Olive Foley, the widow of the late Munster and Ireland rugby star Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley, scooped the top prize for Most Stylish Lady at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh yesterday.
“I’m in complete shock. I haven’t been to the races in 19 years,” she said.
The Clare woman wore a dress by London-based New Zealand designer Emilia Wickstead and a hat by Irish designer Joanne Skelly.
Ms Skelly, a friend of Ms Foley’s, had invited her along for the day.
“I’ll definitely bring Joanne to Dubai with me,” said the newly crowned style queen when asked who she would be sharing her prize with.
And what a prize it is — a five-night stay in the five-star Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, with €1,000 in spending money, plus a two-night stay in the K Club in Co Kildare.
“We’re so giddy. We’re off now to have a glass of champagne,” Ms Foley added.
Race-goers went bold and bright this year, opting for statement hats with massive flowers and feathers. Large ornate fascinators were also popular as the style-conscious bought into the theme of Let’s Go Big following two years of lockdown.
RTÉ presenter and style judge Doireann Garrihy said it was clear people had gone above and beyond.
“It’s glitter, feathers, a bit of edge,” she said. “You would think it’s too much, but after two years of tracksuits, people really want to have a bit of fun.”
Model agent Celia Holman Lee agreed, saying: “People are trying to push this idea that fashion has relaxed after the pandemic. Look around. I don’t think so. There’s so much bright colour and sensational hats and dresses.”
Ms Holman Lee wore a bright orange dress by Victoria Beckham and hat by milliner Carol Kennelly, who has styled A-listers including Nicole
Among the well-known faces were film director Jim Sheridan, former RTÉ newsreader Anne Doyle, former Labour leader Dick Spring, K-Club owner Michael Fetherston, Celtic Woman star Chloe Agnew and Coronas frontman Danny O’Reilly. Many of the VIPs dined in the St Leger Suite as they watched the day’s racing.
After two years of restrictions and another two of building work at the Curragh, the party was swinging — and swigging — as race-goers got through an estimated 310 bottles of champagne, 10,000 pints of Guinness and 2,500 gins and vodkas by the end of the week-long festival.
Helicopters were also back as Barberstown Castle in Straffan, Co Kildare, ran a special package ferrying guests to and from the course for €150 each way for a group of four. Barberstown managing director Ted Robinson said: “People are buying the trips as a treat for anniversaries and birthdays after lockdown.”
Chloe Agnew was on hand to sing the national anthem. Just back from a four-month tour of the US, she said she was glad to be on home soil for a series of Irish shows.
“Living out of a suitcase, travelling seven days a week, we did a run of shows in a casino at one stage, so with the schedule I don’t think we saw daylight or had fresh air for four days,” she added.
“You don’t want to complain about touring because we all had a brutal couple of years, but it can be isolating and lonely, especially when you’re a home bird like me.”