It’s rather hard to believe that on this day three weeks (Tuesday, March 14) the tape will come up for the start of the famous Cheltenham Festival at the wonderful Prestbury Park in the heart of the Cotswolds and what better way to get up to speed and in the mood for the greatest week of National Hunt Racing on the planet than by attending one or more of the three wonderful Cheltenham Preview nights that have been organised in Waterford over the next couple of weeks. To say the organisers have assembled star studded panels would be doing them an injustice. They really are the best around.
LISMORE GAA PREVIEW NIGHT AT PARK HOTEL
The Park Hotel in Dungarvan is first up on Monday next, February 27 for the staging of the now famous Lismore GAA Charity Cheltenham Preview night and Sean Daly and co. have outdone themselves this year in assembling a world class panel. All proceeds from the night will go to Waterford Hospice, St. Carthage’s House Lismore and St. Vincent de Paul.
Star attraction will be 20 time National Hunt Champion jockey, AP McCoy, who is now an ITV pundit.Joining him on the panel is the man who succeeded him as champion jockey and in pole position to retain his title this year, Richard Johnson.
Two time Grand National winning jockey and now assistant trainer to Nigel Twiston Davies, Carl Llewellyn is also on the panel as is former Irish champion jockey and former Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey, Davy Russell.
The training brigade is well represented also by top English trainer Alan King and Waterford’s own Henry de Bromhead, who is currently having a season to remember.
Representing the brilliant Willie Mullins team on the night will be Willie’s son and top amateur jockey, Patrick Mullins, who is of course himself a Festival winner in the past.
Legendary local bookmaker, Noel Cummins, gives the bookes’ persepective while the night will by chaired by MC, Mike Cattermole of At The Races.
Tickets are €20 (which includes a €5 betting voucher from Paddy Power) and are available from the Park Hotel and from committee members.
Later that week, on Thursday March 2, the attention will turn to the Woodlands Hotel on the outskirts of Waterford City for the 11th staging of this bumper event which is sponsored once again this year by Ladbrokes.
All proceeds from this year’s event will go to the St. Declan’s Conference of St. Vincent de Paul and Waterford Hospice.
Once again Sean Carey and co. have assembled a brilliant panel which will be led once more by seven time British National Hunt Champion Jockey, John Francome. Francome is always hugely popular on his frequent visits to this event, not alone for his top class knowledge but also for his wit and hilarious anecdotes.
Another favourite returning this year is Gold Cup winning jockey, Mick Fitzgerald, who is now of course part of the ITV Racing team.
Long time Channel 4 analyst Jim McGrath also returns to the Woodlands this year as does Davy Russell who is always a very popular panellist at this event. Local man, Chelenham winning jockey and now assistant trainer to Willie Mullins, David Casey is also back for more this year.
The other familiar faces on the panel include local trainer, Henry de Bromhead who is having his best ever season at the moment, Hayley O’Connor of Ladbrokes and senior Irish handicapper, Noel O’Brien, are other familiar faces returning.
The panel has also some new faces this year. Katie Walsh is one of National Hunt’s top amateurs and also has an unique insight into the Willie Mullins yard and the horses of her dad, Ted.
Despite being only 17, Kerry’s Jack Kennedy is one of the real rising stars of National Hunt Racing and is attached to the all conquering Gordon Elliott yard and Gigginstown Stud. The final member of the panel is Grand National winning trainer, Oliver Sherwood.
As usual the night will be steered by the excellent MC, Ardmore’s Brian Gleeson of RTE and ITV. Tickets are €20 and are available from the Woodlands Hotel (051-392700) or from Séan Carey on 087-2576703.
TICKETS TO BE WON
We also have four pairs of tickets to give away to the Woodlands Cheltenham Preview night. All you have to do is tell us the name of the panel member who has won seven British Champion Jockey titles. Send your answer, with your name, address and telephone number to Cheltenham Preview Night Competition, c/o Ger Lawton, Waterford News & Star, Gladstone House, Gladstone Street, Waterford or email to [email protected]
FIRST FOR ULURU
There’s also a newcomer on the Waterford circuit this year with the news that Uluru Bar on the Dunmore Road will host it’s first Cheltenham Preview Night on Thursday, March 9 at 8pm.
The panel on the night will be led by local trainer, Henry de Bromhead, who looks certain to take a very strong team to Prestbury Park this year, including Petit Mouchoir and Champagne West amongst others.
He will be joined on the panel by top amateur, Jamie Codd, no stranger to riding winners at the Festival and currently riding plenty of winners for Gordon Elliott. Kilmaco jockey Donnagh Meyler will be joined by weighing room colleagues, Brian O’Connell and Danny Mullins.
The night will be orchestrated by MC Kieran O’Connor of WLR FM fame and admission is free. All proceeds witll be donated to local charities on the night.