Luck of the Irish pays off in Cheltenham as Irish woman named Best Dressed Lady
Irish woman scoops 'best dressed' title - but Walsh has to wait for his 50th win
Published 17/03/2016 | 02:30
The Irish surged to victory on Ladies Day, defying expectations that they'd miss out on this year's best-dressed title at Cheltenham.
Yvonne McAvoy from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, pipped her competitors to the post in the style stakes and wowed judges with a shamrock-green dress from one of her local boutiques.
Yvonne (41) has four children aged between 10 years and just 16 months.
"It was my first big day out since the baby, so it's great," she said. "I get to be dressed up!"
Although it was her first time at Cheltenham, Yvonne has previously been a finalist on Ladies Day in Punchestown.
"My husband comes every year with his brothers, but this year his brothers didn't come," she said. "So it was a lucky first time at Cheltenham. I'm delighted.
"I thought 'green has to be a winner at Cheltenham'."
But she told the Irish Independent she wasn't surprised to win the overall prize. "I had a lot of compliments on the way in, so I wasn't shocked," she said. "I was quietly confident."
Ladies Day Irish team captain Vogue Williams said Yvonne's outfit "stood out" among huge numbers of competition entries, which were submitted via social media.
Judges selected three finalists and the eventual winner was decided upon based on the number of retweets they garnered.
The Irish successes continued on the racecourse, with a win for Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins with Yorkhill in the first race of the day.
But Ruby was denied his 50th Cheltenham win as he lost out in his later races.
Later on, jockey Davy Russell took first place in the Coral Cup race.
While racing the winner past the post, Davy gave a little wave to the cameras. The Cork jockey, who secured his 16th Cheltenham win in the third race of the day, later explained the wave was for his daughter Lily.
Davy secured the win with Diamond King in the Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle Race). The horse is trained by Gordon Elliott and is owned by Diana L Whateley.
"He was trained by a genius, and he was filling me with confidence," Davy said. "At the start of the season, [Elliott] picked him out for me."
But it was a bittersweet day for Elliott after his horse No More Heroes suffered a tendon injury during his third place finish in the RSA Steeple Chase. "He is gone to the veterinary hospital - it doesn't look good, but hopefully he will be okay," he said. "That's horses, you just have to keep your head up."
Fellow Corkman Aidan Coleman secured a win for Cheltenham trainer Martin Keighley as he rode Any Currency in the Glenfarclas Steeple Chase.
While the 13-year-old Irish horse was the second-oldest steed in the race, Aidan believed that age was just a number. "Thirteen is a fair age. It takes a good training performance to keep him sweet," he said.
"Funnily enough, he's getting sweeter as he gets older, which is great."
It was a first Cheltenham win for the delighted Martin Keighley, who gushed: "I don't think I'll get much sleep tonight."
Meanwhile, the bookies were celebrating a slight recovery after a dismal first day of heavy losses.
Hayley O'Connor, of Ladbrokes, said Diamond King's win was a "sore result" for them but added that Sprinter Sacre's victory gave punters and bookmakers alike "a day they will never forget".
"It was the biggest comeback since Lazarus and possibly the happiest ending of the week," she added.
While Ladies Day drew to a close, the party atmosphere showed no signs of abating ahead of St Patrick's Day.
Statues of Irish racing legends Dawn Run and Arkle will be lit green for the day, as the Irish hope for further wins as the week continues.
Sloane Cooper, from Co Laois, will race his first horse, Oscar Sam, at Cheltenham in the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle.
Elsewhere, the dad of a little girl Ruby Walsh dedicated Tuesday's win on Annie Power to, said she was delighted when she heard it.
Tim Brennan said Annie (7) was diagnosed with leukaemia in December.
"Annie Power is her favourite horse of course because they share the same name," he said. "A while ago Annie Power won a race and our Annie drew a picture of her, and I promised that I'd bring it around to Willie's (Mullins) stables and show it to them. Willie said I should hang it on her door which made our Annie very proud.
"Of course Annie Power ended up eating the picture!
"We were all watching the race on Tuesday when Ruby won, and we were surprised when he dedicated the win to our Annie. It was fantastic, and Annie was delighted to hear it too."