Fashion front-runner makes it two in a row


JOCKEY BARRY Geraghty was in the winner’s enclosure so often at Cheltenham yesterday the Meath man was half expected to take the Ladies Day prize too. But he generously left that to the neighbouring county and Margaret Connolly from Mullingar won the contest.

The 23-year-old Heaton’s sales assistant beat 391 women with her 1950s style Lilli Ann dress and coat. She bought the outfit online for €220, paid €12 for the hat and €15 for the shoes. She road tested the outfit in Leopardstown a few weeks ago and won the Hennessy Best Dressed Lady competition.

The prize for the most unusual attire of the day surely went to Alice Smyth, a student at Plymouth College of Arts. She was wearing an outfit and hat made completely from crisp packets – Burton’s hand-fried potato chips, to be precise. She made the outfit with her friends in a week. “It’s actually quite comfortable, very insulated,” she said.

Jockey AP McCoy’s wife, Chanelle, was flying the flag for Irish fashion, with her hat by Mark T Burke, the latest Galway millinery sensation to follow in the footsteps of king of hats Philip Treacy. Asked about her hopes for the week, Chanelle said she was happy as long as AP didn’t end up in the AE department.

Designer Paul Costelloe admitted he was only there to see the ladies. “Nothing to do with the horses.” His grey Converse sneakers must have breached some unspoken racing style code but he was unperturbed.

Teaforthree rider JT McNamara breached no royal protocol when he was presented with his trophy by Camilla Parker-Bowles after winning the Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Steeple Chase. He was clearly unfazed by royalty. Asked what the Duchess of Cornwall said to him, he shrugged and said: “Ah she was just talking.”

But the day belonged to Barry Geraghty. Not only did he have a great day at the office, he also helped trainer Nicky Henderson to break the festival’s training record of 40 winners when he rode Simonsig to victory in the Novices’ Hurdle. By the end of the day, the trainer had amassed 44 wins. “This is as good as it gets,” the jockey said. “You dream of days like this. And when they come thick and fast like that you don’t even get a chance to give it much thought.” His sister Jill was not at all worried that he would become big-headed. “He’s as cool as a cucumber and he’s modest. He won’t change with success.”

Meanwhile Independent deputy Michael Lowry admitted he was “suffering a little, like all the Irish”. He said it had been a disappointing festival for the Irish-trained horses. The Tipperary-man couldn’t keep up with the excitement and returns home today. “You’d need to have a lot of stamina to give a full week here.” Just like the Dáil so.

He could have given a few tips to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney who hadn’t been in Cheltenham in about 15 years. As a student, he attended the Royal Agricultural College in nearby Cirencester and the racing festival was an annual pilgrimage. “I have to say that my memories of those days, particularly in Cheltenham, coming here as a student, would have been fairly blurred.” He knows his way around a horse, having done some “small-time show jumping...not very well though”. His wife’s family has a horse livery “and I would regularly clean out horse stables on a Sunday”. His 2½-year-old daughter already rides ponies so the stable cleaning will continue for the Minister.

Meanwhile jockey Davy Russell was trying to come to terms with his predicament after he had promised to take racing pundit John McCririck to dinner if Hurricane Fly didn’t win the Champion Hurdle. McCririck had lofty plans for the dinner, but the Irish jockey had other ideas. “There’s a lovely McDonalds at the roundabout on the way in here,” he offered hopefully.

Patrick Mullins had something stronger in mind after he won the Champion Bumper on Champagne Fever, trained by his father, Willie. It was the sole Irish-trained winner of the day. Asked how he would celebrate, the 22-year-old quipped “with champagne fever somewhere”. And I don’t think he was talking about the horse.

Online betting tax could raise €20m

THE GOVERNMENT believes it could raise about €20 million in tax from online and remote betting in a year, when new legislation is brought in, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said yesterday. Bets placed in bookies shops are subject to a 1 per cent tax paid by the bookmakers, but online betting is not.

He said he hoped to have the legislation in place by summer. “If we are going to keep to that timeframe, we need to actually see the legislation published within weeks rather than months.

“We anticipate that in a full year we could gain a revenue stream, from 1 per cent of turnover, of about €20 million a year.”

The Government raised about €27 million in tax from betting shops last year, “so you are talking about a very significant percentage of betting happening online”. He said it had been estimated that online betting accounts for an estimated 40 per cent of all bets placed.

Getting tax from online betting was full of legal complexities, “and the last thing we want to do is to produce a piece of legislation and then have to change it because there’s a loophole in it,” he said. If the online bookies did not co-operate, the Government could block their websites in Ireland.

“Ultimately what we want to get to here is the racing industry in Ireland being funded by a consistent and predictable revenue stream coming from remote betting as well as bookie shops,” said Mr Coveney, speaking at Cheltenham.

Paddy Power of Paddy Power bookmakers said: “We’re not against paying tax at all. We just want to make sure that it’s properly policed. Nowhere in the world have they nailed it so maybe this will be the first time.” ALISON HEALY