The Buyer
Neil Phillips’ hospitality & racing guide to Cheltenham Festival

Neil Phillips’ hospitality & racing guide to Cheltenham Festival

Hospitality and horse racing go together like a pair of stirrups on a saddle which makes this week’s prestigious Cheltenham Festival, which starts on March 14 and runs to the end of the week, prime territory for showcasing premium wines, spirits and no-alcohol drinks to a discerning audience. Neil Phillips, aka The Wine Tipster, will be track side all week offering advice to guests on what to drink as well as offering some tips on which horses to place your bets on.

Neil Phillips
13th March 2023by Neil Phillips
posted in People,

As wine gigs go being the official wine expert for The Jockey Club is a pretty good for Neil Phillips to have. Here’s his hospitality and racing guide to this week’s Cheltenham Festival.

The Jockey Club, the driving force of British horseracing for more than 260 years, provides a range of hospitality for the Cheltenham Festival through its Jockey Club Catering team and is on a journey to become net zero across catering by 2027.

And they’re off…or at least they soon will as the Cheltenham Festival starts on March 14

The Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is the British horse racing event they all want to win, offering £4,815,000 in prize money across four days of breathtaking races where the best horses, trainers and jockeys go head-to-head. Considered the pinnacle of the jump-racing calendar, it features 28 races,14 Grade One races and attracted a crowd of more than 280,000 people last year, with the 2022 Cheltenham Festival worth an estimated £274 million to the local economy, according to the results of a special report undertaken by the University of Gloucestershire.

Winning hospitality

Neil Phillips offering his tips to guests during Ladies Day at the Cheltenham Festival. Photo credit: Steven Paston/The Jockey Club via PA Images

Cheltenham Festival racegoers are at the forefront of food innovation, with many keeping their finger on the pulse of upcoming trends. This makes high quality hospitality key; Cheltenham Racecourse is renowned for its impressive selection of spectacular spots to sit, eat and relax. In total, it boasts 22 restaurants, 75 bars and employs 3,000 people per day in hospitality.

At the Cheltenham Festival there’s a choice of fine dining, à la carte menus by Michelin-starred chefs, private boxes, walk-up mobile food kiosks and even its very own pub The Horse & Groom.

Clare Smyth, chef patron and owner of the world-renowned 3 Michelin star restaurant, Core by Clare Smyth in London is also bringing her unique dishes to The Festival this year. Core on Course will be the first sporting hospitality experience of Clare Smyth and her extraordinary cuisine. As part of the ‘Showplate’ menu, Clare and her team have prepared a stunning six-course tasting menu, including the legendary potato and roe and core-teser, a glass of Dom Perignon on arrival, three wines personally selected by head sommelier Gareth Ferreira and an inclusive premium drinks package.

Michel Roux and his daughter Emily Roux continue to offer further fine dining opportunities with their legendary Chez Roux Restaurant. It’s been a popular feature at Cheltenham Festival for several years and offers racegoers the very best in cuisine alongside views of the finest jump racing in the world.

Neil Phillips with Michael and Emily Roux

The breadth of food options at Cheltenham Festival also extends to walk-up retail kiosks. There’s Quevega’s in the Club Enclosure for traditional tapas boards, hot sandwiches and signature meat and plant-based burgers, or racegoers can grab a Pizza inside the Winged Ox Bar & Terrace, whilst in The Orchard™ there is the new Street Food feature, with a range of great choices.

There are also plenty of on-course drink retail options. Moët & Chandon are offering their signature Impérial Champagne mini flutes in the Moët & Chandon Roma Bar in The Village, while Caves d’Esclans will be pouring their always in-demand Provençal rosés Whispering Angel and Rock Angel. Meanwhile, fifth generation whisky distiller Glenfarclas will be making whisky cocktails in The Orchard™ and anyone looking for a great alcohol-free option can enjoy Guinness Zero in the popular Guinness Village.

Carefully curated wine list

A great deal goes into creating a wine list for an event of this scale and prestige. I worked alongside a fantastic team to craft one that meets the needs of our discerning Cheltenham audience, while also supporting the Jockey Club’s focus on becoming net zero across catering by 2027. The team included Simon Hanna, Regional Director for Cheltenham & South West at Jockey Club Catering, Mark Hillman, General Manager for Jockey Club Catering – Epsom Downs Race Course and premium wines and spirits supplier Enotria&Coe.

The result is a wine list featuring more than 50 bins from producers embodying the same important values and priorities that we set out to meet. It includes fine wines like Joseph Drouhin, Trimbach and Marchesi Antinori, alongside a fantastic mix of sustainable, organic and vegan-friendly options from producers including Susana Balbo wines, Yealands Estate, Seresin Estate and Bodegas Anadas Care.

