THERE is no doubt but that Listowel is one of the best places in the country to savour the Cheltenham action from afar.
There is an air of the Cotswolds in the famous racing town of Listowel this week as the town's bars and betting shops, streets and punters focus on nothing other than the English festival.
Listowel's excitement kicked off on Wednesday night with a Cheltenham preview night, held In aid of the Kerry Parents' and Friends' Association at Christy Walsh's Well Bar in the Square. It's an annual event that has become the other highlight of the racing year for the town, with an expert panel comprised of the industry's top experts giving their tips in front of hundreds of eager punters.
Tips were flying and the form was parsed upside-down and inside-out as trainers Tony Martin, Tommy Cooper and Eric McNamara; jockeys Norman Williamson, Robbie 'Puppy' Power, DJ Casey, Bryan Cooper and Philip Enright; bookie Berkie Browne and journalist Billy Keane - discussed the week at length.
Why the sheer interest in Cheltenham in Listowel?
"Well, Listowel is a town that's just synonymous with racing through our own festival," organiser and host Christy Walsh said. "People just love racing here and every year a good crowd goes over from all over north Kerry. It will probably just be the diehards this year though with the way things are economically!"
That's why Listowel is coming into its own as the next best place to be and plans are afoot to establish it as an even better destination in which to savour the Cheltenham excitement from afar as Christy explained.
"Billy Keane is looking into establishing a festival in Listowel, based around Cheltenham, with lots of racing events and activities around the town during the meeting. Hopefully, instead of going to Cheltenham people will think 'why not go to Listowel altogether to enjoy it?'"
As for Christy's predictions - 'A couple in a handicap. I'd favour Carlito Brigante, trained by Gordon Elliott, in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase and Patsy Byrne's White Star Line under local jockey Bryan Cooper!"