Monday 23 September 2019

Big crowd enjoys €1m day at the races 'not to be missed'

Top left: Laura O’Brien urges on her horse in the feature race. Picture: Frank McGrath
Top left: Laura O’Brien urges on her horse in the feature race. Picture: Frank McGrath
Among the thousands: Left: Julia Kaulsay and Grainne Hutchinson at the festival yesterday. Photos: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Sorcha O'Connor at Leopardstown

The second day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival was one for avid horse-racing fans, with rough and tumble aplenty to satisfy eager spectators.

It was success for the JP McManus-owned Auvergnat in the big event of the day, the Paddy Power Steeplechase worth €200,000.

Donal McInerney (24) was the winning jockey, who told the Irish Independent his discipline during the festive season had paid off.

"There wasn't much eaten all week, so it was well worth it now," he said.

Some 16,439 descended on Leopardstown eager to pick a winner.

Ensuring ease of access for them was the first thing on the mind of Pat Keogh, the chief executive of the south Dublin racecourse. Some St Stephen's Day revellers were allowed in free after lengthy delays were caused by a shortage of cash turnstiles at the entrance for punters who didn't buy tickets online.

"It has gone fine. People came in a more staggered approach. Yesterday a lot of people came at the same time, which is where a lot of our issues came from. It's a very big crowd today and everyone seems to have gotten in very smoothly," he said.

As always, there were plenty of glamorous attendees. Bookie Marcella McCoy, from Dundalk, donned a fur hat and white coat and said that the first day had been a positive one.

Yesterday was a similar success story, with more than €1m wagered with the on-course bookmakers.

Kate Byrne, from Carlow - stylist to ITV racing's glamorous Francesca Cumani - was on trend with a touch of leopard print in her outfit. A true professional at the style game, she said it took her all of eight minutes to get ready, fixing the final touches on the car journey up with her friends.

UCD student Sinead Edwards was enjoying a day "not to be missed" with her friend Ella Thomas from Leitrim. Studying equine science, Ms Edwards was looking forward to the action, her interest stemming from her uncle owning racehorses.

Ms Thomas (21) is also heavily involved in the racing world. "I work with horses in England, flat racehorses though, so there is a bit of a difference," she said.

Among the racing enthusiasts was 'Dragon' and publisher Norah Casey, who said it brought back memories of late husband Richard Hannaford.

"Irish Tatler often sponsors the races, so when Richard was alive we used to host race day here on this day every single year for 18 years - so it's really happy memories for me," she said.

The third day of the festival takes place today, with the Savills Chase the feature race of the day.

Irish Independent

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