This week you need to know about . . . Cheltenham

Sat, Mar 10, 2012, 00:00

The mass emigration from these shores will receive a temporary bump with the start of the four-day Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday. As has become customary, thousands of Irish racing fans are expected to make the annual pilgrimage to the Cotswolds over the coming week.

It’s nearly 200 years since horse racing began in the genteel English spa town, and 110 years since the first festival, in 1902, but the green invasion is a postwar phenomenon.

Though the number of Irish racegoers has declined in the past few years, Irish punters are still expected to make up about a good portion of the 60,000-a-day crowd at Prestbury Park.

Much of the anticipation surrounds whether Kauto Star will make the Gold Cup on Friday: trainer Paul Nicholls rated the two-time winner as only 50-50 to make the race after a schooling fall in February, but the 12-year-old seems to be recuperating well.

There is also a lot of money on Willie Mullins to repeat last year’s feat and be the leading trainer during the festival, with heavy favourites such as Hurricane Fly and Quevega in his team. Ruby Walsh is firm favourite to be the leading jockey for the seventh time in nine years.