24 March 2016
Tuffers: My Cheltenham Gold Cup 2017 Experience
There are many events throughout the year that get the hairs on the back of your neck; I often listen to Aggers or Blowers on Test Match Special describing the “Lord’s hum” on the first morning of the big Test match. Centre Court buzzes before the men’s final at Wimbledon, and the FA Cup Final is a big-day-out carnival. However for me, there’s absolutely nothing like Cheltenham Racecourse at the start of Gold Cup day.
Cheltenham’s atmosphere is a hustle and bustle: a mass of punters from National Hunt regulars in tweed to the once-a-year Festival-lovers in whatever they fancy. On Friday, I strolled up to the main entrance and past the huddle of touts with the excitement of a giddy schoolboy.
Once in I wandered past the main grandstand and stood for a couple of moments in awe at the sight of the new Princess Royal Stand. A quick amble through the Guinness Village and I arrived at The Cheltenham VIP Club, the glass-fronted and course-facing suite that would be my home for the day. After a warm greeting from Viv, our event manager, I took the opportunity for a quick look outside towards the course. What a view! Right by the final fences, with a view of the horses racing down the hill directly towards us before they turned for home. The excitement went up a notch as I tucked into my first Champagne of the day, poured in front of my eyes.
Pretty soon my table had filled up and our host for the day, Sky Sports’ Rachel Wyse, was on the mic to introduce National Hunt legends Mick Fitzgerald and Peter Scudamore. As I supped from my glass of champagne listening to 2 Champion Jockeys guide me through my Cheltenham bets for the day, I allowed myself a quick “this is the life”…
I have to say, they served me pretty well during the day! Mick Fitz was on fire, tipping a couple of winners and even Rachel Wyse gave me the tip of Sizing John in the Gold Cup. Suffice to say that by the end of the day’s racing I was having a free night out and a slap up meal for Mrs. Tufnell!
The Cheltenham VIP Club has loads going for it, from a slap-up 3-course lunch and afternoon tea to the complimentary bar and Tote bookies coming round the tables. But what makes it stand out is the personal touch, with Scuey and Mick Fitz returning to the suite after the racing to meet the guests in person, have a chat and pose for some selfies. Top boys those two, and as the guests departed for God-knows-where on their Cheltenham nights out, they flashed appreciative smiles to the people who’d looked after them so well.
Until next year Cheltenham, well played…
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