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RTE's Colm keeping his fingers crossed for an Elegant victory

RTE's Colm Murray is hoping to make up for missing Cheltenham last year, with a hefty wager at this year's four-day festival.

The Montrose veteran revealed how he will be keeping his fingers crossed for the Dermot Weld-trained horse Elegant Concorde tomorrow when he takes part in the St Patrick's Day Champion Bumper.

"I backed Elegant Concorde each-way at a big price back in January," Colm explained. "It will be a happy St Patrick's Day if he wins."

Murray missed out on his annual pilgrimage to the festival for the first time in 18 years last year, due to RTE's recessionary woes.

There were widespread complaints from punters who were disappointed to see him covering the meeting from a studio in Donnybrook, instead of from Cheltenham racecourse.

This year he will be the only reporter going to the festival from RTE, with Tracy Piggot presenting the races in the afternoon from Donnybrook.

Around 200,000 spectators will flock to the course in the coming days.

"There's been a really good buzz on the course so far," Horse Racing Ireland's Tamso Doyle said.

"There seems to be a lot of Irish people around, we're expecting at least ten thousand, if not more to make the trip.

"Last year we had an amazing nine Irish winners and I think we'd be happy this year with around six winners."

Ryanair has been cashing in on a last minute surge in racegoers making the annual pilgrimage today.

With fans desperate to be ferried to the event on time, the airline boss was charging up to €400 a seat on an additional 20 flights from Dublin to Birmingham.

Paddy Power is hosting a private box at the track, with invited guests enjoying a drinks reception before the racing action.

The bookmaker will also host a special dinner for a number of media personalities at Cheltenham hotspot Dandelion tonight.

Actor James Nesbitt was among those due to attend the meeting, given that he is one of four co-owners of Riverside Theatre, a runner in the Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple.

Meanwhile, today's Champion Hurdle was set to be a sad occasion for the Smurfit family, as it marked the final time that Smurfit Kappa sponsored the race.

After 20 years, the company confirmed earlier this year that they would not be renewing their sponsorship.