Horseracing: Punters still keen on Festival

Friday, March 02, 2001
Punters look set to ignore Minister for Agriculture Joe Walsh's urgings and travel over to the Cheltenham Festival, should it go ahead.

The Irish Racehorse Trainers Association announced on Thursday that no Irish-trained runners will be in action at the Festival.

But racegoers still seem intent on travelling over to England, according to a leading Irish travel agency.

Joe Tully's Tully Travel ferries more racegoers to Prestbury Park than any other Irish agency from his Carlow-based firm.

And Tully has revealed only a handful of people have so far cancelled their trip to England for National Hunt's showpiece in 11 days' time.

Tully said: "The people who follow racing are not cancelling.

"They are telling us that picking on sporting fixtures, when there are already 20,000 people a day commuting between the United Kingdom and Ireland, is a PR exercise on the part of the government and that they intend going to the Festival.

"We have 1,500 people travelling from Ireland and up to lunchtime (yesterday) we have had only one cancellation bar two corporate groups who are involved in agricultural-based products and who felt it would be inappropriate for them to go."

And Tully added some punters had rejected the chance to cancel their trip after a Cheltenham guest house rang him to offer a full refund to a party of people.

"On Wednesday, a guest house in Cheltenham contacted us to offer a full refund. We rang the 20 people we had booked in there to ask if they wanted to cancel. They all said no."