Wednesday 13 December 2017

McManus honours horses with star-studded party

Barry Duggan

THE economic recession and the country's woes were suspended for more than 1,600 people last night as billionaire JP McManus threw a lavish party to celebrate the success of two of his racehorses -- including one that died last April.

The top brass of previous Fianna Fail-led governments, including Bertie Ahern, Mary Harney and Charlie McCreevy, made their way to the billionaire's expansive estate in south Limerick last night for the celebration.

The star-studded gathering brought together RTE broadcaster Pat Kenny, legendary GAA manager Mick O'Dwyer and Irish rugby stars Ronan O'Gara, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace and Peter Stringer.

Nicky Byrne from the recently disbanded Westlife and golfer Padraig Harrington were also among the politicians, sports stars and celebrities who enjoyed the legendary Limerick gambler's hospitality.

The days of the infamous Fianna Fail tents at Galway race week have been consigned to the past but that didn't stop the former taoiseach Bertie Ahern partying in style as Mr McManus managed to erect one of the biggest marquees ever seen in the country alongside his mansion at Martinstown Stud.

The evening started with a drinks reception at 6.30 as hundreds of cases of Dom Perignon champagne were cracked open for arriving guests who mingled in splendid sunshine on the immaculately manicured grounds of Mr McManus's estate.

"The bill for the drink alone would bail out a small country," said one guest.

A major player on international currency markets, Mr McManus's success at the world's top horseracing meetings mirrors that of his achievements in the banking halls of Geneva.

Last March, his nine-year-old horse Synchronised landed the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup -- the first time an entry from Mr McManus won the race. However, less than a month later the steeplechaser had to be put down after he fell at Becher's Brook and broke a leg during the 2012 Grand National at Aintree. Nevertheless, Mr McManus carried through with his plans to mark the achievements of Synchronised and 12-year-old gelding Don't Push It, who won the 2010 Grand National, with his lavish party.

Last night, Don't Push It -- who has been retired to Martinstown Stud following a 29-race career which yielded almost €1m in prize-money -- probably didn't realise the fuss he had caused.

With the Taoiseach declaring his ministers to be tired from their months of work and the Dail in recess, Finance Minister Michael Noonan was able to relax in the company of former soccer stars Niall Quinn and Alan Hansen.

Other politicians present included former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, Independent TD Michael Lowry and Gerry 'Ginger' McLoughlin -- the former Irish rugby international who became a Labour councillor and now serves as mayor of Limerick.

Legendary national hunt trainer Nicky Henderson was also in attendance along with jockeys Mick Kinane and Charlie Swan. Irish comedians and actors present included Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny and Brendan Grace. University of Limerick was represented by it's president, Don Barry.

Mr McManus is a well known supporter of Limerick GAA and his close friends Joe McKenna and Pat Hartigan -- from the last Limerick senior hurling team to win the All-Ireland in 1973 -- also enjoyed his hospitality.

From 5.30pm yesterday, a fleet of Mercedes-Benzs, BMWs and Audis began arriving at Mr McManus's estate. A convoy of buses ferried passengers from three hotels -- Adare Manor, the Dunraven Arms and Limerick Strand -- to the celebrations.

There was tight security, with all vehicles being checked at the main and rear entrances to the estate before been allowed to proceed onto the grounds. Three sulkies pulled by ponies and horses even passed the main entrance but unfortunately for their young drivers that was as near as they got to the party.

The gold-crusted invitations issued by Mr McManus and his wife Noreen requested guests celebrate the two horses' success. The dress code for the lucky 1,600 or so was smart casual and a squadron of bar staff were recruited from across Limerick.

Dinner got under way at 7.30pm, but if previous parties thrown by the financier are anything to go by, it will have been well after sunrise today when the party will have been be brought to a halt.

Today, Mr McManus is expected to shake off the cobwebs and make his way to Semple Stadium in Thurles where he will be hoping that the Limerick hurling team can provide the perfect tonic to the weekend by shocking all and overcoming Kilkenny in the All-Ireland senior hurling quarter-final.

Sunday Independent

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