High heels and hailstones on a chilly day at the Punchestown Festival
Published 30/04/2015 | 02:30
High heels and hailstones do not a happy marriage make. But that didn't seem to deter the chic ladies attending the second day of the Punchestown Racing Festival.
"Goosebumps and fake tan aren't the best look," Sophia Martin (23) from Dublin admitted. "But you have to make do."
2FM broadcaster Lottie Ryan and Gillian Quinn, wife of soccer legend Niall, were judging the second day of the Gold Fever Best Dressed Lady competition.
"It's my first time at the races," Ryan said. "So I am very much being thrown in the deep end."
Having scoured the stands, the judges decided bride-to-be Audrey Kelly (25) from Naas deserved the top prize. Kelly teamed a floral print prom dress from Aria Boutique with a pale pink fascinator from Debenhams.
"I liked Audrey's outfit because it was youthful, fresh and pretty," Ryan explained. "It was race-day appropriate without being OTT."
Kelly, who is to marry her fiancé Tim Grace at Tankardstown House in Meath next year, was thrilled with the win.
"I'm in a complete state of shock," she said. "It's been a bitterly cold day, but I just kept smiling through it."
Kelly will return to Punchestown on Friday, when the overall winner of the Gold Fever Best Dressed Lady competition will be announced.
A somewhat subdued Gay Byrne arrived with his wife Kathleen Watkins by his side.
"He's got laryngitis," Kathleen said. "He can't talk, so I'm doing all the talking for him. We will have a few bets going. I usually pick out the horses with the best names, so I'll try that again and he'll have to agree with me."
Ireland's Six Nations winning coach Joe Schmidt, stylist Cathy O'Connor, former Liverpool FC manager Roy Evans and injured racing star Barry Geraghty were all spotted flitting about the parade ring.
There was a roar in the stands when Don Cossack clinched the Punchestown Gold Cup. "We were nervous about running him after Aintree," trainer Gordon Elliot said.
"It's very special to win and this is what it's all about."
Elsewhere, Killultagh Vic claimed the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.
It was one for the underdogs when 50/1 Walk To Freedom won the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle for trainer Jessica Harrington.
The bitter winds whipping around the course didn't seem to bother perennial race goers. In fact, numbers were up by 1,132 on last year, with 16,880 racegoers laying down bets and huddling under umbrellas.
"A shower isn't enough to keep us away," said Dan MacGrianna, the nephew of RTE news anchor Aengus. "It would take a lot more than a few rain drops for me to give Punchestown a miss."
Michael Madden (28) from Longford was enjoying a "savage" day out. "I love the atmosphere, the ladies and the sparkling badinage," he said.