Monday 16 July 2018

Mullins rides roller coaster of emotions on day of high drama for festive punters

Fergal Hand, from Dundalk, celebrates in costume as Whiskey Sour wins the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle. Photo: Frank McGrath
Fergal Hand, from Dundalk, celebrates in costume as Whiskey Sour wins the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle. Photo: Frank McGrath

Sean O'Grady

There were dramatic scenes on day two of the Leopardstown Christmas Racing Festival.

Punters were in high spirits as they descended on the south Dublin racecourse for another day of festivities and it did not disappoint, with nail-biting finishes in the Grade One races.

Trainer Willie Mullins suffered a setback in the Paddy's Rewards Club Steeplechase after his horse Min was relegated to second place behind 16/1 outsider Simply Ned, after a stewards' enquiry that judged Min caused significant interference. However, Mullins came back fighting in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle.

Favourite Mengli Khan inexplicably crashed into a track-side barrier, unseating jockey Jack Kennedy in spectacular fashion.

Moments later the crowds erupted into a chorus of cheers and groans as new frontrunners Sharjah and Real Steel both fell at the last hurdle, allowing Whiskey Sour to soar to victory.

"The two of them fell individually, it was extraordinary stuff. Whiskey Sour was the fourth of ours going into the race and he ended up winning it, it was an extraordinary race," said Mullins.

McKenzie Shaw, from Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow, at Leopardstown. Photo: Frank McGrath
McKenzie Shaw, from Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow, at Leopardstown. Photo: Frank McGrath

There were many regulars in attendance for the second day of the festival.

McKenzie Shaw (29), from Oregon, in the United States, is a loyal racegoer, making the pilgrimage to both Leopardstown and Galway every year with her husband Des.

The couple, who live in Des's native Co Carlow, will be celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary in the coming weeks, and Ms Shaw told how Ireland's racing culture is her favourite part of living here.

"We love Leopardstown, it's a tradition for us now. It's something that you can't get in America, but you can do here. They don't do racing in America, and not at Christmas."

Kate McGowan, from Portmarnock, with Shannon Herlihy, from Malahide, and Olivia Mawson, from Glasgow. Photo: Frank McGrath
Kate McGowan, from Portmarnock, with Shannon Herlihy, from Malahide, and Olivia Mawson, from Glasgow. Photo: Frank McGrath

With Ladies Day taking place alongside today's races, she told how winter fashion was one of her favourite components of Leopardstown.

"We have been to Galway and the other ones. They're all great, but I like winter because you can really layer up. It's not just about what's underneath, it's about coats and fur as well," she said.

Along with the regulars, there were also many new faces enjoying the festival for the first time.

Teachers Julie Fitzgerald (26) and Louise Duffy (25), from Knocklyon, Co Dublin, were in good spirits as they watched the races from the stands, and were very impressed with what they saw.

"This is the first time here for both of us. We're only here for one day, but we are having a great time, but it's very cold," said Ms Fitzgerald.

"Everyone is very happy here, that's what I like about it," said Ms Duffy.

"The girls all look fab as well and the lads in their Paddy caps. It's like 'Peaky Blinders' all over again."

The coveted Paddy Power Steeplechase of €200,000 was won by JP McManus-owned Anibale Fly.

His daughter-in-law Ann-Marie McManus was all smiles in the parade ring as the trophy was handed to winning jockey Donagh Meyler.

"I come to Leopardstown ever year, we are local so this is one of our favourite race tracks.

"My favourite part is being in the winner's enclosure with JP," she said.

Irish Independent

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