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Novices chase each other on a packed day at the races

IT was a tale of two race meetings at Ballybrit yesterday. The track heaved to a Ladies' Day attendance of 42,789 -- but a generational split emerged as different camps staked out their territories.

In front of the two main stands were the young and the bould, as thousands in their teens and early 20s generated an atmosphere somewhere between Oxegen and a gargantuan debs dance.

Meanwhile, on a mainly overcast day, the older crew mingled in the bars, tents and betting stalls behind the stands.

Overheard conversations gave the split away. It was very civilised in the champagne tent, which was packed with people on one mission: to quaff for Ireland.

"How's the television world?" asked one luvvie gentleman of a female acquaintance.

"All good," she trumpeted in reply. "And you -- how's the publishing world?"

"Marvellous!" the old man parped back.

Meanwhile, in front of the stand after -- perhaps fittingly -- the 2.25 novice chase, one teenager chided his pal for not having hooked up with a girl yet: "Come on, will ya. It's about time you shifted somebody."

And, as befitted the teenage disco feel, there was a substantial amount of 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Naggin' going on, as the yoof describe the practice of sneaking their own drink in.

Padraic McDonagh, from Galway, and his girlfriend, Sarah Donohoe, from Cavan, both 21, brought beer with them.

"They're his!" shrieked Sarah when asked about the can she was nursing.

"I showed your man at the front the cans when I brought them in," shrugged Padraic.

And as the women strutted their stuff for the best-dressed competition, Nicholas Murphy and his group of friends, all from Cabinteely in Dublin, were engaging in their own bit of "peacocking".

The group of five were each wearing colour co-ordinated Ray-Ban sunglasses and belts.

"I'd say they'd be fairly alright, odds on with the Mollys," said Nicholas of his chances yesterday, even though we were asking after his chances with the bookies. Obviously not too short of confidence, then.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore returned to the track yesterday, and had a hat-trick of winners in his back pocket by 5.30.

"I'm up a little bit," the Tanaiste said before the seventh race. "And I hope to be up a bit after this one, too."

Independent presidential candidate Mary Davis was also there with her 24-year-old daughter Emma, who was wearing a specially designed hat promoting her mother's bid for the Aras.

And glamorous as usual in a pink and purple outfit was Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor, who originally hails from Milltown in Co Galway.

"I've always come to the races. It's a great atmosphere and I enjoy a flutter," said Mary, whose hat was designed by her friend, Fiona Mangan from Athy.

Any sign of the man who called her Miss Piggy a few weeks back, scruffball developer TD Mick Wallace?

"He mightn't be allowed in -- they expect you to dress up down here," said Mary sniffily.

Mary shouldn't worry -- developers are out of fashion in Ballybrit these days.

Irish Independent