The Cheltenham Festival 2020 was the last major sporting event to be held before the UK locked down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Twelve months on and the country still finds itself in a precarious position, with large meets banned.
While that could have been catastrophic for Cheltenham, the race organisers have decided the festival will go ahead. Although crowds aren’t allowed into the ground, there’s a full race card to entertain horse-racing fans.
Of course, it’s never going to be exactly the same without the throngs of excited race-goers but that doesn’t mean you should ignore Cheltenham 2021. With a few tweaks and forward planning, you can have a lot of fun following the races from the comfort of your own home.
16th-19th March: Where to Watch
Radio coverage of Cheltenham races has always been excellent and 2021 is no exception. Radio 5 Live will be broadcasting live commentary of every race, beginning at 1.15pm daily and running through to 5pm.
Many people use the radio coverage when they’re at the races to get all of the race build-up, expert commentary and information – but it’s not the same as being able to watch the race with your own eyes. The good news is that TV channels are also broadcasting Cheltenham races so even though you can’t attend, you can still see what’s going on.
The most comprehensive coverage is available from Racing TV, but you’ll need a subscription for this. Alternatively, you can opt for a live stream online for a cost of either £10 per day or £25 per month.
If you don’t feel the need to watch all 28 races, ITV might have everything you want. The free-to-air channel will be showing the first six races every day, on both ITV and the Hub. There will also be an extra preview show, aired at 9.30 am daily.
How to Bet
With an estimated £600 million bet on Cheltenham Races every year, the festival is one which captures the imagination of the public. Whether you’re focussed solely on the Gold Cup on the final day, or like to have flutters on all the races, you can still bet from your Mayfair home – or wherever else you might be.
You can find the Cheltenham races odds via online bookies where you can also place your bet. But don’t forget that odds can drift in and out before the starter fires his gun so it’s essential to get the timing just right.
If you back a winner, your payout will be based on the odds you accepted when you placed your bet. It doesn’t matter if they have lengthened or shortened since. This is why it’s a good idea to watch the odds to see which way they’re moving before you place your bet.
Creating the Right Atmosphere
Now that you’ve got your viewing and betting sorted, the only thing left to do is create your own race atmosphere at home.
ITV have confirmed they will be broadcasting crowd audio for the first race (at least) so you can experience the usual exhilarating surge in noise as the horses cross the starting line. If you’re at home alone watching the race, why not listen through headphones? This will help to make you feel as if you’re really there, with the sound of the crowd surrounding you.
A virtual horse-racing party is also a fun way to enjoy Cheltenham Festival. If you and your friends had planned to attend, then don’t give up on your plans. Set up a video calling event for all those participating and get your poshest outfits on – just as if you were there! With a glass of champagne or Prosecco in your hand and a topnotch buffet ready to nibble, you can have a blast without getting out of your armchair!