Cagey politicians only non-runners
But race punters finally enjoy a day in the sun as favourite romps home
THERE were plenty of 'black holes' being discussed. But the punters' deficits, although in some cases hefty, paled in comparison with the Government's.
Meanwhile, there were only a few politicians brave enough to test the ire of hard-up racegoers.
Rumours had surfaced that former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea had left his beloved Limerick to seek solace at Punchestown.
But it was a case of they seek him here, they seek him there.
Maybe he was also sitting in a corporate box, as politicians were as rare as a 'sure thing' at the Co Kildare venue. Yet there was plenty for thirsty punters to gawp at as the style stakes were raised another few notches in the afternoon sunshine.
Citrus proved the colour of the day as the Arnotts' Best Dressed Lady winner sailed past in a silk and chiffon creation.
Kay Mulcaire (35), from Adare, Co Limerick, revealed she had already won a few bob after backing the second-placed Michael Hourigan-trained Awkward Moment in the Aon Insurances Hurdle.
Amid revelations her partner was Michael Hourigan Jnr, the son of the trainer, ears were keenly pricked.
"She put on a fashion show at around 11.30pm last night, she woke me up and showed me the outfits," he said. "Of course, I picked the right one."
"That was 10 years ago, I feel ancient," the mother-of-two laughed, as she revealed her former life in front of the camera as a model.
The owner of Isobel Boutique in Adare sported a €650 citrus chiffon dress and €695 silk bejewelled cape from young designer Ann Louise Roswold, a €225 Suzie Mahony headpiece, and €400 shoes from Rococo. "Pricey," the fashionista admitted.
Only minutes later a massive cheer went up when Kildare native Katie Walsh delivered a dream win in the Ernst & Young Handicap Chase with Battlefront owned by her mother Helen and trained by her father, the RTE pundit Ted Walsh.
"He jumped like a buck. He didn't handle the heavy ground at Fairyhouse last time but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
"If I'd known he'd go that well I'd have had a couple of hundred quid each-way on him at 25-1," Ted joked.
"You wouldn't have been able to ride him," Katie was heard to quip to her out-of-action brother Ruby.
Later, there was a glimpse of light for hard-pressed punters . After a dismal two days in the betting stakes, the man the punters' rely upon to get them out of the financial doldrums delivered once again.
There were surely plenty of pints being lined up in honour of Carlow trainer Willie Mullins after Paul Townend rode home the heavily-backed mare Quevega, owned by the Hammer & Trowel syndicate, in the €170,000 Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle.
And the biggest cheer of the day was saved for the pair of hard-pressed builders from Clane, Co Kildare. "I'm the trowel," said bricklayer Sean Deane.
"And he's the hammer," pointing at his friend of 22-years, Ger O'Brien. "So many favourites were getting turned over so hopefully this will provide some relief to the punters'," Ger said.
Spotted among the racegoers yesterday were former Ireland footballer Ronnie Whelan, Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn, Aine Brady TD and Noeleen McCreevy, the wife of the former EU commissioner.
More than 15.500 racegoers turned out for the third day of the festival, a slump of 700 on the same day last year.
Festival special: pages 62 - 67