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Shane joins festival fans as he faces final hurdle in his first solo record deal

WESTLIFE'S Shane Filan is on the verge of signing a six-figure deal with a new record company.

The Diary can reveal how the Sligo crooner was popping the champagne at Cheltenham Festival after talks with a string of big labels.

In what will be his first solo deal without his chart-topping bandmates, he said he'll be signing on the dotted line in the next few weeks.

And he admitted that the nerves are jangling at the thought of going it alone.

"It's exciting but, of course, I'll be nervous. It's only natural when you're coming out of a band after 14 years, you don't know where your life's going to take you," he said.

"But all I want to do is sing, sing great songs and see where it goes. It's down to the songs."

Shane and manager Louis Walsh have been having top-level negotiations with a number of labels -- but Shane didn't want to rush into anything.

"I'm just working out now exactly what's happening, there's different things happening and we'll work it out in the next month or two. Obviously I want to make the right decision," he said.


Shane and his wife Gillian left their three children Nicole, Patrick and Shane at home for a day of fun at the festival.

The celebrity couple were guests of multi-millionaire businessman JP McManus. Shane revealed how it was his first time at the festival.

But it wasn't the easiest trip up from their Surrey home, where they're now living.

They spent more than five hours caught in the traffic chaos as they slowly made their way to the Cotswolds course.

Meanwhile, high-flyer Michael O'Leary has admitted that he can't always guarantee that Ryanair flights will leave on time -- even when he's on them.

The airline mogul flew over to Birmingham with his own airline for the first day of the festival and was forced to admit its tardy departure.

"I was trying to make sure the bloody flight was out on time. It wasn't and do you know who delayed it? The press. Some TV cameraman dragging his backside down but we caught it up on flight and got the bugle on arrival in Birmingham to raucous applause," he said. The frugal airline boss, who was at the racecourse with wife Anita, has been laying on extra flights to ferry optimistic punters over for the event.

"I've had lots of friends texting me saying I'm losing my touch, the fares are so cheap. For 20 quid you can fly over here," he said.

And he insisted how there's "never a recession in Cheltenham" judging by the huge numbers in attendance.

"People aren't coming over for four days any more, they're coming for one or two days and then ducking in and out," he said.

And as proof that some things never change at the course, there were also plenty of former Fianna Fail figures in attendance.


Former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy and his wife Noeleen were busy trying to pick a winner from the card. He said there was "plenty of time left" to have a bit of luck and he was over for the week.

"I've been coming since the 70s -- I'll come as long as I can," he explained.

Also spotted was former Sports Minister John O'Donoghue, who said he was just over for a few days and said he had no doubt the downturn would effect crowd numbers.

Other well-known faces dotted around the course included champion jockey Lester Piggott, alongside TV presenters Ant and Dec.

The cheeky chaps were accompanied by a glamorous blonde as they studied all the action from the owners and trainers area.

However, the thousands of Irish punters were left counting their losses on the opening day of the festival after taking a hammering from the bookies.

With just one Irish win in the form of Quevega in the sixth race, it was a disappointing start to the festival for many.

The biggest upset of the day came when Rock On Ruby beat off competition from hot favourite Hurricane Fly to romp home in the Champion Hurdle.

The Willie Mullins-trained favourite was one of the festival bankers and his defeat cost punters a whopping €3m.

Irish eyes definitely weren't smiling after the shock result in the feature race.