After months of build-up and anticipation, the four-day Cheltenham Festival finally kicks off on Tuesday, but there is still plenty of racing to enjoy before then, including Warwick’s Irish Day on Sunday, writes David Hucker.
With 140 entries, it looks being a competitive afternoon and general manager Huw Williams is hoping some of the Irish racegoers arriving in the country early will make their way to Warwick to start the week off.
“The Irish Day promises to be a terrific day of racing and a celebration of the Emerald Isle, and we’re looking forward to welcoming many of the racegoers travelling over from Ireland for the Cheltenham Festival,” said Williams.
“Warwick has a proud reputation for being a strong proving ground for future stars of the Festival and this year is no exception in our first season as an all-jumps track which is being very well-supported by owners and trainers and racegoers.
“Our Kingmaker Chase Day in February is regarded as one of the leading trials for The Festival and, this year, the meeting yielded a trio of winners who now have their eyes on Cheltenham glory including Vibrato Valtat and Glens Melody who are among the favourites in the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, respectively.”
Strong early bookings have seen the course open up an additional restaurant to accommodate the expected bumper crowd and the six-race card starts at 2.10pm with the Connolly’s Red Mills Handicap Hurdle (Connolly’s Red Mills “Precision Nutrition” Series Qualifier) over two miles and five furlongs.
Highlight of the meeting is the fourth, the TurfTV Handicap Chase over three miles and five furlongs, and one horse guaranteed to stay the trip is dual course winner Loughalder.
He has been seen out just twice this season, making mistakes at Chepstow last time out, but is slipping down the handicap and is now just 6lb higher than when beating Jaunty Journey by nine lengths in the race 12 months ago.
Main danger could be another course winner in Incentivise, who has run well in defeat since beating Barton Gift in December and is better off at the weights with his old rival now.
The curtain comes down with the Air Wedding Open Hunters’ Chase (for the Air Wedding Challenge Trophy) run to commemorate one of the many successful chasers trained by John Thorne at Chesterton.
Thorne finished second in the 1981 Grand National on his best horse Spartan Missile, beaten by Aldaniti and Bob Champion, but was tragically killed in a point-to-point fall the following season.
Gates open at 12.10pm and admission is £20 for adults on the day or £18 if booked in advance online.
A special Emerald package is available in advance only which includes admission, racecard and a pint of Guinness for £20.
Accompanied children aged 17 and under go in free.