Sunday 18 February 2018

Cheltenham beauty stakes has the look of the Irish

High drama and high heels on Ladies punters just need their fortunes to turn

Model Roz Purcell. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Model Roz Purcell. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Sean O'Grady

The stakes and hats were high at Cheltenham yesterday as the second day of the festival kicked off.

Race goers were dumbfounded after Douvan retreated badly and failed to justify his 2/9 favourite's price in the hotly contested Queen Mother Champion Chase.

"We're all disappointed that this happened. Now my main job is to figure out what is wrong and how long it will take to fix," trainer Willie Mullins said afterwards.

There was some consolation for Irish punters as Henry de Bromhead's Special Tiara rode home in the feature race, to continue jockey Noel Fehily's winning streak this week.

Ladies Day meant the race course was filled with fillies in their finest.

Model Roz Purcell was on judging duties and took notes while walking around the parade ring.

‘Best Dressed’ winner Una O’Farrell Feeney from Tyrone. Photo: Damien Eagers
‘Best Dressed’ winner Una O’Farrell Feeney from Tyrone. Photo: Damien Eagers
Suzanne Ryan, from Oldtown, Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Ashley Reade, of Naas, Co Kildare. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Hector Ó hEochagáin at the second day of the Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Damien Eagers
Lorna O'Neill, from Kilkenny. Photo: Damien Eagers
Jennifer Wrynne, from Mohill, Co. Leitrim. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Savanna Williams. Photo: PA
Actress Liv Tyler reacts during the 2.50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle. Photo: Reuters

The sartorial showdown was won by Una O'Farrell Feeney from Tyrone - who felt slightly uncomfortable being in the limelight. "It's funny because I went to New York to get married and there was only 10 people there because I don't like people looking at me and there's a lot more people looking at me now," she said.

Una was joined at Prestbury Park by husband and die-hard racing fan Colm.

"I don't go to many of the races but Cheltenham is special for us. Colm loves the racing and I come for the craic. I've never been to Galway or Punchestown, I'm a bit of a novice," she said.

Una wore a teal dress by Danish designer Malene Birger with Reece Shoes and vintage gloves.

Jockey Noel Fehily after his victory on Special Tiara. Photo: Damien Eagers
Jockey Noel Fehily after his victory on Special Tiara. Photo: Damien Eagers

She took home prizes worth more than €11,000, including a Boodles designer necklace worth more than €2,200 and a beauty hamper from House of Fraser.

It was a star-studded day on the racecourse - the Duchess of Cornwall and actress Liv Tyler were spotted around the parade ring.

Meanwhile, Chanelle McCoy enjoyed lunch with close friend Zara Phillips and Princess Anne in the Royal Box.

Cheltenham veteran and football legend Niall Quinn enjoyed a day out with friends.

Quinn was relishing the good weather.

"We've been coming for years and years, we have a good time. It's great and the weather has made it twice as good. I first came in 1988, I missed a few years but I've done about 30 of them," he said.

"People at Cheltenham are very warm and welcoming. Everyone is in great form and it's a lovely place to be."

Racing aficionados Raymond and Gillian Gilbourne make the trip to the Cotswolds ever year.

"I've been coming solidly since 1998. Tuesday was enjoyable, I had a few winners. I'm not like these English guys that would back four or five horses in a race," Raymond said.

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Best Dressed finalist Gillian said the couple celebrate their wedding anniversary ever year at the Leopardstown race course.

"We go to the races for our anniversary every year at Leopardstown. Up until the time I met Raymond I never went racing at all. Our anniversary coincides with the Gold Cup at Leopardstown so ever since we go there on that day so we celebrate our anniversary all the time," she said.

Mullins fan Michael Collins from Ballynoe, Co Cork, is keeping his fingers crossed the trainer's luck will change for the last days of the festival.

"Willie Mullins got nothing which was very surprising. You always have a bad day in any aspect of life. It's going to be a great turnaround for the Irish I think, they'll all do well," he said.

While punters were praying for a turnaround, day two once again belonged to the bookies.

"It was a tough day for punters as layers report the best two opening days of the festival in recent history," Liam Glynn, BoyleSports spokesman, said.

"We are very conscious of not wanting to count our chickens just yet as we are well aware that day three provides the punter with a great opportunity to hit back."

Irish Independent

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