Festival the ‘shop window for Irish National Hunt racing’

Irish winners at Cheltenham are not only good for the hordes of race-goers from the country who make the annual pilgrimage, for a successful Festival has a positive effect on the racing industry here as a whole.

Among the thousands of Irish descending upon Prestbury Park is the chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, Brian Kavanagh.

He is hoping there will be plenty of Irish winners at jumps racing’s biggest meeting of the year.

With a record number of Irish entries, he has good reason to be optimistic.

“It’s hugely important. Cheltenham is the shop window for National Hunt racing,” said Kavanagh.

“They say it is the Olympics of jumps racing and what we need is Irish-trained and Irish-bred horses to be winning to advertise the market.

“We have a record number of entries this year, 600 Irish horses, so hopefully the trainers, the jockeys and the horses can do their stuff and advertise Irish horses.

“Irish trainers have said it’s an opportunity to show what they can do with horses training in Ireland.

“Cheltenham is great fun, there’s a fantastic atmosphere and there’s the rivalry as well.

“National Hunt racing is very popular at home and this is the pinnacle of the season.

“It sets up the rematches for Fairyhouse and Punchestown, for our Festivals.

“The crowds looked to be as big as ever at the airport when I arrived here. It’s great.

“There are twice as many foals born in Ireland as there in Britain for example, so this is a chance for us to encourage UK owners to see the best bloodstock in Ireland and come over and source the young horses in Ireland in the future.

“The last few years have been pretty good, so hopefully we’ll have a good Festival this year and the weather won’t cause any problems.”


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