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Monday 11 December 2017

Paula Geraghty: It was great to celebrate Irish winners -- but I was up before dawn to study for my exams

IT'S been a hectic week and I have to admit my heart has definitely been in my mouth at various times, but thankfully we'll be going home with a couple of winners tomorrow.

Wednesday was definitely the highlight of the week. What started out as a rather disappointing day on the track became the biggest celebration of the week when Barry won the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Big Zeb.

It was just great to have an Irish winner and needless to say the crowd went absolutely mad. I was very proud, of course.

Barry was so delighted.

Cheltenham is the Olympics of racing.

The whole year is a build-up to it so to have that one big winner was really important to him.

We barely had time to toast his first win after going to the bar when he came in first again on Spirit River.

It was a great result after getting off to a very slow start earlier in the day with Finian's Rainbow. Barry had really fancied it as a winner so it was disappointing for him.

Punchestowns was next so it was a bit of a downer when that didn't win either.



MAD

Luckily in the end we had lots to celebrate. We went out for a lovely meal with a group of friends to mark the occasion, where we met Hector O hEochagain.

Barry went straight home after the meal because obviously Thursday was another big day for him. I did plenty of celebrating for him instead.

I didn't go too mad, though, because I've actually been getting up very early to study before going to the racetrack.

I have my final exams in nutritional therapy next week, so it's been a really busy Cheltenham Festival for me.

Hopefully, if all goes well, I'll be setting up my own business later this year.

I'll be able to give Barry a bit of free advice on what he should and shouldn't be eating and that kind of thing.

Funnily enough, I had very little knowledge of the racing industry until I met Barry at the Galway races six years ago.

Myself and a friend had been there for Ladies Day and we bumped into him and now here I am in the midst of it all.

It wouldn't really have been my first interest before, but I love going to all the meetings and I've made so many great friends. I mean, how many jobs are there where you get to go along to work with your husband and offer him your support?

There is a great support network among the other wives and partners of the jockeys.

Chanelle McCoy, the wife of Tony McCoy, organises a special marquee for the wives and girlfriends of all the jockeys during Cheltenham week so it's a great place for us all to congregate and relax with our families and friends.

Gillian Walsh, Ruby's wife, arrived over on Wednesday so we were all together for the last race when he had a big winner with Sanctuaire in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices Handicap Hurdle.

That's his 26th winner at Cheltenham so he's now overtaken Pat Taaffe's record.

Yesterday, of course, was obviously a big day for the females. All the style was out for Ladies Day. I just love to look at all the different outfits and the mad creations people turn up in.

I wouldn't be hugely into it myself, though. At the start I always went for style, but after a few years you realise that comfort is the most important thing when you're walking in and out of the parade ring all day.

I didn't wear anything too exciting, just a black skirt and top and then I dressed up with a nice colourful coat.

Myself and the other wives and girlfriends would all discuss our outfits and maybe give each other a bit of advice but we don't take it too seriously.

To be honest, I didn't have a huge amount of time to think about my outfits for this year because I've been so busy studying.

The Galway races would probably be a bit more competitive when it comes to the style, that's when all the really glamorous girls come out in force.

On top of rooting for Barry yesterday, I was very excited about the Cheltenham Festival Ladies Charity Sweepstake, which took place for the first time.

All the proceeds will go to the charity Cancer Research UK and I think it's a fantastic idea.



DAUGHTER

Camilla Henderson, who is the daughter of trainer Nicky Henderson -- who Barry works very closely with -- was riding in the race on Know The Law. She raised an amazing amount of money for the cause, almost £16,000 (€17,800).

I've been keeping in touch with my little daughter Siofra, who is four, by Skype every morning. She's back home in Ratoath, Co Meath, where we live, being well looked after by my family.

Barry's trying to get her interested in racing now, so he promised her a present if he had a winner.

When she realised he had had more than one winner she was wondering if she'd be getting several presents.

I'm looking forward to seeing her tomorrow morning when I fly home.

I won't have much time to relax, unfortunately, as I'll have to get my nose straight into the books -- before my exams begin on Monday.

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