Punters to place trust in Irish bankers

THOUSANDS of punters flocking to this year’s Cheltenham festival are set to place their trust in Irish bankers – of the horsing variety, of course.

And if the bookies’ fears are realised, and rising star Dunguib maintains his unbeaten record over hurdles in today’s opener, the betting fraternity who backed him will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Bookmakers Paddy Power estimate it will take in bets worth up to €1 million alone on Dunguib, making him potentially one of the most backed Irish horses in history, and potentially one of the biggest losers for the bookmakers should he win.

Although a smaller Irish contingent is expected to travel to the racing extravaganza this year, for those who do, the recession will be left firmly at home.

The thousands who do descend on Gloucestershire for the most anticipated racing festival of the year are expected to bet an estimated €100m.

Overall, the festival expects in excess of 200,000 people and William Hill maintains a staggering £150m a day will be placed throughout the industry on each of the four days of the festival.

Another Irish favourite racing today is Go Native, who will try to add the Champion Hurdle to two other races won already this season.

Noel Meade’s charge faces 11 rivals as he bids to secure a £1m bonus in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle and complete the hat-trick.

Perhaps the biggest drama gripping the festival, however, is the long-awaited showdown between Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy.

They go head to head riding stablemates Kauto Star and Denman on Friday in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

McCoy, the 14-time champion jockey, who counts Walsh as a close friend, is looking to make amends after he was unseated when he rode Denman for the first time in February in a shock defeat at Newbury.

The duo stand one-all in wins when they have faced each other, but Kauto Star is favourite and interest in the rivalry has been rising, with special scarves and rosettes on sale for punters to show backing for their favourite.

Whether their bankers win or lose you can be sure Irish will eyes will be smiling and shamrock well and truly drowned.

For the first time since 2006, St Patrick’s Day falls in the middle of the four-day festival and thousands of green rosettes will be handed out to the crowd on Wednesday.

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