Monday 20 November 2017

Ryanair ramps up for Cheltenham

Mark O'Regan and Kirsty Blake Knox

Ryanair has added over 30 extra flights to cater for 15,000 Irish racing fans set to fly with the airline to National Hunt's biggest festival.

The flights from Ireland to Birmingham, for the four-day Cheltenham racing extravaganza, are in response to "enormous demand", according to a spokesperson.

Ryanair is the event's official carrier, which kicks off on March 10.

CEO Michael O'Leary, a noted racing enthusiast, owns Gigginstown House stud in Co Westmeath.

The airline is also the sponsor of the £275,000 (€369,000) Grade 1 Ryanair Chase which takes place on Thursday March 12, one of Cheltenham's most valuable races.

About 230,000 race-goers will attend the Festival, with an estimated €672m being gambled over the course of the week. Twelve Irish trained horses won at last year's event. This year's National Hunt Chase will be run in honour of the late trainer Toby Balding on the first day of the festival.

Toby Balding, who died in September at the age of 78, trained over 2,000 winners over jumps and on the flat, and enjoyed 11 victories at Cheltenham. These included two Champion Hurdles, featuring Beech Road (1989), and Morley Street (1991).

Balding was also a noted mentor for young jockeys, having nurtured the most successful jump-jockey of all time, the legendary AP McCoy.

Attendees can sign the AP McCoy Celebration Wall, near the Mandarin Bar, which commemorates the champion jockey's historic 4,000th win.

Irish Independent

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