Tuesday 25 July 2017

O'Garas jet in as punters defy wind to cut a dash at the Curragh

Jessica and Ronan O’Gara, this year's Longines Irish Champions weekend Style and Sports Ambassadors pictured at Curragh racecourse. 
Photography: Conor Healy Photography
Jessica and Ronan O’Gara, this year's Longines Irish Champions weekend Style and Sports Ambassadors pictured at Curragh racecourse. 
Photography: Conor Healy Photography

Jane O'Faherty

Wind speeds rivalled those of the horses racing at the Curragh, but strong gusts didn't put off the style set at the Longines Irish Champions Weekend.

Ronan O'Gara got a short break from the back-to-school blues after coming home for the races.

Helen Murphy from Cork at the Curragh races
Helen Murphy from Cork at the Curragh races

The rugby legend and his wife Jessica, pictured right, made their way home from Paris to act as Ambassadors for the Longines Irish Champions Weekend.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Jessica said the two days of equestrian action had been fantastic after a hectic previous two weeks.

"It's been busy," Jessica said. "We had 'la rentrée', as it's called - the going back to school time."

And while the weekend at home offered some reprieve, it was set to be an early night for the O'Garas.

Anna McGuire, who won the Most Elegant Woman prize, and Chris Bonini, winner of the Most Elegant Man award, at the Longines Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh racecourse
Anna McGuire, who won the Most Elegant Woman prize, and Chris Bonini, winner of the Most Elegant Man award, at the Longines Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh racecourse

"We're going back tonight, the kids have school in the morning," she said. "But Ronan's parents have come racing with him this weekend, so it's great to see the family."

The couple weren't the only ones beaming from ear to ear at the Curragh, as Willie Mullins claimed the top prize in the feature Palmerstown House Estate St Leger.

The champion trainer stole a victory with Wicklow Brave, ridden by Italian jockey Frankie Dettori.

Read more: 'He's was only about Willie Mullin's fourth choice' - Wicklow Brave causes shock in St Leger

Wicklow Brave came third in last year's race, but sped ahead of the five other contenders this time.

Speaking after the win, Mr Mullins said it had "worked out fantastic".

"He was a horse that we were holding up all our lives, and every time we held him up and it looked like he was going to win a race, he wouldn't produce what we asked him to produce," he said.

"Today we thought let's make it and see what happens."

But winning jockey Dettori was more dramatic in celebrating the victory, dismounting and throwing his fists in the air in jubilation.

At one point, the delighted winner interrupted Mr Mullins mid-interview, yelling: "Come on Willie, we've a plane to catch!"

And while hundreds of stylish spectators made their way to the Curragh for the Longines Prize of Elegance, just five men and five women made the cut.

Despite tough competition, Dubliner Anna McGuire stole the show in a classy sleeveless jumpsuit and bolero jacket to match.

Having designed the ensemble herself, Anna (30) said she was ecstatic to have made it to the final stages.

"I'm delighted, I'm thrilled," she told the Irish Independent.

Anna won the Tipperary Crystal Rose of the Curragh award in late August, but said she never expected to win.

"If I get up on the stage, I'm doubly delighted. If I win it, I'm ecstatic," she said, taking home €3,000 worth of Kildare Village gift tokens and a Longines watch.

Meanwhile, Chris Bonini from Athlone had a great first day at the races, walking away with €2,000 worth of tokens and a timepiece after winning the men's award.

"This is my first competition, and it's my first time at the races," he said.

"I'm very surprised to have won, I wasn't expecting to."

While attendance figures were still being finalised on Sunday evening, early indications suggest it was a particularly busy year for the Curragh.

Irish Independent

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