. Once the kids have grown up and pony trekking might not be on the agenda anymore, parents who love horses can still engage with them in a sporting context.
Empty nesters in the British Isles are blessed with a plethora of racecourses to attend in England, Scotland, Wales and both Northern and the Republic of Ireland.
Besides the point-to-point scene, its more popular and grown-up cousin the National Hunt, which is governed by the Rules of racing, also takes place throughout the year. Back in the day, horses didn’t race over jumps in the summer months, but are now kept busy all year round.
Some racehorses prefer the firmer going of June and July to the winter slogs of December and January. Although Flat horse racing takes centre stage over the summer with equine extravaganzas like the Royal Ascot in Berkshire and the Ebor Festival in York, springtime is when the premier jumps events are on.
If you want to see the absolute best jumps racehorses in action, then you’ll probably want to head to the Cheltenham Festival and place a bet on their best of the best. Be warned, the event itself is not cheap, but if the kids have flown the nest you can probably afford to be among thousands and thousands of horse racing fanatics that descend on the Cotswolds for four days in the middle of March.
These fixtures are essentially the British championship races of the National Hunt season. The clue is in some of the event names – the Champion Hurdle and the Queen Mother Champion Chase, for example.
One of the features of going to a racecourse like the Prestbury Park venue is placing a bet. In order to have a successful time, you can study the form hard and consider the latest Cheltenham tips from betting and equestrian experts.
The Festival has 28 races packed into four days during the week. Starting on Tuesday with the aforementioned Champion Hurdle as the highlight of the card, the Wednesday is Ladies’ Day where women are especially encouraged to come and take a punt on their favourite.
Day two of the Cheltenham Festival centres on the Queen Mother Champion Chase. You don’t need to have the luck of Irish to enjoy St Patrick’s Thursday, but the packed Guinness Grandstand and Village are well worth a visit.
The Cheltenham Festival culminates in the eponymous Cheltenham Gold Cup on the Friday, which is widely regarded to be the blue riband event of steeplechasing.
In amongst all these events are hot handicaps, novice, and sex-restricted races, so even mares get guaranteed moments in the sun. You’ll not only be part of the horse racing fraternity by attending Cheltenham, but will witness sporting history.
Horse racing has an age demographic which fits empty nesters. Even if some of the Cheltenham Festival races are fiendishly tricky puzzles to solve, armed with your bookmakers’ pen tucked behind the ear, you’re sure to meet like-minded people on course.