Lining out: Lam's stars join fair ladies for day at the races
Published 30/07/2016 | 02:30
With the major races finishing up yesterday, one might have expected the Galway Races to be winding down.
But the party wasn't over in Ballybrit, as thousands once again strolled through the turnstiles in hope of a big win. While many had left the hats at home following Ladies' Day, the high-stakes style contests continued with Friday's Fair Lady contest.
Local girl Aoife O'Hanlon sealed the deal in a stunning white ensemble, most of which she procured from the high street.
With trousers and a bag from Zara, shoes from Topshop, a top from Born in Galway and a hat from a local boutique, Aoife impressed judges and secured a prize worth €2,000.
Speaking after her victory, Aoife credited her boyfriend, Mike, with her sartorial success.
"I pulled it together this morning," she said. "I asked my boyfriend. I gave him the three options I had, and he said to go for the all-white option."
Mike said jokingly: "I played a central role."
It was a particularly special moment for the couple, who met at the Galway Races two years ago.
While Wednesday and Thursday of Galway week are seen as the busiest days, Friday is becoming ever more popular.
Among the race-goers were members of the Connacht Rugby Team, who were taking a breather after training.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, local players Ronan Loughney and Tiernan O'Halloran said the day at the races was a great distraction.
"We trained early this morning, and did a few hours," Ronan said.
"We've had four weeks of hard training, so we deserve a day at the races."
They were joined by coach Pat Lam and teammates Bundee Aki, John Muldoon and Matt Healy.
"There's always a great buzz around," Ronan added. "For ourselves, it's an opportunity to have a drink with some of the new lads and to show them the Galway Races.
"There are guys from New Zealand and there are guys from Dublin who have never experienced the Galway Races. It's a chance to really show them so they can see what the atmosphere is like at this time of year."
Meanwhile, Lam said he was impressed with what Ballybrit had to offer.
"When I first got here all my neighbours and all the guys talked to me about was the Galway Races," he said.
"Since then I've come down and supported it - whether it's events or charities. I went with friends and I brought my parents down last year."
Also in attendance were 2fm presenter Lottie Ryan and Mr Ireland, Darren King, who were judging the best-dressed competition.
A regular at the races, Darren said he had worked for the competition in a very different capacity before.
"The last few years I was handing out pens and papers, and now I'm a judge!" he said. "It's a big change for me."
The celebrations continued on the track, particularly in the feature race, where Golden Spear pipped the competition to the post with jockey Leigh Roche.
The AJ Martin-trained five-year-old sped ahead of favourites such as the Aga Khan's Alveena, with jockey Pat Smullen in the saddle.
However, bookies said they were anxious after a particularly difficult week.
Féilim Mac An Iomaire, a spokesman for Paddy Power, said: "We burst out of the blocks on the first day of the festival but we couldn't hold the pace, and the punters almost edged us coming towards the end of the week. A full house of favourites on Friday made it a great day for betters, but we've just edged it by a hair as the festival winds down."
There had been some worry about attendance figures for this year's festival, but numbers for the fifth day were up from last year.
A total of 27,093 punters crowded around the race track, compared with 21,532 in 2015.
New course manager Michael Moloney said he was happy with turnout over the bumper week of racing.
"I suppose the weather has affected us," he said.
"So to get a massive crowd was a great achievement."