Women jockey for position ahead of Cheltenham's four-day racing festival
Published 13/03/2016 | 02:30
Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh, arguably two of the toughest stars in Irish sport, will lead the charge on Cheltenham this week as the Blue Riband event of National Hunt gets under way.
More than 7,000 Irish racing fans will descend on Gloucestershire by air and sea over four days to enjoy the magic of the festival with the two female jump jockeys tipped to play a leading role.
Nina and Katie will fly the flag for Ireland and are both determined to make their mark at the iconic meeting set in 350 acres on the lee of the Cotswold hills.
Carberry has been rewriting the history books ever since riding her first winner on the Noel Meade-trained 'Sabrinsky', in the Curragh's Ladies' Derby in 2001.
Added to her CV is the fact that she became the first female rider to defeat the professionals at the Cheltenham festival for 18 years, when booting Paul Nolan's 'Dabiroun' home, in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap hurdle in 2005.
Renowned for her ability to judge pace, and her strength in a finish, she has repeated the trick three more times since.
When she became champion amateur in Ireland in 2006, she was the first woman since former champion jockey, Frances Crowley, to do so and retained the title the following season. She came third in the 2012 Grand National, giving her the highest finish for a female jockey.
Walsh is the daughter of former champion amateur jump jockey, trainer and television pundit, Ted Walsh, and the sister of the legendary Ruby. She has ridden two winners at the Cheltenham festival.
For the festival, Aer Lingus is laying on an additional 700 seats, on its Dublin to Birmingham route.
And there's another 700 extra seats on the Cork to Bristol route to facilitate race-goers.
Martin Saxton of Stobart Air (operator of Aer Lingus Regional) said the increased passenger capacity is a direct response to the strong demand from racing enthusiasts.
"The extra seats will therefore provide greater choice and flexibility for our passengers looking to cheer on their favourite horses."
Irish fans of fashion and style will, meanwhile, today flock to a vintage fair at Cheltenham Town Hall.
The fair brings together more than 40 of the best traders from across the country, each specialising in fashion, homeware, and crafts from the 1920s to the 1980s.
It's one of the biggest vintage events in Cheltenham.
The festival is also expected to be rain free, with temperatures due to creep up into double-figures.