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Saturday 23 March 2019

Punters enjoy luck of Irish at Cheltenham as bookies hit for €58m

Carol O’Connell, from Cork
Carol O’Connell, from Cork
Michelle McDonald, Cork, left and Eleanor Forrest O'Mara, from Thurles. Photo: Damien Eagers
Kate Tracey, from Wicklow

Ian Begley at Cheltenham

It was an Irish affair at Cheltenham - both on and off the course - as St Patrick's Thursday cost the bookies a record-breaking €58m.

The luck of the Irish rubbed off on punters everywhere, as yesterday was declared the worst day for bookmakers in the history of the festival.

With the vast majority of favourites putting money in racegoers' pockets, Prestbury Park became a little greener during an afternoon of music and craic.

Thousands of racing fans let down their hair and raised a pint of Guinness in the name of St Patrick.

Kate Tracey, from Co Wicklow, even went so far as to declare the famous Guinness Village the centre of the universe.

"There's no place I'd rather be in the world than Cheltenham today," she said.

"It's absolutely chaotic, especially in the Guinness Village, but there's nothing better. I've been coming here for years and St Patrick's Thursday has been definitely my favourite day of all.

"Credit must be given to the organisers who really know how to throw a party."

Dave Donnolly, from Co Limerick, was definitely a contender for best dressed as he strolled around the grounds in tricolour face paint and a green wig.

"I'm sure all the jockeys, trainers and owners are well aware of who I am by now," he said.

"The craic is mighty and the Guinness flows like water."

Eleanor Forrest, from Co Tipperary, said even the English tried to jump on the Irish bandwagon for the day that was in it.

"The Brits have been full of craic all week," she said.

"Last night, they even started an Irish sing-song on the bus on the way back from the festival and today they're all wearing green and drinking Guinness," she said.

But while, punters merrily drank to the occasion, bookies were drowning their sorrows.

"Today has been one of the worst days we've ever encountered at the Cheltenham Festival," said Ladbrokes spokesperson Nicola McGeady.

"We are bracing ourselves for further pain [today], with Sir Erec assuming the role of Irish banker in the first."

A pair of lucky Dublin punters even managed to land €32,000 on an €11 bet by picking four winning horses with French names, according to BoyleSports.

The day's races got off to a very promising start for the Irish jockeys with Barry Geraghty's mount Defi Du Seuil claiming the JLT Novices' Steeplechase.

He then produced another astonishing win just 40 minutes later on the Gordon Elliott-trained Sire Du Berlais.

There was heartache for Ruby Walsh, though, on Footpad in the Ryanair Chase as he missed out on his 60th festival win.

Nevertheless, history was made when Bryony Frost on Frodon became the first woman to win a Grade One race at Cheltenham.

Cork jockey Aidan Coleman then lived up to his reputation with a superb victory on Paisley Park in the Stayers' Hurdle for owner Andrew Gemmell, who had the race described to him because he is blind.

According to Paddy Power, Irish horses are currently favourites for five of the seven races today.

Irish Independent

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