IT is the most prestigious race of the Cheltenham Festival, so it was fitting that among those cheering on the horses were one of the country’s most high profile couples.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge flew into Cheltenham Racecourse by helicopter and awaiting them was a feast of top class jump racing with bookies favourite Bobs Worth triumphing in the Blue Ribband event of the day – the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Crowds clutched their betting slips tightly as they roared on their horses and racegoers were delighted to see the royal party, which also included Princess Anne and Zara Philips, who was on the arm of her husband Mike Tindall.
There was also a touch of glamour provided by celebrities such as Alan Carr, Russell Brand and Ben Fogle.
A bumper crowd of 67,000 turned out to enjoy Gold Cup day at Prestbury Park, transforming the venue into a sea of tweed, flat caps and garish cords.
Ladies looked stunning in their ornate hats and fur coats as they wrapped up against the cold and rain. And dapper gents were not to be left in the shade donning bright trousers including burgundy, pea green and mustard yellow.
Excited punters watched their betting slips and cheered on their horses, hovering near the big screens put up specially for the occasion.
Cotswold farmer and Countryfile presenter Adam Henson said: “I’m having a great time, it’s soaking wet but no one cares, everyone just loves it at Cheltenham.”
Light rain continued to fall as the start of the racing drew near. The rate of consumption of the black stuff was increasing by the minute in the Guinness tent where an Irish band had struck up a jig.
Business boomed throughout the week at the various stalls set up in the tented village.
Julian Block, manager of Cordys outfitters, said: “We could have sold out of hats and gloves 20 times over. It’s been steady trade throughout the week which is great considering the economic climate.”
Charlotte Bennett, manager at Joules, added: “We sold well over 500 hats with fur in particularly high demand.”
Duchess of Cambridge watch the first race of the day at Cheltenham races. Day 4 of the national hunt festival at Prestbury Park racecourse, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Gold Cup day.
New Cheltenham Racecourse boss Ian Renton reflected on a successful four days - his first Festival in charge of the course.
"It has been a fantastic four days and the racing has been of an incredible standard with all the major races featuring success for class horses," he said.
"This has been matched by record attendances over the first three days.
"I think reducing the capacity to 67,000 on Gold Cup day, given the weather we had, will have made the experience better for racegoers."
Mr Renton also sent a message of support to injured jockey JT McNamara who is currently in Frenchay Hospital.
"All our thoughts and sympathy are with JT McNamara and his family at this time.
"We pray for the best."