| 13°C Dublin

Triple delight for Irish punters


Paula Geraghty, wife of champion hurdle jockey Barry Geraghty. Photo: Mark Condren

Paula Geraghty, wife of champion hurdle jockey Barry Geraghty. Photo: Mark Condren

Paula Geraghty, wife of champion hurdle jockey Barry Geraghty. Photo: Mark Condren

SUNSHINE, Irish victories and some eye-catching outfits combined to make the opening day of Cheltenham a rip-roaring success.

It didn't quite live up to last year's 'Ruby Tuesday' but the Irish contingent left the racecourse in high spirits after a tense day of racing, which saw three Irish winners romp home to victory.

The sun came out to play and so did some well known personalities with RTE presenter Hector O Eochagain, financier Dermot Desmond and politician Michael Lowry among the thousands of Irish race-lovers who filed into the Cotswolds racecourse.

There was disappointment for trainer Willie Mullins in the day's stand-out fixture, the Champion Hurdle, which saw Ruby Walsh pushed back to fourth place on the favourite Hurricane Fly.


And there was heartbreak for Irish owner Barry Connell when 2013 Cheltenham winner Our Conor, fell mid-race and was later put down after sustaining serious back injuries.

However, there was a sliver lining for the Irish crowd when the Champion Hurdle was claimed by the Irish-owned Jezki, ridden by a victorious Barry Geraghty.

There was double delight for winning owner JP McManus, who watched as another of his horses, My Tent or Yours, went nose to nose with Jezki in a nail-biting battle.

"It is a nice situation to be in and I had money on the both of them," said Mr McManus. "Winning always comes first."

Mr McManus seemed to enjoy the first day at the racing festival and was seen chatting to multi-millionaire Dermot Desmond.

Before accepting the trophy for the Champion Hurdle, he paid tribute to the husband of his winning trainer Jessica Harrington, whose partner Johnny is seriously ill at home.

"Hopefully we will see him back on his feet again soon," added Mr McManus.

Glamorous trainer Jessica Harrington said she was "terrified" watching the close-knit race.

Meanwhile, the wife of winning jockey Barry Geraghty told the Herald how she was delighted to see her husband get through the first day of the festival with a triumph.

"Winning at Cheltenham in general is always a big deal, never mind on the first day so I am delighted for him," said Paula.

Ruby Walsh, who enjoyed the first win of the festival on Vautour, trained by Willie Mullins, said he did not have a bad day despite missing out on the big prize, the Champion Hurdle. "I'm still standing so there was no badness for us," he said.

"You come to Cheltenham with hope, more than expectation.

"The day you come to Cheltenham and expect is the day you are going to leave a sorry guy."