Gloucestershire

Cheltenham Festival: Racing fans descend on Prestbury Park

Cheltenham Festival 2018 Image copyright PA
Image caption More than 250,000 people are expected to attend over four days

Thousands of horse racing fans have descended on Cheltenham as the annual festival gets under way.

Around 65,000 people a day are expected to attend the four-day event.

In the wake of Storm Emma, teams had to shovel 250 tonnes of snow from the course at Prestbury Park by hand to avoid damaging the ground.

Simon Claisse, clerk of the course, said: "The snow hit us hard but over the last 10 days everybody has played a blinder in terms of snow clearance."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The festival hosts 28 championship races with some of the top horses and jockeys from Britain and Ireland
Image caption The course at Prestbury Park was hit by snow in the wake of Storm Emma
Image copyright PA
Image caption The event is estimated to bring in £100m to the wider Gloucestershire economy

The going at Prestbury Park has been listed as "heavy, soft in places" following snow, freezing conditions and heavy rain.

Mr Claisse, said it was the "first time" since 1982 the festival had opened with such "testing conditions".

Image caption The going at Prestbury Park has been listed as "heavy, soft in places"
Image copyright PA
Image copyright PA
Image caption The Princess Royal was among racegoers on Champion Day

The event is estimated to bring in £100m to the wider Gloucestershire economy with 250,000 race goers consuming around 45,000 bread rolls and 8,000 gallons of tea and coffee.

Bex, from Harry Cooks Freehouse, said "it's going to be very crazy" while Gordan, owner of John Gordans in Cheltenham, said it "kicks off the season".

"We were worried last week with the snow that it might even have been cancelled but I think it's going to be busier than ever," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image copyright PA

The Cheltenham Festival is hosting 28 championship races with a total prize money of around £4.5m and feature races each day at 15:30 GMT.

The festival showpiece, the Gold Cup, is held on Friday.

There will be coverage across BBC Radio 5 live throughout the four days and live text commentary on the Gold Cup on the BBC Sport website.

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