Sunday 1 January 2017

Cheltenham Races, New Year's Day, Gloucestershire

  If it is a cold and wet start to the New Year, then Cheltenham Racecourse's many bars and covered stands can get very, very crowded. It can feel like Oxford Street, only with more Tweed and less racial diversity. Spanning the generations and the social classes, the punters tend to drink steadily, but are generally good-natured and knowledgeable. Traditional bookies still line the course, taking minimum bets of a fiver, from underneath their umbrellas. From the main grandstand, there are sweeping views over the white fences that criss-cross the grass, leading the eye to the hills beyond. On the day, you have to pay £35 for this view, but many club ticket holders still cram themselves into the Centaur arena and watch the action on the big screen, cheering raucously for their chosen steeplechaser. To keep you going through the seven races, there are plenty of food stalls, offering reasonably priced hotdogs, pulled pork, chillies and the like.