Picture Post: Horsing around, Cheltenham, 12.03.08
Wednesday 12 March 2008
Fans of National Hunt racing have been known to compare their sport to such diverse recreational pursuits as consorting with prostitutes, driving a brand new Rolls-Royce, and sporting a shiny gold watch: you'll find plenty of people doing it at the top of society, plenty at the bottom of society – but very few in between.
Nowhere was this more vividly illustrated than in the packed stands at Cheltenham yesterday, where more than 50,000 punters gathered for the opening of the annual festival. Over four long days, the sport's finest will be pitted against each other, in a bid to establish which athletes – both human and equine – deserve to be crowned champions.
As these photographs show, it's an occasion for both high and low culture: aristocrats and millionaires rub shoulders in the March drizzle with men and women from the most humble walks of life. Cockney barrow-boys in eight-button suits can be observed lining up comfortably alongside beetroot-faced landowners in their expensive, and frequently revolting, tweed.
A trip to Cheltenham race course, in a bowl beneath a Cotswold hillside, is something of a pilgrimage. Hordes flock over from Ireland, some to cheer on their nation's best hopes, others merely to sink the sky-high-priced Guinness. An estimated 200,000 pints of the black stuff will be downed, along with 18,000 bottles of champagne.
All of which serves to lubricate one of the most vibrant (and dangerous) betting arenas in the developed world: bookmakers expect to take no less than £600m from the festival, as dreams are made, hearts broken, fortunes won, and next term's school fees flushed away at the swift turn of a horse's hoof.
Latest in Sport
Arsenal transfer news: Atletico Madrid closing in on Santi Cazorla - reports
Arturo Vidal: Manchester United bid £39m for Juventus midfielder
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger set to cancel moves for Sami Khedira and Morgan Schneiderlin in favour of Jack Wilshere - reports
Manchester United: Five things we've learned so far about Louis van Gaal, including his ability to accommodate Juan Mata, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney
LA Galaxy vs Manchester United: 'Beautiful goals and beautiful attacks' - Louis van Gaal revels in 'fantastic' 7-0 start
- 1 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 50 books for students to read this summer: From Ernest Hemingway to Gillian Flynn
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusias...
£120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusiastic Maths Tea...
£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a dynamic En...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Experienced Lead SAP Data Manager Requir...