Friday 15 December 2017

well on course

It's not quite an invasion, but the Irish will certainly make their presence felt at the Cheltenham Festival next week and officials at the racecourse are expecting the number of people travelling over from here to be double what it was last year.

There doesn't seem to be any one particular reason for that but there will be those who remember the barren years for Irish racing, when we were either lucky to have a winner or else didn't have one at all ,and following recent success and the potential to witness Irish winners into double figures has to be a help.

There is, of course, the last chance to see AP McCoy on this stage.

Sophia Brudenell (pictured) of Cheltenham Racecourse explains: "We've always known there is a big Irish market at Cheltenham, the evidence being the extra flights Ryanair put on and the ticket sales we send over to Ireland but when we ran a report a couple of weeks ago we noticed a big increase and I think, not just in Ireland, our ticket sales across the board are up and people have a bit more disposable income."

Anyone who was at last year's Cheltenham Festival is going to see a huge difference in the landscape of the racecourse but Brudenell insists that the experience will only be enhanced as the development project continues.

"It is still very recognisably Cheltenham," she told The Herald. "We haven't changed the key areas such as the paddock and the winners enclosure."

For many, the natural amphitheatre created by the surrounds of the famous winners' enclosure is a key part of welcoming in a winner, and again, Brudenell is confident that will be more memorable than ever.

"The most visual change will be the new five-and- a-half storey grand stand and we'll be using various parts of it for the Festival and that will cater for about 3,000 people.

"I think the winners' enclosure is only going to be improved because there is now an area you can stand on the floor and above that is the See You Then Terrace and The Paddock Terrace as well as all those on the stepping, so we are just adding to that cauldron of atmosphere with the volume of people that get access to it."

Now it's just time to tune the vocal chords to welcome them back.

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