Dedicated punters brave the weather for first races of 2013
IT was more of a day for woolly hats and scarves than fascinators and frilly frocks, as dedicated punters shook off last year's celebrations for the traditional New Year's Day opener at Fairyhouse.
Celebs were thin on the ground as an estimated 4,000 punters – many of them families – braved the cold for the first race of the year at the Grand National Course.
For Fairyhouse racecourse chairman Pat Byrne, a former garda commissioner, the first meeting of the year had got off to a great start – even if the numbers were down "all over" racing.
"We've started out very well today and it looks good for the year," said Mr Byrne.
Racecourse general manager Peter Roe said they were generally happy with the crowd and the dry weather was a key factor in getting the year off to a good start.
Little Adam Swan from Skyrne, Co Meath was among the youngest "punters" at yesterday's meeting. The 20-month-old, who was accompanied by his mother Grace, was only happy when he was studying the form of the runners and riders.
"He was here for a Sunday meeting when he was just six days old so he's used to it by now," said Grace.
It was a win-win for Gracey Moloney from Dalkey, Co Dublin, who attended her first race meeting and who then saw her fancied horse, Wise Oscar, romp home in first place in the third race of the seven-race card – winning the grand total of €4.60 for her €2 bet.
Gracey had come along with her friend Jane Drew from Malahide, a regular visitor to Fairyhouse with her father, Des.
"It's my first visit and I'm so excited – there's a great buzz about the place," Gracey said.
Meanwhile, stormy weather delayed a traditional beach race meeting that dates back more than a century.
But a total of 86 horses and ponies were finally under starters' orders at the races in Ballyheighue, Co Kerry yesterday.
Bad conditions over the weekend meant the annual meet had to be moved from its usual slot on Sunday and run instead on New Year's Day.
The change of date didn't hamper the crowds and over 1,500 people attended the seven-race event, which kicked off at 12.45pm just over an hour before low tide.
The feature race, the Two-Mile Derby, was won by Rock Hopper owned by Denis Granville from Dingle.
Owner Pat Collins from Athea, Co Limerick had a good day out with a double in the first and second races.
"The conditions were glorious and the strand was like a grandstand so there was a great view of the racing," said Liam O'Mahony, assistant secretary of the race committee.