Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Gold Cup under starter's orders

Covers on the course to protect it from the bad weather that is forecast, at Cheltenham Racecourse
Covers on the course to protect it from the bad weather that is forecast, at Cheltenham Racecourse

One of the biggest events in the horse racing calendar gets under way on Tuesday as thousands of punters descend on Cheltenham for Gold Cup week.

The Irish have always been an integral part of the prestigious National Hunt Festival, which sees the best of Britain and Ireland's thoroughbred horses pitted against each other like no other meeting in the racing calendar.

Organisers normally expect about 15,000 Irish racegoers every day, almost equally divided between ex-pats living in the UK and people crossing the Irish Sea from the Emerald Isle.

Star-spotting can be a full-time occupation, with many celebrity race fans making the trip course-side, including a plethora of royals, actors and sportspeople.

Around 220,000 pints of Guinness are expected to be consumed, organisers said.

Last year £1.5 million was withdrawn from cash machines around Prestbury Park as punters recharged their wallets.

Around 230,000 people are expected to attend the four-day festival to watch a total of 27 races, which culminates on Friday with the Gold Cup race.

Gate receipts estimated to reach £7 million and bookmakers are anticipating a record breaking year with industry turnover tipped to surpass the £600 million barrier.

The second day of the festival is traditionally Ladies Day, where women are renowned for donning stylish and glamorous outfits.

As well as prizes for the racing, there are awards for best dressed lady, best accessories and best hat sparked fierce competition with an array of flamboyant hats, feathers and fascinators.

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