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Traditional Ladies' Day competition dumped to 'focus on the racing'

But fashionistas still turn on the style on second day of festival

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Zara Tindall with Archie McCoy, son of AP McCoy. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire

Zara Tindall with Archie McCoy, son of AP McCoy. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire

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Zara Tindall with Archie McCoy, son of AP McCoy. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire

As fashion statements go on day two of the Cheltenham Festival, a customised, bejewelled face-mask was bang on-trend for Ladies' Day. As to its efficacy; well that was anyone's guess.

But London-based milliner Anna Gilder reckoned that it was better to be safe than sorry, given the outbreak.

"I read that there will be a quarter of a million attending Cheltenham this week and I have kids so I didn't want to risk it," she said.

Asked if she thought it provided any barrier to Covid-19, she replied: "Who knows? You just don't know. After 14 days here, they'll probably find more infected people after this event. So better safe than sorry.

"I made it last night. I started panicking and everybody thought I should cancel and not go so I decided to make the mask instead. It's supposed to be in the shape of lips; I made it with whatever materials I found in my workshop."

Business was brisk on the second day of the annual festival as just under 57,000 people flooded into the Prestbury Park venue for what was traditionally known as Ladies' Day.

It has become increasingly clear wild race horses couldn't keep some punters away from their annual splurge at the track, pandemic or not.

The only change that was in place yesterday was that the annual fashion show-down has undergone something of a rebrand after organisers inexplicably dumped the 'best dressed' contest. There was huge disappointment on the part of Irish fashionistas who were looking forward to taking home some silverware from the annual contest - some of whom had come with previous form.

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Charlotte Blenkin Sopp, from Athenry, arrives for day two of the festival. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Charlotte Blenkin Sopp, from Athenry, arrives for day two of the festival. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Charlotte Blenkin Sopp, from Athenry, arrives for day two of the festival. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Among them was Carlow native and race regular Faith Amond, who had travelled to Cheltenham especially for Ladies' Day and is a previous winner at Aintree.

Asked why the popular event was cancelled, a spokesperson said they wanted to "focus on the day's racing".

Nonetheless, the ladies in attendance took advantage of the fine weather to turn on the style.

Showing them all how it's done was TV presenter and model Vogue Williams, who looked chic in a red Holland Cooper suit and white Kurt Geiger boots.

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Mary Horan, from Rosscarbery, Co Cork, and Kirsty Farrell from Newry. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Mary Horan, from Rosscarbery, Co Cork, and Kirsty Farrell from Newry. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Mary Horan, from Rosscarbery, Co Cork, and Kirsty Farrell from Newry. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Last year saw her fulfilling a life-long dream of becoming a jockey and she said she was proud she now knew the intricacies of the Sport of Kings.

"I'm quite good at knowing about the horses now. Before I was like, 'Oh they've a nice name'. Now I know about the trainers and the horses and the jockey and now I can study the race-card.

"Spencer's going to send me all of his tips so because he's so jammy," she said.

Now based in London with husband Spencer and their son Theodore (1), she recently sold her apartment in Dublin's Howth and is in the final stages of buying a new property in the northside suburb.

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A punter looks on ahead of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham Racecourse. Photo: PA

A punter looks on ahead of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham Racecourse. Photo: PA

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A punter looks on ahead of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham Racecourse. Photo: PA

The Ladbrokes ambassador said they were "nearly there" with the sale - but ruled out ever moving back to Ireland permanently.

"Most of my work now is in the UK. It used to be 50-50 but now it's way more the UK. It would be nice to have a base there for a few months of the year. My sister lives with us so a bigger place is essential," she said.

Making her debut at the event was Laura Campbell from Crumlin, Co Antrim, who had travelled with her Cork pal Mary Horan and Kirsty Farrell from Newry.

"This is our first time at Cheltenham so it's very exciting. I'm into horses myself and my husband too. We're starting to dabble ourselves so can't wait. Hopefully we'll get a good few winners," she said.

Horse-racing owner JP McManus continued on his lucky streak from day one, clocking up a stunning four wins. He also had a win in the Novices Steeplechase, which was appropriately named after retired jockey AP McCoy, who had brought the family along to witness the victory first-hand.

His young son Archie (6), who had come straight from school, was all smiles in the parade ring.

He then followed in his esteemed father's footsteps for his first trip up to the podium for the trophy presentation, which was made by family pal and blue-blood Zara Tindall.

Archie's delighted mum Chanelle McCoy, who is from Galway, said he "really adores" one of the winners, Champ.

"He has followed him for the last two years and accumulated quite a few trophies.

"When he fell on New Year's Day, he was so relieved he got up and was fine, so it was brilliant for him to come back today and experience Champ winning," she said.

Racecourse general manager Ian Renton told the Irish Independent there has been some "fantastic racing" this week.

Asked about the wisdom of pushing ahead with the festival, he said: "I think it's for every individual country to listen to what their government is advising, as we have done.

"We have liaised with them very closely over the last fortnight and they're keen that business continues as usual and sporting events like this stay in place.

"So, we've been happy to work with them on this."

Irish Independent