Lady luck abandons us but Irish sweep fashion stakes
A GOOD eye for a lady often means a good eye for a horse. Or so the saying goes. In that case, the punters at the Cheltenham races must have been on to a dead cert.
A few of the firm racing fans may have been a bit disgruntled as the eel-skin bags, the teetering heels and the skyscraper hats took over the parade ring. Yet plenty of others appeared to relish the invasion.
"If you've a good eye for a lady, you've a good eye for a horse," joked Vincent Black, the owner of a stud farm in Oldcastle, Co Meath.
His eye for the fashion has been passed on to his daughters who accompanied him to the races, including the former Miss Ireland Joanne Black.
"1981 was the last time I was in Cheltenham. I backed nine winners, I went over with £500 and went home with £5,500," the breeder divulged.
Alas, the many Irish punters who ventured overseas were not quite so lucky as Day Three of the festival left many tearing up their betting slips in disgust.
As Irish trainers took just a few of the placings, gleeful bookmakers were estimating Irish losses at €5m.
The Ladies' Day contest at least brought the Irish into the winners' enclosure, as Bernadette O'Sullivan, a mother of four from Milltown, Co Kerry, scooped the prize for best accessories with a €40 hat she personalised with ribbons and flowers.
"I just bought the umbrella this morning as rain is forecast after dinner," she said.
Television star Grainne Seoige was busy reporting on the "craic, colour and fashion" for the UK's GMTV. "It's just a standalone thing at the moment," she said.
It's rare that a stag party proves lucrative. On a pre-wedding jaunt, the Fat Frog Syndicate, from Clare and Limerick, came to the decision to invest in a racehorse while imbibing large quantities of the sickly green alcoholic drink.
"He's won us €240,000 so far," said a chuffed Neil Casey, one of the 13 members of the syndicate, after Powerstation managed a very respectable third in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle race.
Carlow trainer Willie Mullins nabbed a third placing with The Midnight Club owned by the Cistercian College Roscrea Racing Syndicate.
Seamus Hennessy, dean of students in the Roscrea school, quipped that it was "the power of prayer", saying the monks were up before 4am to pray for the society.
Once again, Irish lady jockeys were in the winners' enclosure. This time it was Dublin-based barrister Orna Madden who took the top spot in a photo finish with Kate Doyle, a daughter of MEP Avril Doyle, in second place.
Four Irish jockeys, including Temple Street children's nurse Caitrin O'Rourke and reporter Rachael Kane, were also vying at the front in Cheltenham's first ever charity race which raised more than Stg£100,000 (€110,000) for cancer research.
A delighted Orna, who has been busy slotting in gallops amid her work in the courts, said it was exciting to be riding at such a prestigious track.
Irish punters are expected to place around €10m on the Cheltenham Gold Cup as the mammoth contest between Kauto Star and stablemate Denman gets under way on the final day of the meet.
That is, if the punters have any coins left to jingle.