Sunday 19 November 2017

Stars of sport and screen enjoy a day at races

Clockwise from far left: Ann Marie Phelan, from Newbridge, winner of yesterday’s Best Dressed competition; RTE’s Bláthnaid Treacy; rugby pundit Brent Pope; Aisling O’Brien from Clontarf; and Julie Caulfield, from Wexford with Tony Lahart, right, from Kildare, and Philip Clarke, from Louth. Photos: Damien Eagers
Clockwise from far left: Ann Marie Phelan, from Newbridge, winner of yesterday’s Best Dressed competition; RTE’s Bláthnaid Treacy; rugby pundit Brent Pope; Aisling O’Brien from Clontarf; and Julie Caulfield, from Wexford with Tony Lahart, right, from Kildare, and Philip Clarke, from Louth. Photos: Damien Eagers

Sean O'Grady

Stars from TV screens and the sports fields flocked to Punchestown for the third day of the festival to have a flutter and enjoy the fashion.

RTÉ presenter Blathnaid Treacy enjoyed a day out on the race track to judge the Best Dressed competition.

Speaking of recent budget cuts in RTÉ, the 2fm host said the broadcaster's director general Dee Forbes had a plan to turn Montrose around. "I think everyone is hoping for the best. In general, there's been budget cuts going on for the last few years in there so it's no different. In the next year or so, I know that Dee Forbes has a plan so hopefully that will work out, fingers crossed," she said.

Rugby pundit Brent Pope attended the festival with a group of friends. "I come racing annually. My mother is a horse breeder in New Zealand so I grew up with them. Races always show the economy too. I always come down on Thursday and the crowds are big," he told the Irish Independent.

The Best Dressed competition was won by Kilkenny woman Ann Marie Phelan (31), who has been fast-tracked to today's final.

Working as a primary school teacher in Newbridge, Ann Marie met her fiancé Paul on the job.

"I'm getting married in November. My fiancé isn't here today. He's holding down the fort in school.

"I teach 4th class and he teaches 5th class. We met at school," she said.

"There a gang of teachers that come to Punchestown for the week and we dress up and make the most of it."

Ruby Walsh's wife Gillian was also spotted around the parade ring. The Kildare woman has seen the legendary jockey soar to victory countless times over the years but still fears for his safety during the races. "Yes, it's a butterflies feeling. For him, I'm just hoping that he does well. I can't think about him getting injured. Obviously there are risks but I just have to put that in the back of my head," she said.

Gillian arrived to the Kildare race track with close friends Tamso Doyle, Aine Casey and Aisling Lawlor who together own horse Clondaw Warrior.

Running yesterday in the Grade One Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle, the horse lost out to Unowhatimeanharry.

Willie Mullins emerged triumphant from the Grade One Ryanair Novice Steeplechase with Great Field. Rival trainer Gordon Elliot had a €400,000 lead on this season's champion National Hunt trainer in Ireland but Mullins has since narrowed the gap to just over €150,000 with only one day to go.

A total of 19,072 attended the third day of the festival, up 2,094 from last year.

Irish Independent

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