Sun and stars at Leopardstown races, but JP defies logic to claim prize

President Higgins poses for selfies with fans under clear blue skies

Annmarie McManus with her children Allison (9 months), Vivienne (5) and Katie (6) on the first day of racing at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke.

Annmarie McManus with her children Allison (9 months), Vivienne (5) and Katie (6) on the first day of racing at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke.


The sun, the President and the rock star were all beaming at the merry throng as they poured through the turnstiles at Leopardstown yesterday, but it was JP McManus who was left with the broadest smile of all after his horse Defy Logic defied logic to finish ahead of the red hot favourite to win the feature race.

On day one of the Christmas meeting, President Michael D Higgins was in great spirits as he smiled for selfies taken by women in vertiginous heels under blue skies and bright sunshine ahead of the first race.

“Any other politician would be eaten alive here today but everyone at Leopardstown loves Michael D,” said one punter queuing up for a selfie of his own.

That love seemed to be reciprocated. “I had intended to be here last year but the weather intervened,” President Higgins told The Irish Times, referring to last year’s conditions which were more suited to the Four Horsemen than the cream of Ireland’s racing crop.

“It is a great chance for me to meet people I have not met over the course of the year,” he said, “and this is a great community festival. I will be placing one or two bets but it is not a science and I have not been given any tips. No one would dare give me any.”

Wined and dined
With celebrities thin on the ground, all eyes were on the first floor of the Pavilion where the well-heeled wined and dined as they watched the horses gallop past.

Bono and his entourage were at their usual corner table.

“The Irish are very good at raising horses and racing horses,” the singer said. “They’re the best in the world so it’s something to support. We don’t bet much but we still feel really humiliated when we lose. But Mrs Hewson was very lucky.”

Ali Hewson may well have been lucky but she certainly didn’t take the bookies to the cleaners yesterday. “I had too little on,” she said. When asked how much too little was, Bono answered for her.

“You would laugh out loud. When bookies see us coming, they get depressed. Only that Willie Power actually has a fondness for U2’s music, does he not look really sad when he sees us arrive because he realises that the amounts we put on are pitiful.”

John Rocha, Guggi and Simon Carmody were all with Bono, who has been coming to Leopardstown for more than a decade. “The tradition started because of closeness, it was handy. It’s around the corner – and it’s world class. We pretend we’re the best in the world at lots of things, but we are actually the greatest breeders. The greatest horse people in the world come here for good reason.”

Attendance up
Attendance was up on last year with 14,802 people going racing yesterday compared with 14,091 last year. They were all on their feet as Defy Logic claimed the scalp of Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Champagne Fever in the feature Racing Post Novice Chase.

The favourite was 8/15 as the starting pistol sounded and everything was going according to the script when the grey horse hit the second-last fence hard and handed the race to JP McManus’s 7/2 shot.

The bookies should have been delighted but they were not. “Ah, it’s quieter than it used to be,” one working the Tote said. “Sure isn’t it the same with everything? . . . The weather has been good to us today but come back tomorrow and see what we’ll be standing in.”