Different look but same old thrill at Cheltenham Racecourse
IT may have looked a little different, but Cheltenham Racecourse was still the place to be as it opened for the first time in the new National Hunt season yesterday.
Thousands of punters flooded through the gates of the famous venue for the Showcase meeting, dressed in an array of tweed, flat caps and garish corduroys.
Gone were the A&R stands and Royal Box, which have been demolished, leaving a yawning gap in the line of stands which flank the winning stretch.
It is part of a £45million upgrade to the racecourse which will see a state-of -the-art grandstand installed in time for the 2016 Festival.
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But punters didn't seem to mind yesterday, with the roars as loud as any on an opening day.
Francis Smith, who lives near Bishop's Cleeve, said: "I must admit on arrival I came in and thought 'this looks a bit different'.
"But I don't think anyone minds too much. There's still a great atmosphere here and it all needs doing to improve the stadium as a whole.
"If anything there is a sense of excitement because it gives people something to look forward to."
Nicholas Priddy, from Worcester, added: "It's fine.
"It does feel a bit different and it's much more open-plan at the moment but they've got to do it to bring the racecourse up to date.
Gordon Smith, who lives in the Cotswolds, added: "The atmosphere is unbeatable. It's the best venue for jump racing in the world."
The two-day meeting is set to continue today.
Racecourse spokeswoman Sophia Brudenell hailed the day as a fantastic start to the season.
"There has been a great atmosphere all day and the numbers have been good," she said. "Obviously the venue looks a bit different to how people remember it but it's all part of a plan and the work is essential to bring things up to date."
By the next meeting on November 15 there will be a three-tier temporary stand up to accommodate punters.