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Regular racegoer set for Cheltenham Festival final day as Gold Cup anticipation builds

As Nichola Stevens begins her trek from Yorkshire to Gloucestershire on the Monday before the Cheltenham Festival, she feels a warm tingle of trepidation.

She stays with her Mum in Didcot throughout the four-day event, making the 68 mile journey from Oxfordshire to Prestbury Park to see some of her favourite horses in action.

Stevens has visited the Festival every year for the last 30 of her life, and she says there’s no better feeling than walking through the gates on race day.

“I’ve loved racing since I was about five years old,” she recounted.

“When I was about 15/16, I got into the jump racing and Cheltenham is the mecca of jump racing.

“This is the pinnacle for me, going to the Festival is always amazing.

“I watch from the Annual Member stand for most of the race, not for all of them.

“I sometimes find it can be quite crowded up there, especially for the first race and the bigger races.

“I sometimes prefer to be in the paddock and the parade ring to see the horses as well.

“I could’ve met some famous faces outside of the sport but I really wouldn’t have a clue.

“I’m so into horse racing and I’ve got shares in different horses.”

The Festival welcomes many Annual Members throughout the competition, with them getting access to the Cheltenham Club and the elusive viewing platform.

“There’s a lot of excitement when the races are on,” Stevens said.

“Especially building up to the big finish, there’s a real silence actually – it can be quite eerie.

“In our section there tends to be a lot of empathy for the horse if one falls.

“If there’s a fairytale ending, the buzz is just amazing when that happens.

“When I was younger I used to go in general admission, which I used to enjoy.

“This was a time I only went to the Festival on one day during the week.

“I used to walk as far as I could up the course away from the finish line so that I could see that.

“They wouldn’t let you do that now, you could go right up against the fences.”

With Gold Cup Day upon us, Stevens is ready for the action, with Gallopin Des Champs likely to take the crown at 3:30 this afternoon.

“Everyone comes for Gold Cup day,” Stevens admitted.

“For this race, I’d say it’s more about whether it’s going to be competitive.

“Wednesday is my favourite day, the two-mile is the one I most enjoy.

“Gallopin Des Champs is a done deal already in my eyes, he should win it.

“When those races aren’t too competitive, it can lower my personal excitement.

“I had a small share in State Star yesterday so that was enjoyable because there’s that extra excitement.”

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