Punters jockeying for best seats in house at Cheltenham festival
THE Cheltenham festival can prove a strenuous marathon at the best of times.
But when you're heavily pregnant and the wife of a top jockey, the only thing for it is to smile and nab a comfy ringside seat for the four-day slog.
Paula Geraghty was aglow yesterday as she and husband Barry Geraghty joined the exodus to the mecca of jump racing.
"I'm there for the four days, until Saturday," Paula said of the week ahead. "I'm seven-and-a-half months pregnant and there'll be a lot of standing around."
She explained that they were always a little anxious until the first race of the four-day festival got under way, but was thankful that her mother in Kerry had taken daughter Siofra (5) for the week.
A few of those making a beeline for the racecourse nestled in the picturesque Cotswolds pricked up their ears when they heard Mr Geraghty admit that he was "hopeful" because he had "lots of good rides" at the festival this week.
"I'd be looking forward to Big Zeb," he said, ahead of his hotly touted mount in tomorrow's Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Marking the listening punters' cards, he tipped Finian's Rainbow to put in a good show in today's Irish Independent Arkle Chase.
Pat Quinn, from Terenure, Dublin, accompanied by his nephew Keith Bennett, proved he was well equipped for their first venture to Cheltenham.
"It's my first time in 59 years," Mr Quinn said as he waved his binoculars. "I've looked forward to it so much for the last three or four months."
A festival veteran, Derek Greenlee, from Greystones, Co Wicklow, was following his horse-patterned lucky tie to the track.
"Keep your hands in your pockets," he jokingly advised when asked about temptation from the bookies.
"Patriotism stops at the pocket, I think."
Punters were hopeful that at least a few of those Irish bankers of the four-legged kind would deliver for them on the day.
Big Zeb was the nap of the week for Cheltenham first-timer Ned O'Keeffe, from Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, with Peter Moran and John Moore making up the remainder of the trio of friends out to enjoy the week.
This time around, both Tully's Travel and Newbridge Travel found that more people were willing to splash out on the festival.
And Grand National winning trainer Gordon Elliot (33) modestly revealed the heavily backed Chicago Grey was in good form for tomorrow's four-mile Challenge Cup.