While large numbers of racegoers are bound for Cheltenham, many more horse racing fans will enjoy the festival in the comfort of the Rebel county.
The Castle in Glanmire and Quinlan’s Bar in Blackpool are just two of the many Cork pubs gearing up the biggest week in the horse racing calendar.
“It’s a huge week for us here in the Castle in particular,” Castle owner Ronan Murphy said. “Cheltenham, outside of Christmas week is our biggest week of the year here.”
Pandemic effects were still being felt during last year’s festival, which impacted pubs massively.
“We were just coming out [of] restrictions last year, so it was still a bit different and people were unsure of how everything was proceeding whereas now it’s back to normal now and we’re absolutely looking forward to getting everyone coming in and enjoying the racing on a normal basis for the whole week,” Ronan added.
Many Castle regulars will make the journey to Cheltenham.
“It creates a great buzz. They’ll come back after a few days in Cheltenham and they’re chatting to people that have been here for a week,” Ronan added.
The Castle held a Cheltenham preview, with Ruby Walsh, Davy Russell and Johnny Dineen.
“We had about 250 people here for that really kicks Cheltenham off for us and they give a lot of tips and just create the buzz,” he added.
Quinlan’s Bar in Blackpool also held a preview night to whet the appetite of horse racing lovers.
Co-owner of Quinlan’s Bar, Conor Quinlan said: “We had jockey Darragh O’Keeffe, we also had professional gambler Johnny Dineen from Upping the Ante as well as Brendan Powell, who’s assistant trainer to Joseph O’Brien. So that was a good night.
“That was our first step back into it. Every year for probably 22 years - it’s probably the biggest week in the calendar for us.”
Conor has noticed a change in gambling over the years, with more people using their smartphones.
“I started to see people betting with their phones so that just probably makes it a lot easier. Some people haven’t got the apps on their phones so they may pop over to the bookies across the road especially on Gold Cup Day.”
Conor spoke fondly about memories during Cheltenham shared by those in Quinlan’s over the years, including a nail-biting finish in 2013.
“We had great days down the years. We had a great moment in 2013 which has a few views on YouTube. A horse called Salsify was a two to one favourite. He was losing coming over the last towards the finish to another horse called Oscar Delta, which was a 25 to one shot. They were all waiting on the Salsify to pick up and the leading horse in front fell and Salsify went on to win.”
“Anytime the Irish win, it’s good for us,” Conor added.