- Cheltenham festival kicks off tomorrow
- More than 50,000 fans set to come across from Ireland
- Ryan air puts on 30 extra flights
- Expected to generate over $500m in four days of betting
As the UK weather veers from spring sunshine to snow, it can only mean one thing – Cheltenham is on its way, and so are the Irish.
Irish snap a third of all tickets
Cheltenham is a town in western England in the picturesque Cotswolds, which makes it incredibly popular with its Irish cousins. So far, a third of all tickets sold were to fans from the Emerald Isle. Around 50,000 are expected to attend over the next four days.
This popularity is mainly due to the success in recent years that the horse-mad country has been enjoying in the UK. Irish-trained horses won 17 races at the festival last year and continue to perform well, even with a soft start expected.
Ryanair under starter’s orders
The budget Irish airline Ryanair has put on an additional 30 flights to cope with demand, as fans will fly into airports such as Birmingham, Bristol and East Midlands.
Robin Kiely, spokesperson for the airline, said: “We’re under starter’s orders for the 2019 Cheltenham Festival and racing fans are booking Ryanair flights in record numbers once more. We’ll carry over 25,000 punters to and from Cheltenham.”
With around 265,000 pints of Guinness expected to be consumed, the press will be keeping a close eye on fans to see how the festival will respond to any upsets. Race meets last year were marred with after-dark bouts of violence as race-goers drank too much.
Bookies expect a big payout
Despite the strong winds and rain forecast, for bookmakers this event is already practically home and dry. Ladbrokes’ Nicola McGeady said: “Every year the Cheltenham Festival just gets bigger and bigger, and this year a staggering amount of money is expected to change hands. Last year’s festival was a good one for us, but past performances is no guide to future returns.”
Leading Irish trainers Mullins and Gordon Elliott were seen on the track yesterday, and bookmakers will be keeping an eye on Buveur D’Air. Owner JP McManus is hoping for a third successive Champion Hurdle.
There is also the magical combination of Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins to look forward to. They have teamed up with Klassical Dream, giving the Irish hope that tomorrow will be another Ruby Tuesday.