The 2015 Cheltenham Festival begins at 1.30 on Tuesday, and 10,000 Irish people are expected to make the annual pilgrimage to the Cotswolds of England for the Olympics of National Hunt Racing over the 4 days.
If you are going to Cheltenham for the first time, there are some things that you should do, and some things which are best avoided.
- Get a good position in the stands before 1.30 on Tuesday. The roar when the tapes go up for the Supreme Novices Hurdle will send a shiver down your spine.
- Have your form studied in the morning or the night before; cramming won't cut it.
- Be mindful about the going; Cheltenham races are often run on good ground and at a fast pace, as opposed to races on soft ground against a moderate pace in winter.
- Watch a race from the bottom of the hill at some stage, just to see how tough the gradient is in the closing stages.
- Throw your newspaper and hat in the air if you back a winner near the betting ring.
- Be selective about where you eat at the track; some culinary offerings are better than others.
- Check out the tented village; there are some excellent paintings and quality clothing (including hats!) on sale.
- Watch the horses in the parade ring and observe the winners enclosure after the big races.
- Mind your money; it can get quite crowded.
- Shop around for the best prices; on track and on your smartphone.
- Make restaurant reservations in the town.
- Enjoy yourself.
- Blow your betting budget on the first day; it's a marathon not a sprint. With 27 races, you should be thinking not of how many winners you can back, but how much profit you will make.
- Mix alcohol and gambling; it doesn't work; leave the partying until each evening.
- Back Irish trained horses simply out of patriotism; the horse doesn't know where he is from.
- Don't go near any rails bookie offering 1/5 the odds a place in any race; it should be 1/4.
- Back dodgy jumpers; it's called National Hunt racing.