Susana Balbo, the first woman in Argentina to receive her degree in enology, has had a massive influence on the Argentinean wine industry. She oversaw the development and styling of the Torrontes grape varietal into the iconic white wine of Argentina that it is today, earning her the unofficial ‘Queen of Torrontes’ title. Her progressive and dynamic team are committed to producing quality wines alongside their passion for environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility. They’re ISO-accredited, a member of Global Compact of the United Nations and founded Dominio del Plata Foundation for education of children in the Agrelo region.

Yealands from New Zealand is one of the premium producers available at Cheltenham Festival

Chief winemaker Natalie Christensen at Yealands Estate creates thoughtfully and sustainably crafted wines that work in harmony with the rugged landscape surrounding their Seaview Vineyard in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough. They’re certified carbon neutral and are committed to being the world’s most sustainable winery. All of their wines are vegan friendly and they’re the first winery in the world to be Toitū Carbonzero certified from inception.

Seresin Estate, a new-world winery with an old-world approach, is BioGro and Demeter certified organic and biodynamic. They use traditional winemaking practices like hand harvesting all their wines, fermenting their grapes using natural yeast and ageing them for longer in both barrel and bottle.

Bodegas Anadas Care, named ‘The Best Winery in Aragon’ in 2010 by the local Aragonese Academy of Gastronomy, is recognised for the care they take in their vineyards using low intervention and sustainable methods. They’re ECOwine certified and working towards becoming Certified Organic in 2023.

Nyetimber’s 1968 Routemaster bus is always a big draw at the festival

Our Cheltenham wine list also features some of the best in British wines; Nyetimber with their award-winning collection of sparkling wines and still wines from Bolney Estate, one of the UK’s top English wine producers. Nyetimber will be showcasing their globally renowned sparkling wines aboard their beautifully reimagined 1968 Routemaster bus this year in The Orchard™.

There’s also a high-quality alcohol-free option from Wild Idol. Their superb sparkling rosé is hand crafted using natural wine-making techniques and a superior blend of regent and müller-thurgau grapes.

Our approach to creating a wine list for Cheltenham that delivers on the Jockey Club’s cherished values further plays out across their wider drinks offering. Wherever possible, drinks are sourced locally or from within the UK; Cotswolds Distillery supplies Cotswolds Dry Gin and the Gloucestershire Brewery offers a range of earth-conscious beers (including vegan).

Local & sustainable food

This commitment to sustainability further extends through into the food offering across Cheltenham,where the team focus on reusing, recycling and sourcing food and drink locally, alongside new waste management controls.

Cheltenham’sFour Eighty Restaurant, an ongoing highlight at this year’s Festival, takes the concept of fresh, quality, sustainable and locally-sourced food to a new level. It only uses suppliers and products sourced from within 480 furlongs (60 miles) of the racecourse and many of the menu’s dishes are served on sustainable tableware made at the racecourse’s own on-site carpentry.

Further everyday commitments include using remaining meats and vegetables originally sourced for the racecourse’s fine dining racing menus to make delicious and high-quality soups and stews. The catering team also create traybakes using cut offs from desserts made for fine dining race day menus and sandwiches across all of their 15 racecourses only use locally sourced ingredients and suppliers.

The Wine Tipster’s Top Racing Selections at The Cheltenham Festival 2023

Who is going to be winning at this year’s Cheltenham Festival – place your bets now…

As racing pundit for Unibet, here are my top tips on the horses to watch at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Constitution Hill is a very short price for the Unibet Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) at 15.30pm on March 14 and whilst he is not a betting proposition this brilliant horse is unopposable for Tuesday’s feature.

On Wednesday we have Funambule Sivola running for our My Racing Manager Friends’ syndicate in The Queen Mother Champion Chase Steeple Chase over two miles. Funambule Sivola ran a brilliant race to finish second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last year at 40/1 and is currently 33/1 for this year’s renewal. All very exciting.

Tuesday March 14

14.50 The Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase (3m 1f)

Oscar Elite 10/1 each way. Oscar Elite was third in this race last year and still has untapped potential.

16.10 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle Grade 1 (2m 3f)

Marie’s Rock 3/1 win bet for this mare to win one of races of The Cheltenham Festival.

Neil Phillips picks out his runners and riders for this week’s Cheltenham Festival

Wednesday March 15

15.30 The Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase (3m 6f)

Back On The Lash 16/1 each way. The Cross Country course really suits Back On The Lash, who won here on Festival Trails Day.

Friday March 17

15.30 The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase Grade 1 (3m 2½f)

Ahoy Senor 12/1 each way. The best renewal in years and Ahoy Senor, who won the Cotswold Chase in January has hit top form.