With Cheltenham less than three weeks away, festival preview nights are taking place here, there and everywhere. Many racecourses are holding Cheltenham previews after racing while others have them on non-racing days. Pubs, clubs and hotels abound with them all over the country. Many raise money for good causes. The nearer they are to Cheltenham’s opening day, the more reliable the information.
In truth, if they were just about tipping winners, most would fail the test. Looking back at those I attended over the years, you’d have lost money if you’d backed the panel’s tips. The main reason people go to festival preview nights is for the entertainment. Yes, they are after tips too but mostly it’s for the craic and to hear the views of the trainers and jockeys. In fact, the top trainers and jockeys are virtual semi-pros at festival preview nights these days. The big names command big fees.
A trap some fall into is having too many people on the panel. Four or five at most is the best number. It’s also a bad move to combine a preview with a sit-down meal. All too often, the noise from the diners drowns out the views of the panel.
If you haven’t been to a Cheltenham festival preview night, you really should give it a try. There are so many these days, there’s bound to be one near you. If you get bored, you can always have a spread bet with your mate on how many times the panel will say ‘he/she’s done nothing wrong”. It’s a phrase to avoid but you can guarantee someone will say it.
Festival preview night in Solihull
I’ll be chairing a Cheltenham festival preview at the Mason’s Arms in Solihull High Street on Wednesday, 6 March at 7.30pm. The panel comprises jump jockey Charlie Poste, Sam Turner (‘Robin Goodfellow’ of the Daily Mail), the Wolverhampton Express & Star’s tipster Andrew Bladen, and Dan Skelton’s assistant trainer Nick Pearce. Tickets are £5 in advance. I’ve chaired a few festival preview nights in the past and I feel I know how to avoid the pitfalls. Come along if you can. It’s the perfect countdown to four days of top-class racing.