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TAKEOFF FOR O'LEARY; CHELTENHAM DAY TWO: IRISH ARE FLYING HIGH; Ryanair boss' joy over double success; He celebrates his first wins of festival; Bookies' relief after a nightmare start.

Byline: ALANA FEARON

RYANAIR chief Michael O'Leary was flying high last night after bagging two winners on Ladies Day at Cheltenham.

The 53-year-old low-cost airline boss had been waiting in the wings after failing to get a winner on day one at Prestbury Park.

And glory was his yesterday when his mounts Don Poli and Rivage D'Or romped to victory.

Over the moon after his stunning double, Mr O'Leary revealed he would be celebrating with "a copious amount of alcohol consisting of a strange mixture of beer and Champagne".

Hot favourite Don Poli's win in the second race of the day gave top trainer Willie Mullins his fifth of the festival and landed the Gigginstown owner his coveted first.

And while confident punters riding high on the back of Tuesday's record wins were toasting O'Leary for that success, it was the bookmakers who were thanking him when outsider Rivage D'Or stole the fifth race of the day and saved them from huge payouts.

He told the Irish Mirror: "It's great to get one on the board. Last year we had to wait until Friday to get a winner so it's nice to get one on the Wednesday.

"Willie gets three or four winners on the first day, Rich Ricci gets his winner on the first day, JP McManus gets his winner on the first but I know my position and that is to wait my turn."

The no-nonsense Ryanair boss quipped: "That's the pecking order and then the likes of me sitting here like some orphan waiting my turn.

"Every winner in Cheltenham feels as good as the first one. I spent most of Tuesday down in the losers' enclosure so it's great to be in Willie Mullins land.

"Mind you of course I had to have a horse with Willie to get in here but that's the way it goes.

"Winners in Cheltenham are so hard to come by that you have to enjoy them because they are rare."

After well-backed Windsor Park and Aux Ptits Soins also romped home, thebookies were staring down the barrel of another disastrous day at the races.

But they were spared a record battering from punters for the second day on the trot when Dodging Bullets beat favourites Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre in the feature race of the day, the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

And when outsider Rivage D'Or stole the fifth, terrified bookies could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Punters still have the upper hand as we head into day three at Prestbury Park - and the Irish trainers are ahead in the battle with the British after clocking up another three wins to add to Tuesday's stunning four. But it was still a very bad day at the office for the bookies. Coral spokeswoman Nicola McGeady admitted: "We are still suffering at the hands of the punters after the second day of the festival, despite dodging a bullet in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

"We're extremely grateful that Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre didn't win but the losses were still colossal.

"Thursday is a new day and we can only pray that a few favourites get turned over to give us some respite."

Paddy Power spokesman Feilim Mac An Iomaire added it was a difficult day for them but it could've been worse.

He said: "Like Madonna at The Brits we were floored on Tuesday and while we're not back on our feet just yet we're on the road to recovery.

"Don Poli had us sweating early on when it romped home in the second but the aptly named Dodging Bullets saved the bookies from a big payout in the feature to edge us ahead for the day."

alana.fearon@irishmirror.ie

Winners are so hard to come by here, you have to enjoy them MICHAEL O'LEARY cheltenham yesterday

CAPTION(S):

IN FINE FEATHER Lystra Adams tickled pink to be at Cheltenham

WINNING SMILE Mirror columnist Bryan Cooper celebrates winning with Don Poli

SKY'S THE LIMIT Michael O'Leary and his wife Anita Farrell with Rivage D'Or at Cheltenham yesterday Picture: INPHO/DAN SHERIDAN

TWEED DREAMS Veterans in their Trilbys share tips

THE MANE ATTRACTION Katie Price and, right, Nadia Forde

FLYING THE FLAG Munster rugby player Paddy Butler with Brian McEvoy, Robert Joy, Neil Farrell and Kevin O'Sullivan

LEAP OF FAITH Runners and riders bid for glory
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 12, 2015
Words:729
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