Monday 14 October 2019

Golden end to week of fun and frolics

Leonie Beirne, from Roscommon, and Hannah Mannell, from Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Leonie Beirne, from Roscommon, and Hannah Mannell, from Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Trainer Willie Mullins has finally reached the promised land with his first ever win of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

After a week packed full of nail-biting suspense, bookies are now breathing a sigh of relief as favourites failed to land on the final day.

But, nevertheless, Irish punters everywhere rejoiced in the thrilling experience of attending the largest National Hunt competition in the world.

The fun and frolics that go hand-in-hand with Cheltenham were lapped up by good-humoured fans, who all had tales of their own to tell.

Aidan Brophy (59), from Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny, recalled how he nearly got expelled from school when he sneaked off to Cheltenham with his older brother in 1976.

He was speaking alongside 40 other Irish punters who won a radio competition.

Glam: Gillian Gilbourne, from Cork. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Glam: Gillian Gilbourne, from Cork. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

For a 16-year-old racing fan in the middle of his Inter Cert year, the ­­temptation of the three-day ­­­jaunt was too hard to resist.

"When the opportunity came up to go to Cheltenham, there was no question what I was going do," he said.

"My school, Kilkenny CBS, hadn't a clue where I was and were especially anxious since our hurling team were about to play in the Leinster Final.

"I had no regrets because I had the best time of my life watching Davy Lad take home the Gold Cup. My school, on the other hand, were furious and nearly expelled me because they were forced to postpone our game."

Therese Glynn, from Westmeath, and Andrea Cooper, from Carlow. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Therese Glynn, from Westmeath, and Andrea Cooper, from Carlow. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

The neighbours of Ruby Walsh, who were also competition winners, said they wouldn't dare to wager against the all-star jockey. Mother and daughter Ann (56) and Ciara Burtenshaw (29), from Kill, Co Kildare, admitted that Ruby's top piece of advice is "keep your money in your pocket".

"Obviously, we'd love to see him win and we wouldn't dare bet against him despite what he tells us," Ciara laughed.

"As a neighbour, Ruby and his dad Ted are really lovely and so down to earth.

"I suppose we see him in a different light than most people, but to be honest he's just like anyone else.

Chanelle McCoy, right and Ruth Farragher, from Loughrea, Galway. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Chanelle McCoy, right and Ruth Farragher, from Loughrea, Galway. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

"He does our community in Kill so proud and I'm sure he'll receive a hero's welcome when he gets back to Ireland," she said.

The torrential rain of the morning didn't stop thousands of ladies from turning up to Prestbury Park in the height of fashion.

Hannah Mannell, from, Lucan, Co Dublin, said buying her new Cheltenham outfit was "a massive deal".

"It's a shame about the weather, but I had an absolute blast shopping for my clothes. I went a bit out there with the colours, but I'm confident I made the right decision. This is my first Cheltenham ever so I was determined to make an impact," she said.

And while the bookies dodged a fair few bullets yesterday, one south Dublin punter won a staggering €85,000 off the back of a €2 each-way accumulator.

"We thought all of the snakes had been chased out of the country, but clearly this punter knew something we didn't," said Paddy Power spokesperson Rachael Kane.

Irish Independent

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