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Record temperatures drive 17% increase in crowds at first day of Fairyhouse Easter Festival and Rachael Blackmore claims first Irish Grade 1 Victory

Sunday, 21 April 2019 at 06:02PM

Racing style season opens at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday with Una Healy  judging the Dunboyne Castle & Spa Most Stylish Lady Competition


Sunday, April 21, 2019:  Huge crowds delighted in Easter Sunday sunshine at Fairyhouse racecourse for the start of the Easter Festival on Sunday.

 

The mercury hit 21 degrees at the Co Meath course, the highest recorded Easter temperature on the course for 10 years, according to general manager Peter Roe. 

 

Top-class racing thrilled the crowd of 6,100, a 17% increase on 2018 figures, with the Willie Mullins-trained Voix Du Reve, winning  the big feature race of the day, the Ryanair Gold Cup Novices Chase. Ruby Walsh piloted the 9/4 winner for owners Andrea and Graham Wylie. On Monday, Mullins will be aiming to win his first Irish Grand National, Ireland’s favourite race with a prize fund of €500,000.

 

Earlier on Sunday, Rachael Blackmore claimed her first Grade One winner on Irish soil aboard Honeysuckle, trained by Henry de Bromhead, in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Hurdle. She lies in second place in the leading jockey championship, behind Paul Townend. It was the third win for Honeysuckle at Fairyhouse this year.

 

Love Island star Chris Hughes and girlfriend Little Mix singer Jesy Nelson were on course to cheer on Hughes’ Annie Mc in the same race. The Jonjo O’Neill-trained five-year-old was a non-runner due to a passport irregularity, but it didn’t deter the pair from enjoying the racing. "It's very disappointing, but it is lovely to be here,” he said. “Ireland is a wonderful place.”

 

“We’re delighted to welcome these crowds to enjoy the best of racing in this sunshine,” said  Peter Roe, Fairyhouse general manager. “For us, it’s a lot easier to put water on the course than take it off.”

 

“We’re looking forward to welcoming more tomorrow for the Boylesports Irish Grand National, Ireland’s favourite richest and favourite race. It’s the race where a small owner can beat racing royalty; where the smaller trainer, owner and local syndicate can beat racing royalty like Michael O’Leary, JP McManus and champion trainers.”

 

President Michael D Higgins will meet all 30 jockeys ahead of the big race on Monday.

 

Michael O’Leary’s General Principle, trained by Gordon Elliott,  is going for the double on Irish soil, after the duo’s recent two-in-a-row with Tiger Roll at the Aintree Grand National. Tiger Roll was paraded on Sunday to great applause by the crowd.

The Irish Grand National, off at 5pm on Monday,  is on average the most-watched race on TV in Ireland, with over 380,000 racing fans tuning in from home.

 

Style lovers are set to flock to the course on Monday as singer songwriter Una Healy will lead the judging of the Dunboyne Castle & Spa Most Stylish Lady competition. She will join Xposé producer Debbie O’Donnell and Dunboyne Castle & Spa managing director Grainne Ross to judge the winner of this year’s “country chic” theme. The winner will enjoy a trip to an overnight luxury stay in the Dunboyne Castle Hotel before being whisked off to Nashville, Tennessee, staying in the Bobby Hotel for four nights.

 

The Fairyhouse Easter Festival generates about €4m to the local economy and local businesses support the festival by by decorating shopfronts along the streets of Ratoath and Dunboyne.


A highlight for younger racing fans on Sunday was the Little Hoofs Puissance Wall high jump display and the annual La Bucca Easter Bonnet competition, which showcased the artistic talents of the young designers.

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