In response to record demand for the Cheltenham Festival, budget airline Ryanair has laid on extra flights for next week to allow thousands of Irish punters who want to attend next week's meeting to do so . Ryanair has forecast that over 10 000 Irish punters will attend the four day Festival which starts on Tuesday March 15th and has arranged 22 extra flights to East Midlands , Birmingham and Bristol airports for next week . St Patricks Day falls on the Thursday of Cheltenham week and four extra flights have been arranged to cope with anticipated extra demand on this day alone . Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said:“This year’s Cheltenham Festival looks set to be a bumper one with Ryanair bookings on routes to Birmingham, Bristol and East Midlands already ahead of the corresponding period last year." Ireland has of course a great passion for national hunt racing and the Cheltenham Festival in particular is a mecca for all Irish punters . With the Irish economy suffering from the ravages of a 2 year recession there had been worries that not as many Irish racegoers would attend this year's Festival and indeed the number of customers from Ireland has fallen in recent times . Edward Gillespie the Managing Director of Cheltenham Racecourse understands the importance of the Irish influence on the Festival and said recently "From our point of view, the Irishness of the Festival goes back to the 1950s and Vincent O'Brien, and it's still an absolutely essential ingredient in terms of atmosphere." Gillespie said in November last year that ,"We will be making a big effort to attract Irish people, and British-based Irish people" and certainly the news from Ryanair would seem to suggest that the efforts of all at Cheltenham Racecourse have been worthwhile ."