How winning a share in a racehorse brought A Touch of Sparkle to Jarlath's Christmas
An 82-year-old racing fan from Belfast has won his dream Christmas present - a share in a racehorse.
Jarlath McClean, from Ligoniel, took home the prize at the Morning Star bar in Belfast on Wednesday night, making him part-owner of the festively-named racehorse A Touch of Sparkle.
The 5% share in the five-year-old silver mare, which is trained near Larne, is worth £1,300 and will belong to Jarlath for a year.
The horse is also due to compete at Down Royal racecourse on Boxing Day.
Every morning Jarlath makes his way to the bar at the same time to meet his friend Tommy Gracey, from the Falls Road, to chat and watch the racing.
"I love the horse racing," he said.
"I've been quite a few times to Cheltenham just to see it."
After winning he joked: "I've told the staff in the Morning Star they need to give me a bit more respect. I'm a racehorse owner now."
Corrine McAlister, who runs the bar, decided to put her own money forward to make the prize possible.
"It started as a silly idea, and when I thought about it, it was silly but it's also nice.
"We have a lot of people in the bar who are interested in horses, and I thought that it would be ideal if they owned a racehorse."
She added that Jarlath had been invited as a guest of honour to see A Touch of Sparkle race at Down Royal on Boxing Day.
"If we can get him there and he's well enough to go, we will get him there," she said.
"Jarlath and Tommy are regulars. The draw was at night and they said, 'That's not fair, we've no way of getting down in the evening'. So I said, 'Well if you really want to get down I'll pay for a taxi'.
"The boys when they came were really well-dressed. They were suited and booted. They were thoroughly delighted. We introduced him to the trainer, and the jockeys were there as well."
Sean Maxwell is manager of the Realta Racing Club near Larne where A Touch of Sparkle trains.
"Corrine has paid for this so it's one hell of a prize for a racing bar. It's a heart-warming story in the run-up to Christmas," he said.
"We'll get him a hospitality suite up at the Down Royal trainers' bar. We hope A Touch of Sparkle is going to run on Boxing Day, and we think she's got a good chance
Asked if he thought his new horse could win on Boxing day, Jarlath replied in no uncertain terms, saying: "You better believe it."