Sunday, June 24, 2007

For the first time I can remember, rain stayed away during four glorious days of national hunt racing at Punchestown. No doubt the good weather had some bearing on the increase in attendances with a total of almost 91,000 recorded for this year’s festival (7% up on last year’s figures). Friday drew the largest crowds with a record attendance of 32,883. I will leave the racing review to Tim because truly, it’s the socialising and style that brings me to Punchestown.

Despite sunny weather, there’s always a sharp breeze at the racecourse and yet still, the fashion fillies brave all in dangerously high stilettos and flimsy summer wear – and by God, there were some short hemlines this year! I saw tribes of ‘young ones’ in dresses no bigger than t-shirts and they spent the day trying to ‘stretch’ the front and back of same to a modest place on their thigh. God love one girl in a cream ‘dress’; sporting vivid green high heels and accessories, her attempt to climb the steps up to the stand looked like Quasimodo with blisters. I’d say she pulled a few muscles along with the wolf whistles…..

But isn’t that what makes Punchestown?? The feathers, the hats: the hawkers, the hustlers: “Race cards, get yer race cards!”; then there’s the socialising – I missed meeting Margaret Murphy this year and Kay Shannon; similarly, I didn’t bump into Tim or Colette which was a first. I travelled with the ‘Venus Perfectos’ on the Wednesday – see brief article elsewhere in this edition to explain – and went with Eithne and sisters on the Friday.

Fashion to die for…..
Whilst I may have slagged the young fashionistas for their daring style, let me tell you they weren’t a patch on Eithne’s sister, Anne who was going to fit into that designer suit, do or die and she was going to wear the new high-heels if they killed her (and they nearly did!). There was no way she was letting sister number 3, Kathleen wear an anorak either. Who says you get sense as you get older….common sense she hasn’t but you won’t beat Anne and ‘the sisters’ when it comes to a keen sense of fun, that’s for sure.

I bumped into our Bugle Cameraman, Christy and members of the various Murphy families and thankfully, Marion Hanlon and cousin Donal Lynch. (wouldn’t be right if I didn’t bump into Marion). Of course, there were politicians galore there with Michael Fitzpatrick’s get-together on Tuesday and Fine Gael’s corporate tent on Wednesday. I met Jane Mullins, Sean Power and Sean O Fearghail on Friday but didn’t manage to spot Jack Wall. (I bet Tim Dooley partied in both FF and FG tents, that fella gets into all the best hooleys).

Rave Reviews
The enclosure had loads to offer and only the Friday was uncomfortable to get served anywhere except in the corporate/owners suites. In the main bar, the queues to get served were horrendous with the queues to the Ladies even worse. David Ashforth of the Racing Post gave the racecourse rave reviews claiming it was better than Cheltenham for comfort, entrance fees, catering services and toilet facilities – obviously this was based over four days because Friday was congested. I ate in the restaurant each day and the quality of food and service excellent (Beef in Guinness with veg. and potatoes €9.95).

Fashion Winner
Of course, the judging of Ladies Day Competition was eagerly watched on Friday and young Karen Murphy of Kinsale won the coveted overall title with €30,000 worth of Newbridge Silverware in a sleeveless ‘cha-cha’ style dress made by her mother in the ‘60s. A black and red number with tiered lace frills, this vintage piece was I thought, a tad skimpy for Punchestown and more suited to a lively night-club even with the hat and net ensemble.
However I thought the other four finalists had very classy and appropriate outfits but take note, none of the five finalists hailed from County Kildare.

Festival was missed?
The street festival was sorely missed this year – at least that’s what everyone else told me – I didn’t miss it because it meant I could yap to all in sundry and not have to leave the racecourse early. Hopefully, next year we will have a festival and all those who claimed to miss it, will come on board and do a bit of organising.

Wasn’t it great to see The Thatch serving breakfast again? The place was buzzing…. Alas, the lap dancing in Paddy’s didn’t happen and neither did the comedian appear due to a family bereavement. We had a few drinks in Mick Murphy’s Friday night, good crowd and great atmosphere – couldn’t help but remember the craic there with the late Mick Fennan last year….. Paddy’s was jammed packed on Friday with the late Robin Winders flying around clearing glasses and enjoying the craic.

Youth Worry
Shocking amount of young people hanging around on the Friday night – I think next year, the Festival Committee (if there is one) and the vintners should get together and issue stern warnings on radio and in the local press that underage drinkers will not be served and should not be on the streets after 10pm. I noticed several buses from the Tullow, Baltinglass area dropping off ‘kids’ – where the hell do their parents think they are?
A combined leaflet drop to all of the schools in the area plus press releases on KFM, East Coast Radio, Carlow FM and all the surrounding regional newspapers might just make some parents take note. (I am aware there was local youth also).

Let’s not end this article on a cross note – see some of Christy’s photos here and more throughout The Bugle of happy punters at Punchestown. Until next year………

Rose B O Donoghue

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