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Ladies help script fairytale end to Grand National Day

THERE were ladies, ladies everywhere, as they helped script a fairytale ending to a memorable Grand National Day.

Fittingly it truly proved a day for the fairer sex on Ladbrokes Grand National Day at Fairyhouse, as amid the teetering and colourful fashionistas there was a delighted lady trainer whose name was firmly written in the horse-racing annals – and two even more delighted owners.

There must have been a few disgruntled punters in the stands as the 50-1 shot filly Liberty Counsel romped home for Westmeath trainer Dot Love with 21-year-old jockey Ben Dalton onboard.

Yet it wasn't long before racegoers were enamoured by her joyful owners, whose celebrations echoed throughout the Co Meath track.

"We are on top of the world, it is the best day of my life, apart from my daughter," said Helen Murtagh, from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, who co-owns the mare along with her sister Irene Neale.

It was truly a fairytale ending as the filly Liberty Counsel had been bought by her late husband Ber Murtagh for their daughter Vivienne (26).

"He didn't know he was buying a racehorse and he said if she is no good we'll event her," said Irene, as her sister led three cheers for her late husband.

"I never even got to sit on her," confessed a delighted Vivienne, as she revealed they were heading back to Mullingar to celebrate after they all backed the long-shot. "She truly is a gutsy little mare," said Irene.

Like any veteran politician, Taoiseach Enda Kenny couldn't resist puckering up to deliver a kiss on the cheek to the delighted owners.

There was a huge crowd as festival organisers herded 15,125 through the gates, up 14.5pc on last year.

Amid the colourful outfits, there were well-known faces aplenty, including Olympic medal-winning showjumper Cian O'Connor, who was sporting a tan after flying in from the showjumping circuit in Florida to enjoy the day with his wife Ruth.

They revealed they are expecting a baby, while his sister, model Pippa O'Connor, and her husband, TV presenter Brian Ormond, are also expecting next month.

Amid the plummeting temperatures, former Miss World Rosanna Davison admitted her famous 'Playboy' shots may be in circulation once again.

"I don't know if I am doing a new shoot or if they are using the photos that were unseen. I'm meant to be going over to the States later this year to go to the Playboy mansion and meet with Hugh Hefner," she said, amid jokes her fiance Wesley Quirke was determined to meet the infamous 'bunnies'.


Another fresh face was new TD Helen McEntee, who won the Meath East by-election last week.

"It is my first event with Deputy Helen McEntee on the card so it is going well and I'm meeting plenty of people," she said. The new TD also divulged she had accidentally left her wallet down in the ladies room, only to return to find it gone. It was later returned to her.

The fittingly named filly Dressedtothenines, owned by Limerick businessman JP McManus, got the day off to a flying start , winning the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle.

Afterwards Mr McManus said injured jockey and friend JT McNamara, paralysed in a fall in Cheltenham, remained in "our thoughts".

Mr McManus said the racing community were helping him to the best of their abilities and it was a time that "tests everybody".

And, appropriately, this time there was the fairytale ending for young jockey Jane Mangan (19), from Cork, who won the bumper race aboard Akorakor, a few weeks after the disappointment of coming off her horse at the final fence in Cheltenham.

Irish Independent