CHELTENHAM attendees were chomping at the bit as they galloped to Cork Airport yesterday to catch a flight to the biggest event in the race horsing calendar.
Blue Blood Racing and Closutton Racing manager James Fenton is excited to see Ashroe Diamond in action, after his horse picked up the Aintree Nickel Coin Mares Trophy last year.
“It’s like going to the Olympics, it’s like Wimbledon, it’s the pinnacle of horse racing,” the Castlelyons man said.
“Everyone wants to be there and to have a runner there too is exciting.”
Horse breeder Aidan Aherne is hoping to build on previous success.
“Having bred some good horses over the years, it is a great buzz when they do win and on the big stage,” he said. “I bred Many Clouds to win the Grand National in 2015. I’m hoping for good runs.”
Jimmy Shanahan from Fermoy is attending Cheltenham for the 30th time this year, and is looking forward to “the buzz and a chance to win a few pound”.
“If we do, it’s good if we don’t we’ll be back again next year,” Jimmy said. When asked what brings him back to Cheltenham each year, he said he enjoys the friendly rivalry of the festival.
“Just the excitement and competition between Ireland and England,” he said.
“You get to meet old friends and meet people that we wouldn’t meet from one end of the year to the other — we would meet them again in Cheltenham.”
Fellow Fermoy man Ger Daly also loves the annual event.
“For us, it’s our holiday,” he said. “Cheltenham is probably a bug as well a such. Once you come once you get the buzz and you can’t wait until the following year.”
Ballyvolane man Noel Hawthorne will attend Cheltenham for the first time as his family surprised him for his 60th birthday.
When asked what he expects to unfold, he cheerfully said “to win loads of money” and isn’t worried by the threat of the English horses to pip their Irish counterparts over the event. His son Jason Hawthorne is also a big racing fan and looking forward to Irish success.
Ballyvolane’s Ryan O’Connor is also attending for the first time and has a solid plan in place to keep him on the home stretch.
“A few wins, a few pints and good times,” he said.
When asked if he studied statistics and form before he boarded his flight to Birmingham, he said: “I did not. I’ll do it on the way over.”
Avid Mallow Races attendee Jack Whelan is excited to see the difference between the two events.
“I love horse racing alright; this is my first time going over to Cheltenham. I’d normally go to Mallow Races so it’s a big change and big difference.
When asked if he’s confident on the betting front, the Dublin Hill man said. “No, I don’t have a clue, to be honest. I like to pretend that I know something about it, but I don’t,” he joked before predicting Irish success.
“It will be a good laugh. It will be a whitewash, the Irish will beat them nicely for the (Gold) Cup.”