By HRI Foreign Staff — Plans are well underway for the Cheltenham Festival, one of the highlights of the National Hunt racing season, which is back on the calendar having been cancelled last year because of the pandemic.
Held at the Cheltenham race course in Gloucestershire, England, it offers prize money which is second only to the Grand National and attracts tens of thousands of visitors, many of them from Ireland.
The fact that it usually coincides with St. Patrick’s Day – as it does this year – makes it a particular draw or those from across the Irish Sea.
Taking place over four days, the meeting includes several Grade 1 races, including the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and the Stayers’ Hurdle, but the highlight is always the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which will take place on March 18th this year.
Open to horses aged five years and older, it is the most prestigious of all National Hunt races and is regarded as the Blue-Ribbon event of jump racing. Some of the horses that have won it in the past have gone down in racing folklore, like Arkle, Golden Miller, Desert Orchid and Kauto Star.
The Gold Cup, like the Grand National, or the Melbourne Cup for Australians, is one of those races where ordinary people, who may not follow horse racing at all during the rest of the year, will often be tempted to have a small bet.
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Racegoers have missed the Festival, with organisers expecting a record attendance, with all tickets for the four-day event already sold out.
The local police have said that they are working alongside partner agencies and the course organisers to ensure that there are sufficient resources to manage the event safely, with extra patrols scheduled to ensure that all involved will be able to enjoy themselves.
To that end, the local council is promoting an app, specially created for women and girls, allowing them, to share their experiences, anonymously, or how, and when, they have felt unsafe during their time at the festival.
Cheltenham is known as Festival Town, because it also hosts a Jazz and Literary Festival annually, but it is the horse racing that brings in the most amount for the local economy, worth £100 million and upwards.
That money is spent not only on gambling, but on the various hotels, bars, restaurants and other retail facilities in the surrounding area, all of which need a boost after two years of the pandemic.
In addition, local builders and day traders are amongst those who stand to benefit from the return of the Festival.
In total more than £1 billion is spent on British horse racing each year, will five million plus actually attending race meetings annually. When indirect spend is considered, the figure is closer to £3.5 billion, generating £275 million in tax receipts.