Patrick's Day comes early as Cheltenham goes green
IT seems St Patrick's Day may have landed early this year as a sea of green hats, shamrock and a few leprachauns were spotted in the crowds milling around the Cheltenham Racecourse.
Racecourse officials said they were expecting "huge" crowds on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival which they dubbed the 'St Patrick's Thursday', after record numbers early in the week.
Sky Sports presenter and Irish Independent columnist Rachel Wyse (27) was an early arrival at the track, as the IT girl of sports enjoyed a day away from the camera.
"One of my colleagues Alex Hammond is riding in the charity race which I rode in two years ago - I don't have any of the nerves today she has to deal with that. We are all down here supporting her," she said. "I've been working for the last couple of days so they finally let me out of the office."
Other well-known faces enjoying a day out at the track included actor Jimmy Nesbitt who is hoping to win the Ryanair Steeple Chase with his horse Riverside Theatre to fend off airline chief Michael O'Leary's favourite First Lieutenant.
The Cold Feet star, who played dwarf Bofur in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings prequel, said his win last year was the "greatest thing" he'd ever known.
The actor told how he was delighted to learn Conor Murphy, stable lad to trainer Nicky Henderson, had won more than €1m as Riverside Theatre was the final leg of his five-horse accumulator bet.
"I think halfway through the race he must have been tearing the docket up," Nesbitt joked. "It looked like he was beaten, it was great for Conor."
He said the win at Cheltenham was very "special" to him.
Racecourse officials are expecting sell-out crowds for tomorrow's (Fri) Gold Cup day, with all 67,000 ticket snapped up.