Saturday 24 March 2018

Bookies are the only big winners as poor punters left out in cold at Leopardstown

JP McManus, left, speaks with former jockey Tony McCoy. Photo: Sportsfile
JP McManus, left, speaks with former jockey Tony McCoy. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin hurler Liam Rushe and Sinead McKeown. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A bookies' bonanza. Is there any gloomier summation of a big day out at the races? And if that wasn't bad enough, some poor punters even thought it was Ladies Day and were all dolled up in suede heels and short sleeves when everyone else was shivering from the knife-like air inside their unglamorous myriad of layers which still managed to feel like several layers too little.

Even Michael O'Leary was barely recognisable beneath a cosy navy beanie hat, and one poor Leopardstown staff member manning the door at the Pavilion was barely warding off hypothermia.

But 17,431 punters muffled up to enjoy the thrills - and hold their breath for the spills - on the second day of the second most lucrative week of racing in the year.

Some even had a few winners - Eamon Dunphy was celebrating two, while also nursing a couple of losses.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar shared a joke with Pat Rabbitte and Brian Hayes - with the trio even apparently posing for a selfie - while broadcasters Ivan Yates and Chris Donoghue were also tucked up in the winter version of the Galway tent, aka the Paddy Power hospitality event.

RTÉ's Hugh Cahill cut a startling figure in full makeup, having dressed up as Eddie Izzard because he had "lost a bet" the previous day.

The parade ring was an oasis of serenity by contrast.

With eight horses taking part in the big feature race, the ultra-competitive Paddy Power Chase, JP McManus was almost guaranteed to win.

He was a little hazy on how many mounts he had taking part in the three-mile race - "most of them", he said.

"I hope one of them runs well anyway," he added.

That one turned out to be Minella Foru, with Barry Geraghty up - rather than the heavily-backed favourite Gilgamboa.

That was a major win for the bookies.

Leisurely soaking up the atmosphere in the parade ring was legendary jockey Tony McCoy, enjoying his first Christmas post-retirement.

"I had seconds and thirds - it was very nice," he revealed of Christmas dinner.

It came as news to him that he is allegedly tipped for a knighthood.

"Really?" he said, adding that he did not wish to comment on the rumours.

He hadn't placed any bets since he retired, he said, saying he had backed Padraig Harrington and Graham McDowell rather than racing.

"I'm just with JP for a couple of days as I'm still working for him," he revealed. "It's a very competitive race - a very difficult race to win," he said of the big feature race.

But at least when it came to the final race of the year, a number of punters could not resist the charm of a name like Winsome Bucks.

Trainer Tom Hogan was jubilant, saying: "He's shown us all the way along that he's got plenty of ability and this is the start of his career," he said of the five-year-old.

And with a name like that, he said he hoped the punters "would get something".

One who did was Sinéad Cunningham from Swords in Dublin, who made about €75 from a €2 bet each way.

"It's my first time at the races but I'll have to come back after that," she said.

Most punters, however, were counting the cost of an expensive day out, with the bookies netting around €1.2m.

"Unfortunately the rain and the cold weather didn't help punters get the better of us," said Paddy Power, adding that few had managed to "unearth any nuggets".

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport