Star-spotting at the races - Odds on there'll be lots of stars at Punchestown this year
IT is one of the most anticipated events on the racing calendar and there will be a host of familiar faces flocking to Punchestown today as the annual extravaganza starts with a bang.
The RTE canteen will be a lonely place this afternoon with a string of the broadcaster's top talent, including presenter Kathryn Thomas, radio host Sean O'Rourke and GAA man Marty Morrissey expected to attend the first day.
Comedian Oliver Callan, news reader Aengus Mac Grianna and TV personality Mary Kennedy will also be among thousands of punters who cross the turnstiles this afternoon.
The RTE names will be well looked after at the racecourse's hospitality areas where they will be treated to lunch and drinks as well as having panoramic views of the racecourse.
A keen racing fan, Ireland soccer legend Niall Quinn will be playing host to a number of friends in his own festival box.
Ex Tipperary hurling star Nicky English is on the list of guests confirmed to be attending by former Sunderland chairman Quinn.
The Kildare based businessman is not the only famous football man expected to grace Punchestown today and English soccer manager Steve Bruce will also take his place on the racecourse.
More than 100,000 punters are due to come through the turnstiles this week for the five-day festival as they forsake the grind of the nine-to-five for a flutter.
This year will see €2.5m in prize money up for grabs, increased by more than ¿300,000 from last year, as organisers try to compete with UK meetings.
And organisers told the Herald that today's race meeting could be the most exciting of the week.
"This is the only day that will have three Grade One races so a great few hours of racing is in store and guests will begin arriving from around noon for their lunch," said a spokesperson.