Grace-ful lady best dressed on Winters’ day

You would need to have been a martyr to fashion to brave the rain in a frock


It was Ladies’ Day across the species barrier at Galway yesterday when, apparently entering the spirit of events elsewhere, a four-legged female won the day’s big race.

Wearing a light brown coat and with accessories including a jockey, Missunited became the first mare to win the Galway Hurdle since 1998, in the process sparking the most raucous celebrations of the week.

It was a second consecutive win in the race for trainer Michael Winters, from the tiny north Cork village of Castlemagner, whose entire population, along with half of neighbouring Kanturk, were here to celebrate. Amid the resulting pandemonium, Winters was hoisted onto shoulders and declared the “King of Galway”. This being Ladies Day, the only crown available was a fetching black- and-pink hat borrowed from the trainers’ daughter Laurie. It did the trick. Most of those present had backed the horse and one fan explained Winters’ achievement in succinct terms: “He’s a f***ing genius!”

Sentimental win
By contrast, the winning owner, Kanturk vet Dan Hutch, was more polite, if no less thrilled. His wife Vanessa’s family had owned and bred ancestors of the winner since 1960, he said, so it was a sentimental win.

But referring to the earlier Monsoon-like rains, which may have ruined the chances of other runners, he revealed that Missunited had the precious talent of being equally enthusiastic about good or heavy ground: “She’s one of those rare birds that can go on both”.

Speaking of rare birds, there were as usual some exotic varieties on display in the Best Dressed Ladies competition. But on this occasion, at least, the feather-based hats and fascinators had to take second place to the extraordinary and bird- free winner of the headwear section. A giant floral Afro, comprising 100 white roses and one black one, it was the work of Middleton designer, Ina McCarthy, and dwarfed the winsome head of its wearer, Alex Butler. Also from Middleton, but a student at UCC, Butler won a €1,500 shopping voucher for her troubles.

Prized winners
The overall Best Dressed Lady, meanwhile, was Rachelle Guiry from Newcastle West, Co Limerick: who for a “Grace Kelly-inspired vintage baby blue lace dress”, set off by a “net and pearl hat” won a plethora of goodies including a diamond solitaire pendant worth €8,500.

But really, the thousands of women who donned finery for the day all deserved a prize. Given the conditions, you had to be a martyr to fashion to set out for Ballybrit yesterday in a frock and high-heels. Yet most of them did. It was a day, however, when many horses listed to run were pulled out by owners because of the deteriorating conditions. And there must also have been late withdrawals among fashion contestants, with attendance (27,669) well down on last year. But, for the more faint-hearted, there is a second chance. The festival resumes this evening, when sunshine is forecast, and when those who kept their frocks dry can enter the Friday Fair Lady competition: prize €1,000.