Fairfax and Favor’s guide to the festival
The Cheltenham Festival, the world’s most illustrious showcase of jump racing is set to commence in less than 7 days’ time. Nerves will be tested and blood pressure will rise as jockeys, horses and trainers are put through their paces. Festival fever is infectious and, as a spectator, you are furlongs from being immune. Luckily, Fairfax & Favor are on hand to give you a leg up, compiling a handy festival survival guide to ensure you’ve got all bases covered.
We’ve called on Gold Cup winner-turned-trainer Sam Thomas and the racing world’s glamorous presenter Gina Harding to lend us some handy style tips to make sure the thoroughbreds aren’t the only ones showing off their pedigree. Meanwhile, we've also picked the brains of Nicky Henderson’s former pupil Charlie Longsdon, now an esteemed and accomplished trainer in his own right, to help you pick your horses.
WHAT TO WEAR
Gold Cup winning jockey-turned-trainer Sam Thomas and racing presenter Gina Harding help you address the thorny issue of how to bedeck yourself for the week.
Combining elegance with practicality is never a simple task, but a necessary consideration when selecting an outfit for the festival. Presenter and racing style guru, Gina Harding, is well versed in just how to strike that balance.
"As a broadcaster working outside during the Cheltenham Festival, I try to dress for the elements. Comfy shoes are a must so I usually reach for my Regina boots from Fairfax & Favor, they also do great bags which in my case, usually ensure that a very disorganised bundle of notes, race cards, makeup and extra layers stay in one place!
Tweed is the discerning ladies go-to Cheltenham Festival textile and Holland Cooper’s fitted jackets offer a more modern take on the look. For luxurious embellishment turn to South West Ten who have fur collars in a number of colourways, meaning you can alter the collar to match your hat.
After searching tirelessly to find the perfect hat shape, the Suffolk Fedora by Hicks & Brown is one of my favourites. I would also recommend wearing something simple and comfortable underneath your jacket, like a Troy London blouse and trousers, which always works and you can add more layers when it’s particularly chilly."
WINNERS STYLE WITH SAM THOMAS
You piloted Denman to cinch a historic 7 length victory over Kauto Star in the Gold Cup in 2008. Off the back of this, what does Cheltenham mean to you today? Cheltenham is and will always be a very special place to me. It's a place like no other to ride at, it's the hardest meeting to win at and it's where dreams are made and lost. I will always be able to look back on the good times I've experienced there, especially the day I won on Denman. It was an unbelievable day that I’ll never forget.”
Which accessories or garments in particular ensure you stay sartorially sharp? My new Fairfax and Favor Chelsea Boots!
Ties: demure or decorous, and pattern of preference? Something silk and racing themed!
Shirt shade of choice? You can't go wrong with blue or light colours.
Describe the cufflinks that you be sporting at the festival? I will be saving my Denman styled ones for Gold Cup Day!
Dark horse to watch this festival? Hargam, who will run in the County Hurdle.
If you could take a horse for a spin this festival, which one would you pick? Douvan, he’s simply awesome.
Discover more about Sam Thomas Racing and his new yard on the website.
Visiting the Shopping Village is a must, Fairfax & Favor will have champagne at the ready on stand 39.
WHO TO BACK? CHARLIE LONGSDON'S LOWDOWN
You hit the headlines back in December when regal runner Forth Bridge cinched the number 1 spot at Musselburgh back in December. What kind of pressure is associated with training one of The Queen’s horses? There’s not a pressure, it’s more of a massive honour than a pressure. The Queen has two National Hunt trainers, Nicky Henderson and myself, and I’m sure Nicky Henderson would say exactly the same thing: it’s a massive honour to be asked to train her jump horses. I think before he won for us there was a bit of pressure but now we’ve won the pressure is off, so we can go out and enjoy it.
How did chalking up a royal winner feel? It was a huge thing, you’re just very proud of yourself. We justified their faith in us by doing what they hopefully perceive to be a good job. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my career.
Forth Bridge then went back to win again on Scottish soil at Musselburgh in February, surely with two wins on the bounce, all being well, we can expect a strong performance from him in the JCB Triumph Hurdle? We haven’t 100% decided whether he will go to the Triumph Hurdle yet although I’d love to see him run in it and I know the Queen is very open about him going to Cheltenham. It’s important that we don’t over race him, he’s a four year old so he’s a horse for the future, I don’t want to hammer him at this stage, he’s certainly got bigger and better things in store for him next year.
Handicapper Highlights: Pendra has been earmarked as a handicapper to keep on side this festival. What can we expect from him at Cheltenham? Pendra will either run in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup or the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase. He’s been a very good horse from the day we bought him and he’s already placed in a couple of Cheltenham Festivals. He hasn’t run since the Grand National last year but the plan is to go to Cheltenham. I’m not sure which race as of yet but wherever he goes, I’d like to think he’s got a really nice chance.
Handicappers from another yard to look out for? The horse I’m thinking of is Colin Tizzard’s Sizing Codelco in the Brown Advisory and Meribelle Stable Plate, he looks to be potentially very well handicapped. He’s an interesting horse.
Gold Cup Conundrum – Cue Card, Native River or Djakadam for the Gold Cup or none of the above? I would love to see Cue Card win it as an 11-year-old, I think Native River will really size up to him and I think his younger legs could make all the difference to be honest. My heart would say Cue Card but my head thinks maybe Native River but I think the one that’s missed out there is Sizing John who might run very close as well.
Your Cheltenham Festival dark horse? Anything of Tony Martin’s in one of the handicaps - Golden Spear looks interesting in the handicap. He’s got to get in first but he’ll probably be very well handicapped.
Your Cheltenham Festival banker? It may be boring, but you’ve got to go for Altior trained by Henderson - he’s brilliant.
Death Duty or West Approach for the Albert Bartlett? I would go for West Approach over Death Duty, definitely.
The last word on your Cheltenham string? I hope that Our Kaempfer will come up trumps, and we’ve got a couple of each way horses. We haven’t got a huge team this year but Our Kaempfer and Pendra could do it, and I wouldn’t rule out Forth Bridge.
Charlie Longsdon is starting up a racing club for next season, for 40 - 50 members, designed to offer an affordable racing club membership. For more details visit the Charlie Longsdon Racing website.