Cheltenham Festival Begins (GALLERY)

Cheltenham

The Huffington Post UK   First Posted: 13/03/2012 15:20 Updated: 14/03/2012 16:43

Cinders and Ashes, at 10-1, won the first race at the Cheltenham Festival.

The first race of 27 went to trainer Donald McCain and jockey Jason Maguire. Cinders and Ashes emerged strongly round the final bend before negotiating the final hurdle with ease.

Maguire dangled the Irish flag in celebration at the winner's circle to continue the nation's love affair with Cheltenham.

One of the most anticipated events on the British sporting calendar, over 230,000 attendants are expected at the Festival, which ends with the Gold Cup on Friday.

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Jockey Ruby Walsh is favourite to take the prize gongs at the Festival, riding Hurricane Fly for Irish trainer Willie Mullins and two-time Gold Cup winner Kauto Star

Kauto Star was passed fit to participate on Monday and will face 2011 winner Long Run in the Festival's biggest race.

Hurricane Fly meanwhile has run only once this season, when he won the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.

He has won his last seven Grade One race starts, and should he succeed at Cheltenham then he will become the first horse to defend the Champion Hurdle crown since Hardy Eustace in 2005.

The festival is worth £50m to the local economy and attendants occupy 10,000 beds each night in the town during the race week.

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