Going is tough as tough get going
Not a champagne flute in sight but Fairyhouse Races loses none of its sparkle
THOSE teetering stilettos and frivolous feather-covered hats were just a distant memory.
It was heavy going on the third day of the Fairyhouse Easter Festival.
Gone was the glamour of the previous days, when fine wines were being quaffed and champagne downed in a fashion reminiscent of the Celtic Tiger boom.
Yesterday, with a sigh of relief, it was the turn of the anorak-wearing sages of the racecourse to prop up the bars and the parade ring as the Co Meath festival headed into its final furlong.
The only contenders in the running for the best-turned-out awards were the horses, and even those gleaming coats were soon sullied.
Mud was flying as the heaving horses squelched around the track to slop past the post in front of the hopeful crowd.
"It's tough going," sighed one exasperated punter, after the first race saw just three tired horses and mud-splattered jockeys finish.
For those linked to the winning horse, the 9-1 shot Sang Bleu, it was an emotional victory in the novice handicap steeplechase.
Craughwell-based trainer and part-owner Pauline Gavin said her husband, Galway solicitor Colm Gavin, had given his share of the horse to their daughter Sarah before his death last May.
"It's a very touching win, he was one of his favourite horses," she said.
Punters' ears pricked up as they learned the two-time Cheltenham-winning jockey Katie Walsh for Carlow trainer Willie Mullins was aboard Tarkari in the main race of the day, the €90,000 Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle.
In the end it was a family affair, as the race was claimed by 25-1 contender Un Hinged, owned and trained by John Coleman, head of Coleman Tunnelling, and bred by his wife Diane. The delighted businessman thanked the staff and racing manager James Nash at their base near Donadea near Clane, Co Kildare, as his work interests have led him further afield to South Africa and Angola in recent years.
Another person celebrating was RTE's racing presenter, Tracy Piggott, whose two-year-old daughter Thea had helped bake a birthday cake for her. Tracy revealed she was looking forward to escaping to Rome for a short break to celebrate turning 45.
Trainer Paul Nolan revealed he was looking forward to the Irish cinema premiere of US filmmaker Liz Mermin's documentary 'Horses' later this month at the Irish Film Institute. The filmmaker followed the Wexford man and three of his top horses for over a year for the documentary.
The unlikely film star said he feared the cameras were proving a jinx, as many of the horses were ruled out due to injury. And, as the recession continued to bite, the crowd almost halved, with just over 3,000 braving the inclement weather conditions. Many were glued to their TV sets as RTE revealed almost 400,000 tuned in to watch the Irish Grand National on Monday, around 12pc up on the previous year.