Saturday 22 September 2018

Festival fans gallop to Leopardstown races for a Christmas flutter

Sisters Maggie and Katie McGivern at day two of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival Photo: Fergal Phillips
Sisters Maggie and Katie McGivern at day two of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival Photo: Fergal Phillips

More than 17,000 optimistic punters left their Christmas dinner leftovers behind them to have a flutter at Leopardstown on day two of the racing festival.

Thousands of revellers snubbed the sales to take advantage of a brief reprieve in the rotten weather to attend the popular event.

An annual tradition for many, there was a serious stampede to even get into the venue, with queues forming outside from early on as people clamoured to be in time for the first race.


Retired champion jockey AP McCoy looked remarkably chilled as he enjoyed the action from the comfort of a box for a change.

A recent recipient of a Lifetime Achievement accolade at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, he's now being linked with a possible knighthood at the New Year's Honours. However, AP was giving nothing away when asked if it would be worth taking a punt on him ­becoming "Sir Tony". "I wouldn't comment on that, to be honest, truth be known. I don't really want to comment on it," he said.

But he was more forthcoming about mixing with one big winner on the day, namely JP McManus, who was his boss for 11 years before his retirement earlier this year.

The horse racing legend claimed the feature, the coveted Paddy Power Steeplechase, with his mount, Minella Foru, ridden by Barry Geraghty.

"It was brilliant, it was great," said AP.

"He (JP) had a few chances and they all ran well and Barry gave the winner a brilliant ride.

"It was one of the highlights. It's one of the most competitive race at this time of year."

He said they planned on going out to dinner to celebrate the victory, but that it would be a teetotal affair for him.

Watching all the action from the Pavillion area, where Paddy Power were hosting a corporate lunch, was Health Minister Leo Varadkar.


Other attendees included soccer pundit Eamon Dunphy, alongside Newstalk's Ivan Yates and RTE's Evanne Ni Chuilinn.

One man turning heads was RTE Sport's Hugh Cahill, who arrived at the course wearing red lipstick and dressed like Eddie Izzard after he lost a bet while he had been watching the races at home with his in-laws the day before.

High-flyer Michael O'Leary was there was his wife Anita. They had several runners with his Gigginstown House Stud.

Around the course, the stalls were doing a roaring trade in €8 pulled-pork baps and hot whiskeys as a festive atmosphere prevailed.

There were also plenty of glamorous ladies, including Meath sisters Maggie and Katie McGivern.

They admitted that they had mistakenly thought it was Ladies' Day yesterday - and whipped up the style for the occasion.

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