Spending down and this year punters won't go to the ball
EVEN the Mecca of summer racing is feeling the pinch.
While attendances at Ballybrit have been holding up well in the face of the recession -- a credit to the marketing efforts of Team Race Week -- spending at the racetrack and across the western capital is down.
With less money in their pockets, punters are noticeably more interested in value for money than a summer blowout.
Not that the bookies or Tote are complaining -- their turnover in Galway is in multiples of any other week's racing anywhere else in the country.
By the time the last race is run on Sunday, total betting turnover at the track is expected to top €17m, down from €18.8m last year.
Among the casualties of the downturn is the annual Race Ball. The glitzy affair was a big money-spinner for charity on the Friday evening of Race Week.
The black-tie ball attracted leading figures from the world of horse racing and the usual mix of politicians and celebrities.
But the Race Ball Committee has decided that the wisest course of action, in the current economic climate, is to cancel this year's event.
In a statement, the committee thanked sponsors and supporters who had attended over the past 10 years, raising more than €500,000 for various charities.
"The committee has always endeavoured to provide a five-star event at a reasonable price," the statement said. "However, despite our best efforts, the team was unable to assemble an offering of this kind in the current year.
"The team is currently reviewing a number of scenarios for 2012 and we are inviting suggestions on our Facebook page or website."
Helicopter landings at the track over the seven days of racing are expected to total about 70 -- a far cry from the Celtic Tiger days when a record 320 landings were recorded on Ladies Day alone.
But the big week is still worth more than €50m to the local economy, with hotels and restaurants accounting for much of the spend.
"The crowds are good again this year and people are still coming in big numbers," Ardilaun House Hotel managing director John Ryan said.
"The spend is down a little, but that's the way it is for the country as a whole -- people are looking for value for money.