Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

In Pictures: Ladies Day at Down Royal - weather fails to dampen spirits

- Magners Ulster DerbyRacegoers arrive at Down Royal Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
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Elegant headpieces, strong colours and brollies were the order of the day as the ladies upped the glamour stakes at Down Royal.

Some 11,000 people converged on the racecourse for the two-day racing festival over the weekend which culminated in Saturday’s Magners Derby Day.

And the going wasn’t just good on the turf at the Lisburn racecourse, all eyes were also on the female racegoers who turned out in their finest for the annual best dressed ladies competition.

Almost 200 fashionistas donned their finest attire and entered the competition, judged by RTE's Brendan Courtney and Faith Almond, herself a best-dressed lady more than 50 times over.

Contestants wore everything from high street to designer outfits — one bargain hunter even dressed head to toe in a vintage outfit assembled from eBay.

Newry woman Claudine Quinn was first past the post with a classy black and white ensemble. She was declared the winner with a beautiful black headpiece, black lace gloves, Ted Baker shoes, a vintage fur stole and an umbrella which matched her dress from Berlin in Newry.

Claudine bagged herself a luxurious four-night trip to Monaco with £500 of spending money thrown into the bargain.

With many braving the rain in delicate hats and headpieces, model agency boss — and birthday girl — Alison Clarke also showed the way with an elegant outfit set off by a black headpiece with white feather embellishment. With her golfer husband Darren working in Spain, Alison was accompanied by her dapper son Phil Campbell and a group of friends.

“My husband had to be in Spain today working so spending the day at the races seemed be an appropriate way to celebrate my birthday with my son and all of my friends,” she said.

Both ladies and gents of all ages dug deep into their finery to add to the fashion on show. The event was also attended by newly-crowned Miss Northern Ireland Tiffany Brien, controller of BBC NI Peter Johnston and UTV presenter Pamela Ballantine. Pamela, resplendent in pink with a matching hat, compered the contest.

She said: “This is about racing for the aficionados but for the rest of us it's about getting our gladrags on. You don't even get the chance to do it at weddings that much anymore. I certainly think Down Royal gives Royal Ascot a run for its money — if they can do it, we can do it better.”

Guests with the top tickets were treated to a three-course meal, a race card, table betting service and the evening was topped off by a live band after the last race. For those looking for a stylish way to celebrate, Down Royal was certainly the place with everything from birthday parties to hen parties being celebrated at the event.

Down Royal general manager Mike Todd was jubilant at the turnout. “This is one of the most popular race events in Ireland as we have the best facilities,” he said. “This is why this is the most glamorous gig in Northern Ireland this year.”

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