Stylish ladies draw the fair weather racers at Leopardstown

Rough diamonds and chancers try their luck on blustery day of racing in Dublin

Catherine Lundon, Mullingar, Carol Kennelly, Tralee, Co Karry, and Louise Allen, Slane, Co Meath, winners of the Monart Most Stylish Lady contest at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

“The suspense is killing me,” said the thick set man with a pint in his hand, his voice heavy with irony.

“If you want my honest opinion,” said his companion, a fellow race-goer from Cork, “I fancy the one in the mustard hat.”

He was dead serious.

“Jesus lads,” said the third musketeer, “I thought we came here for the horses”.


On stage, in the marquee standing before them, were 10 of Leopardstown’s finest – all finalists in the Most Stylish Lady contest. Outside, celestial gloom had smothered Three Rock Mountain, the sky was black, the wind gusting and rain was threatening to turn the races into a wash out.

The Leopardstown pavilion, viewing stand, betting ring, bars and tote outlets were packed with the usual motley collection of racegoers that throng each day of the south Dublin racetrack’s post Christmas festival.

There were the rough diamonds and chancers hanging around the bookies, sucking cigarettes, muttering wisdoms to each other, thumbing their race cards; well-heeled smoothies in fawn-coloured Cashmere coats, velvet collars and brown hats mingled with fellows up from the country, all peaked caps or woolly hats, anoraks, jeans and light tan brogues; and present also were a good collection of young lads from suburbia – all drainpipe trousers and tight-fitting jackets, much too light for the day that was in it but cool looking.

"Go on Jonathan," roared a young country man as jockey Jonathan Moore riding Russian Bill tried to hold off Forever Gold as the 12.45 reached its hoof thundering climax.

“G’wan! Will ya! G’wan!”

It was to no avail, however. A torn chit fluttering to into a puddle evidence of another win for the bookies.

Did he have much on the second placed Russian Bill?

“Ah,” he replied, “I had a few quid on him alright.”

Specifics in such circumstances merely add to the pain.

Inside the marquee, they were approaching the final furlong as well. Judge Bairbre Power – "I'm looking for a lady who is elegant and who is appropriately dressed" – narrowed the 10 runners down to three: Louise Allen from Slane; Catherine Lundon from Mullingar; and Carol Kennelly from Tralee. They were locked in competition but vintage united them.

Ms Allen wore an outfit in deep purple.

“My Mum’s friend bought this for a wedding 15 years ago and never wore it again, so I purloined it,” explained 32-year-old Ms Allen, who is studying for a masters in human resources management.

A matching black bag, fur hat, gloves and broach came from vintage shop in Drogheda. The shoes were the indulgence – Louboutin and fabulous.

Ms Lundon’s outfit came in emerald green and had a whiff of late 1950’s retro about it.

"Pure Jackie Kennedy, " said a fashionista observer, which was closer to the truth than perhaps she realised. The outfit was bought in a New York vintage shop two years ago, explained the Defence Forces captain, who is currently attending the Military College in the Curragh to make herself eligible for promotion to Commandant.

Her age? “Now that’s the kind of detail we have to keep secret,” said Capt Lundon. “We have to keep the boys guessing.”

Ms Kennelly, the third finalist – and eventual winner – wore a cream and gold brocade coat designed by Tina Griffin, a gold leather skirt and a hat made by herself. Perhaps not surprising as Ms Kennelly is a milliner with an eye for seasonal detail. "I used a gold beret as a base and put a turkey feather quill onto it," said the 44-year-old.

All three were delighted with the outcome of the contest, which attracted about 300 entrants. Ms Allen was thrilled; equally happy was second runner-up Capt Lundon, who missed out last year because she was with the 46 th Infantry Group of the Defence Forces on UN peace keeping duty on the Golan Heights.

Ms Kennelly, who won a €5,000 package to the Monart Spa of Enniscorthy, hopes her win will be a boost to her hat-making business, 25 per cent of which is exported, including to Kentucky where she’s a hit at the Derby.

“I’m beyond escatic,” she said beaming.

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh is a contributor to The Irish Times