The Cheltenham Festival is the most anticipated event of the National Hunt calendar, attracting enormous crowds to enjoy (and famously roar at) four days of spectacular jump racing, alongside superlative hospitality and a surprisingly eclectic programme of entertainments.
The Gold Cup, the most prestigious and sought after title in jump racing is run on the final day, with jockeys competing over a gruelling 3 miles, with 22 fences to tackle. Perhaps the most famous horse to compete in the Gold Cup was Best Mate, who won the race in 2002, 2003 and 2004. His ashes are buried next to the winning post at the racecourse, a fitting resting place for a racing legend.
PACKED STANDS AT THE FESTIVAL
What to Wear at the Cheltenham Festival
Unlike Ascot or Epsom, there is no strict dress code, yet Cheltenham is regarded by many as the most genuinely stylish event in the UK sporting calendar, thanks in no small part to its unapologetic and unparalleled showcasing of British country style, celebrating exactly what we Brits do best – dress superbly for unpredictable weather conditions.
Because Cheltenham can be chilly, make no mistake. This year’s four-day event runs from Tuesday, March 10, to Friday, March 13 (spring doesn’t officially begin until March 21). Practicality should be the prime fashion consideration for any day at the races (oh, if only), but for Cheltenham, the truly stylish know that this really is a non-negotiable factor. And they know that tweed is the tried-and-tested style solution, naturally protective, undeniably beautiful and, perhaps most important of all, allowing for versatile, easy layering.
It’s worth noting here that each of Cheltenham’s four days has a slightly different atmosphere and character, something the style-savvy racegoer can and will address, subtly, in their choice of outfits, often with a simple switch of accessories or separates, keeping tweed as the foundation of their look. Note too that there’s a cool and relaxed side to Cheltenham – that eclectic entertainments programme features live music and DJ sets at The Park, situated within the Club and Tattersalls enclosure, this year with BBC Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw, Love Island’s Laura Whitmore and Capital Radio’s Roman Kemp and Marvin Humes. Feel free to embrace that festival vibe by loosening up and incorporating quirky and bright accessories (for starters, check out Cordings printed scarves, Argentinian polo belts and a rather fabulous fox fur collar that doubles as a headband).
Day one, also known as Champion Day, sets the pace, with traditional tweeds out in force for both gentlemen and lady racegoers. Day two is Cheltenham Ladies’ Day, and an opportunity for a more eye-catching, trend-conscious approach with bold colour encouraged, especially if hoping to enter the best dressed lady racegoer competition. Day three is also called St Patrick’s Day, with a decidedly Irish flavour, and many racegoers like to mark the occasion by introducing touches of green to their look. Finally, day four and the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup – what better reason for mixing in a touch of gold?
No matter which day you are dressing for, a smart overcoat is the starting line. For men, the covert coat is the style most famously associated with Cheltenham and, as the earliest and best runner, the Cordings Original Covert Coat is without doubt the champion here. In a beige wool twill, it’s designed for layering and works well with all tweeds, while the roomy inside poacher’s pocket will take care of mobile phone, gloves and hip flask (recommended for extra-chilly days). It looks particularly fine worn over Cordings House Check Tweed. Of course, you can opt for the jacket paired with lambswool and corduroy trousers, but the two-piece or three-piece suit always gives a distinguished air, plus it’s more fashionable, with 2020 catwalks showing a welcome move away from athleisure looks back to elegant head-to-toe suiting.
For day one, keep it simple with a tattersall shirt, adding a trilby for extra dash. Show support for the ladies on day two by adding a splash of bright colour, perhaps a tie, hank or scarf to match or tone with your partner’s outfit, if you have come as a couple. For day three, green accessories will chime perfectly with the convivial Irish craic – try a green hank and tie, which you could switch to gold, for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day.
The garment most famously associated with the Festival is the covert coat, and as the originators of the style, we feel a small glow of pride on seeing the coat in the stands and on the trainers and owners. The covert coat combines practicality and elegance, and teamed with the House Check tweed suit and a trilby hat it will make the wearer look effortlessly smart and totally in keeping with his surroundings. The final touches are provided by a country tie, paisley silk scarf and hank.
The Tweed Suit
Complete the look
A matching tweed suit is the ideal wardrobe foundation for lady racegoers, too. The Cordings Wincanton collection comes in a rich, easy-to-match tweed that sets check tones of moss, mustard, sage, caramel and berry over a harmonious taupe backdrop. There’s a flattering, impeccably cut jacket to pair with either a matching skirt, or trousers, or culottes, and/or a waistcoat, a flat cap and a neat bag. As with the menswear we’ve been seeing on the international runways, suiting is very 2020 and the tweed trouser suit would give a key fashion-forward look.
All you need to do then is accessorise – and the options are endless. Start by trying this show-stopping rust feather trimmed hat and a roll-neck jumper or silk shirt.
Fitted coats have become special occasion must-wears in recent seasons, made popular by the Duchess of Cambridge. The Valls tweed coat in a soft charcoal tweed trimmed with velvet looks super-elegant with knee-high boots – essential footwear for Cheltenham. For Ladies’ Day, consider picking out one of the woven check colours (purple, blue or gold) to match or tone with a beautiful silk dress and a (well-secured) special occasion hat or headpiece.
Although, for easy elegance, the Cordings wine fur felt hat is a winner and you could finish the look with a fox fur collar, especially if it’s cold.
If intending to go green for day three, this Loden green coat is a lovely choice and a green fedora will complete the look or will work equally well topping off matching Wincanton tweed (try the new culottes this time – elegant and supremely practical).
Finally, for day four, celebrate the Cheltenham Gold Cup with a touch of gold in the form of a crowd-pleasingly beautiful silk scarf (this one is borrowed from the boys).