Friday 24 November 2017

First blood as Fairyhouse gets off to a flying start

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

THERE were gasps, hollers and even a spot of bloodshed. It wasn't punters being bled dry but an overenthusiastic owner nursing a wound from the celebrations as the first day of the Easter Festival at Fairyhouse got off to a flying start.

"It's four in a row," crowed a delighted Joseph O'Kelly, one of a six-man syndicate from Ballingarry, Co Limerick.

The knock to his lip had gone unnoticed as they cavorted in the stands after the Charlie Byrne-trained mare Knockfierna romped home in the Novice Hurdle Championship Final.

Michael Healy, whose wife Karina bred the horse, described the mare as "tough as old boots, she gives it her all".

Back on the course, Carlow trainer Willie Mullins's ears took a pounding as the decibel level soared as favourite Sicilian Secret delivered for Ruby Walsh.

Apart from hotly tipped nags, there was another hot topic being discussed in the parade ring -- economist Colm McCarthy's state assets report.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney -- who can be spotted mucking out stables housing his wife's showjumpers at their Cork homestead from time to time -- spoke frankly.

He said legislation was expected to come before the Cabinet to help make the (racing) industry self-financing by ensuring online betting sites as well as bookies' shops would pay a 1pc levy.

"I think you have to look at everything with an open mind but I have to say I think it is unlikely that the State will be selling the Irish National Stud," he said.

"The National Stud is a statement really to the rest of the racing world [of] what Irish horse racing is about and the importance of it to the State."

The minister said he would be talking to Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and other interested bodies about the recommended sale of HRI's racecourses, including Fairyhouse.

He will be presenting today's Ladbrokes Irish Grand National trophy. It's a job that traditionally falls to the Taoiseach but Enda Kenny may be celebrating the 'Big 60' at home.

Spotted at the track yesterday were Limerick businessman JP McManus and former Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne.

In the big race of the day, the Powers Gold Cup, the favourite, Noble Prince, owned by Des Sharkey, exited at the second last to leave it clear for his son Derek's 6-1 Realt Dubh to do the honours.

Track manager Peter Roe said the warm, dry day had helped send numbers to 7,853, up 18pc on last year.

Yet, turnover at the bookies was down €40,000 to €639,000, while the Tote turnover fell €43,000 to just above €187,000.

Irish Independent

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