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Clippity clop here comes something tip-top


Sarah Travers appeared as a style guide for the event

Sarah Travers appeared as a style guide for the event

Simon Graham/Harrison Photograph

Sarah Travers appeared as a style guide for the event

Things were just getting interesting in the women's 3,000m at the European Championships - or in other words, all the boring laps had been run and we were getting to the last one - when, in a weird, teleporting moment, we were whisked away from Cheboksary to the Maze.

Having waged a fiver on hometown favourite Elena Korobkina, I was keen to see how she finished, but was denied this as Mark Sidebottom elbowed his way onto the screen as BBCNI told Russia where to go and seized control of the airwaves.

"Hullloooo and welcome to Down Royal, the sun has come out and the racing public has come out," he began as equine activity returned to BBCNI for the first time in so long that AP McCoy hadn't won the Champion Jockey crown. Not sure if Tony had…

"It's been quite a while but it's sure good to be back and over the next few hours we will have fun, we will have frolics, we will have fillies and we will have fashion in the company of Sarah Travers who will be our style guide and if it moves Thomas Kane will interview it," he continued as we pictured our intrepid reporter asking a defeated horse why it had a long face.

I have to confess at this stage that I was actually at the races as a guest of some lovely people at Magners (other ciders are available), having decided that my invite from Cheboksary Vodka was welcome but slightly more awkward to get to, so I did watch this a day later and with the added bonus of fast forward as with Desert Orchid's nosebag, there was a lot of filling in the programme.

As we hadn't been for a while we were given a guide to racing and in between the three races a myriad of interviews with all and sundry, with Sidebottom - or should that be Sidesaddle? - riding alongside racing legend Johnny Murtagh.

Rather bizarrely, Stephen King turned up too but this was a different one, a fashion lecturer from the University of Ulster (he must have his work cut out) who helped Sarah run his eye over 10 eligible best dressed ladies that was much too close to the Father Ted Lovely Girls competition for comfort.

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"It takes a tip-top trainer to get a tip-top horse in tip-top form - that's a whole lot of tip-tops (other watery childhood drinks are available)," added Sidebottom as we were off again on another pre-recorded trip as drunken punters loomed dangerously over Kane's shoulder.

Still it was nice to have something different, and yes it was a bit ropey in places with some great coverage of hedges when the horses were out of sight, but at least they're giving it a go, although it meant that once again Fermanagh missed out on a live gig in the Ulster Championship. Clare Balding was gutted, she'd been pencilled in to present at Brewster Park.

A lovely girl won the best dressed competition, Botany Bay won the big race and Murtagh fondly remembered his Ulster Derby win of yesteryear.

"I remember it like yesterday, you go home in the car with the lads, you stop off at a shop (other convenience stores are available) and it's your round for the grub," he said, although someone else can buy the Tip-Tops.

Oh, and for the record, Elena was beaten into third by Poland's Sofia Ennaoui, but I had her backed each way, so never mind the clippity clop, pop open that Tip-Top.

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