The National Hunt season is chugging along, gradually building momentum, all eyes permanently fixed on the Cotswolds next March. The Irish flock to the Cheltenham Festival, taking place next year from March 10th to 13th, like no other event in the calendar, contributing millions of pounds on their own to the local Gloucestershire economy. Nothing brings out the largesse of the Irish like the biggest week of the jumps season.
Before the hype begins to spiral in the New Year, there are early-bird discounts to be availed of for those thinking ahead in advance. You can be guaranteed Irish jockeys, trainers and owners will have a major presence in all the big races at the festival so there’s no fear of your patriotism going to waste on a trip booked months in advance. Dusting the cobwebs off the Tricolour ahead of welcoming Irish winners back into the famous enclosure will certainly not prove hasty.
Either Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliot have claimed the title of leading trainer at the Festival every year since 2012, while Nico de Boinville became the first non-Irish jockey since 2007 to win top jockey last March.
So with Irish participation playing such a big role, why not organise your day trip to the centre of the jumps racing world in advance?
Prestbury Park is situated approximately halfway between airports in Bristol and Birmingham, though the latter has proved more popular with racegoers given its greater volume of flights to and from Ireland. Travelling from Dublin to Bristol would also require an overnight stay after racing unless you decide to cut your day of racing unnecessarily short.
The cheapest return fare of the week from Dublin to Birmingham is on Wednesday when a return ticket costs €70.00 with Ryanair.
Aer Lingus offers an alternative option to the airport, though they are a little more expensive.
There is a train station at Birmingham International Airport that goes as far as Birmingham New Street station. From there racegoers hop off and board the train for Cheltenham Spa. Tickets can be bought in advance on thetrainline.co.uk, with the entire journey costing €34.00 during off-peak hours (departing Birmingham International after 9.00am and departing Cheltenham Spa after 6.00pm).
The journey takes approximately one hour.
As Birmingham international train station is separated from the main terminal building passengers can take the air-rail monorail service from the airport to the adjoining station. This service takes approximately two minutes and is free of charge.
Getting to the Racecourse
The train station is about a 10-minute drive from the station, though bus shuttle services are provided to take racegoers straight to the racecourse entrance during race week.
Prices have yet to be released for next year’s festival, though these are usually no more than £5.00.
Racegoers can also get hackneys and taxis from the train station.
You can avail of an early-bird discount from the Jockey Club with tickets for the Best Mate Enclosure, opposite the grandstand and next to the winning post, the cheapest of the options available on the official website, thejockeyclub.co.uk. These tickets cost £33.00 (approximately €38.00). But this offer ends on December 2nd. This price applies only from Tuesday to Thursday, with tickets for Friday considerably higher due to the popularity of the gold cup.
For one person flying (return) to Birmingham international from Dublin on Wednesday, March 11th, with train to Cheltenham Spa station and a ticket for the Best Mate Enclosure: €142