Racing fans might have felt they were in danger of needing a further bailout on Day 3 at Punchestown until the joint favourite in the second race, Dr Whizz, with Tony McCoy on board, duly obliged by romping home with relative ease at 7/2 in the Kildare Post Handicap Steeplechase.
Dr Whizz’s win was also a welcome victory for owner, JP McManus, who had earlier learnt of the late withdrawal of another of his mounts, Garde Champetre, in the following race on veterinary advice.
Many punters had to search elsewhere for their “banker”. And it wasn’t long coming in a further blow for the bookies as even stronger favourite, Quevega, cemented her reputation as the best Irish mare since Dawn Run by winning the day’s feature race, the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle at 8/11 for the second year in-a-row.
You could almost hear the sighs of relief from the crowd which circled the winning enclosure, especially after a heart-stopping wobble by the winner at the final hurdle. They were quickly followed by shouts of “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby” in tribute to jockey, Ruby Walsh who steered Quevega safely home for the Willie Mullins stable.
“She’s just so athletic. Nine out of 10 horses would have fallen there and I can’t believe she came back,” said the delighted trainer.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, who saw two of his horses win over the first two days of the festival, had to be content with the unusual role of subdued on-looker as his mount, Carlito Brigante, could only finish in third place.
“The only way I can get on the podium is to sponsor a race,” joked the airline owner who declared himself unmoved at the news that Aer Lingus may need to introduce further cost-cutting measures.
O’Leary also spoke movingly about his 78-year-old father, Ted, who is suffering from cancer and was forced to watch the racing from home. “When he goes, he won’t leave too many boxes unticked,” said O’Leary who later presented the prize to the winner of the Ryanair Novice Steeplechase — another favourite, Captain Chris at 4/6.
Racegoers interested in entering yesterday’s Arnotts Best Dressed Lady competition were also taking a bit of a gamble as an unpredictable weather forecast meant many contestants were faced with a difficult choice of attire.
Louise Lynn from Roscommon took the honours.
“Comfort was the priority,” declared the 31-year-old interior designer who fortunately had received her prize of a €1,000 Arnotts voucher before the heavens opened over the Kildare countryside, making subsequent racing particularly treacherous. She estimated her winning outfit of a self-made black hat, teamed with a florescent pink bolero jacket over a black top and black cigarette-style trousers cost €450 to assemble.
Celebrity judge Brendan Courtney described Louise’s clothes as effortlessly stylish and accessorised to the right level. “She stood out the minute she walked into the room.
The RTÉ Off the Rails presenter admitted to being terrified of horses, despite liking the occasional bet. “I once pretended for six months that I really loved horses because I dated a horse trainer,” he laughed.
Among other well-known faces seen in Punchestown yesterday were former Irish soccer captain, Ronnie Whelan; Dublin hurler, Conal Keaney and former Dublin lord mayor, Royston Brady.
The largest crowd of the Punchestown Festival is expected today with the overall final of the Best Dressed Lady competition with a total prize fund of €20,000 including a €10,000 Arnotts gift card for the winner, while out on the racecourse the main attraction will be the Rabobank Champion Hurdle where Hurricane Fly will aim to “rob-a-bank” for punters.