Bookies in the red and ladies in every colour under the sun
THERE is something quite bizarre about the whole palaver of Ladies Day at a racetrack. How did it all begin? What misguided genius woke up one morning and decreed that the correct attire for women to sport around what is inevitably a mud and grass, exposed-to-the-elements field involves flimsy frocks, fancy feathers and ferociously high heels?
Nevertheless, it's a contest that has been embraced with particular fervour in Galway, and from noon yesterday the Ballybrit air was alive with the sound of the metallic click-click of spindly stiletto heels, so vertiginous that even looking at them risked sparking vertigo.
They poured onto the track in their hundreds, a riot of silk, satin, chiffon, lycra, brocade, georgette, organza, leather and velvet and in a commotion of colours from berry-purple, lime-green, vivid orange, sky-blue, cream, black and -- in some eye-boggling cases -- the whole lot combined in one outfit.
There were hats the size of dinner plates and others like flying saucers -- not to mention feathery fascinators, flowery confections and mad yokes straight off the set of 'Star Trek'. There was much perfume, posing, heaving bosoms and yards and yards of fake-tanned legs.
Some of the men didn't know where to look. Others had no such qualms and openly ogled and exchanged comments, as if the women were trotting around the parade ring with saddles on their backs.
Although the track was heaving, there was a dearth of famous faces among the race-goers in what has been a quiet week for celeb-spotters.
However, one father-and-daughter celebrity double act turned up in the champagne tent -- Chris de Burgh and his daughter Rosanna Davison.
And in true back-to-the-Tiger style, dad had ferried Rosanna and her pals by helicopter from their Wicklow home -- with himself in the flying seat, no less.
The singer was only making a -- literally -- flying visit to Ballybrit for a couple of hours. Chris is a busy boy these days.
He's just finished his 20th studio album, 'Moonfleet And Other Stories' and wasn't in much of a hurry to place a bet.
"I used to be a race-horse owner but I found a better way to waste my money. I'd dig a hole in the ground, throw the money in and burn it," he explained, only half-jokingly.
Rosanna may have arrived in a flurry of chopper blades but she was sporting a Chica dress which she had pulled from her wardrobe, rather than a new number.
"I'm a bit of a recessionista today," she said.
The former Miss World was having a "girly" few days at the track and was leaving the Ladies Day fashion judging to Glenda Gilson.
The pair were steering well clear of each other as they've tangled in a series of silly spats which have provided plenty of ink for the tabloids.
"She's outside, doing her job, and I'm in here, enjoying myself," said Rosanna diplomatically.
By 4pm, two winners had been selected. Local lassie Aoife Ryan deservedly won Best Hat for a gorgeous black-hooped creation that her sister had bought in New York and Annmarie O'Leary was a knockout winner of the best dressed lady competition in an elegant cream vintage dress.
Oh, and there was some horse-racing too. Once again, the bookies took a bit of a hammering.
If Ballybrit had a roof, it would've been raised when Beau Michael won in the second race; again when Luttrell Lady was awarded the 3 o'clock from the steward's room and yet again when Smart Striking -- owned by JP Dunne, brother of developer Sean Dunne -- won the 3.35.
It was rumoured that the bookies were down about a million scoots on the day.
"I don't know how much more of this we can take. Punters on course are carrying their cash off the course in cranes," wailed Hayley O'Connor of Ladbrokes.
'Bookies In The Red' -- now there's a Chris De Burgh song we'd all happily sing along to.