| 5.7°C Dublin

O'Leary perfects his poker face as winner romps home

The decibel levels may have been soaring at every furlong around the packed Punchestown racecourse, yet Michael O'Leary had his 'poker face' on as he stood stock still until his prized charge, Sir Des Champs, flashed first past the post.

A relieved O'Leary planted a kiss on his wife Anita, as the thousands of punters lovingly puckered up with their betting slips.

"Under the surface, I'm kicking away," joked O'Leary, after that 'ice cool' demeanour honed in many a boardroom was on display during the coveted Gold Cup race.

"I nearly had a couple of heart attacks between the last two fences," he confessed.

It was a day when at every turn there could be spotted Irish rugby brawn, a well-known TV star and milling fashionistas teetering along on vertiginous stilettos.

The aforementioned film star, Northern actor James Nesbitt, proved gracious as his Cheltenham-winning horse, Riverside Theatre, had to play support act to O'Leary on the day.

"It is as big a thrill for me to be here as it is at Cheltenham," said Nesbitt, as he joked his acting would be playing second fiddle to racing if his horse had won.

Meanwhile, heads pivoted 360 degrees as the man dubbed the 'Tullow Tank' strolled into the winners' enclosure after discarding his gum shield for a snazzy navy blazer.

"I backed Sir Des Champs in the race so I'm happy enough," said Leinster rugby star Sean O'Brien, as he enjoyed a brief few hours break after training with Fergus McFadden, Sean Cronin and other teammates.

"Well, sure look if it happens, it happens," he said, amid the circulating rumours that Joe Schmidt was about to leave Leinster to replace Declan Kidney as Ireland manager.

"Obviously, we wouldn't like Joe to leave," he added.

Not quite as coy was retired newby, Anne Doyle, who was enjoying a day out with partner Dan McGrattan in the Longford GAA fundraising tent. "I think people just come and let their hair down and have fun. I do anyway," said the former RTE newsreader, dressed in an eye-catching ruby red bodycon dress from Libre.

TV3's Aisling O'Loughlin was mixing business with pleasure, as she had one eye on the best dressed and the other on her 16-month-old son Patrick, who was enjoying a family day out with her partner, photographer Nicolas Mac Innes.

"I love people-watching," said TV presenter Lorraine Keane, who had donned a monochrome dress and shirt from high street designer Karen Millen.


Another cutting a striking pose in an on-trend eye-catching monochrome dress was Garda Rebecca Daly (32), from Lucan, Dublin, who nabbed a €1,000 voucher for Coast boutique for being best-dressed lady on the day.

"I'd say I'll get a bit of a slagging now for a few days but hopefully they'll be happy I won," said the Dublin-based garda of her station colleagues.

The overall winner will be chosen on Friday, with trips to London, Madrid and New York and €1,000 to spend in a Coast outlet in each of those cities up for grabs.

Some of the fashionistas were delving into the high street stores, others rummaging through vintage stores, some borrowing their bridesmaids stilettos and others raiding their granny's wardrobe.

"I borrowed the fur stole from my granny, Madge Loughnane, from Birr, in Co Offaly," said speech and drama teacher, Sarah Gene Loughnane (28). "My granny was a business lady so she always had to look well," she added. And as the 16,400 punters headed home, organisers were hoping the odds would fall in their favour as the weather forecast predicted rain on the third day, today.

Results: See sport

Irish Independent