FOR hurler Joe Canning, the Galway Races is usually a chance to drown the sorrows with a few drinks after another championship disappointment.
But this year, with the hurling semi-final just weeks away, not a drop was passing his lips.
Canning (23) admitted: "We normally get knocked out around this time so we always have the week to drown our sorrows, but thank God this year it's a bit of a different feeling coming in here."
The Portumna man was joined by his girlfriend Kathleen Horgan and his parents. And while they were enjoying the day, the hurler was on chauffeur duty.
But the star revealed that he was happy to let Kathleen enjoy the day, as she is usually the one supporting him.
"I'm sure she feels the strain of it at this moment in time, especially in the summer, but I'll treat her to a holiday around Christmas," he revealed.
Canning, who is studying marketing in the University of Limerick, added that it was a relief to take his mind of the upcoming semi-final against Cork on Sunday week.
"It's been fine the last couple of weeks with the arts festival and the races -- it kind of keeps your mind off things and relaxes you a small bit more. Obviously the next game is all we're thinking about and our biggest goal now is to try and get a performance on that," he added.
The hurling star was on hand to present the plate to jockey Mark Walsh after long-shot Bob Lingo won.
The win didn't prove popular with the punters. So few had backed the outsider that there wasn't so much as a cheer when he crossed the line. Bookies estimated that the race probably cost the punters up to €2m.
But JP McManus and his wife Noreen were delighted -- he owns the horse, and she planted a kiss on Walsh before he picked up the Galway Plate.
As the heavens opened, punters again scrambled for the cover of tarpaulin.
Five years ago the Fianna Fail tent was the talk of the town -- but yesterday the old guard failed to show.
Race track manager John Maloney wasn't wasting time reminiscing, however. When asked about the absence of Bertie Ahern, who was once a stalwart of the races in the infamous Galway tent days, he replied; "It will go on without him."
One Fianna Failer who was on hand was Tom Kitt, who was enjoying the short spell of sunshine to put on a few bets. But far from reliving the glory days, the politician cut a low profile as he mingled with the crowds.
Meanwhile, enjoying the races yesterday was AP McCoy, along with wife Chanelle and daughter Eve. He said he was excited to be taking part in the big race, but couldn't help admitting that his heart lay at Cheltenham.
"Look, there is nothing like Cheltenham, but for the time of year that it is, it's nice to have a couple of very valuable jump races. And they are well-attended and a lot of people have a lot of fun here," he said.
Things were so bad at the track yesterday that McCoy was forced to scour the track looking for a solid patch of ground on which to focus on.
"I like to walk the track and try and find out where the ground might be best and just to see the best run. The routine is always similar. When I am not injured or suspended I am probably racing seven days a week.
"Obviously there is a bit more excitement and nerves on the bigger race days."
One horse that had the ladies all in a flutter was 'Bondage' running in the 4.10, but whether or not it was as a result of saucy novel 'Fifty Shades of Grey', no one was telling.
"There was plenty of interest on him but no one mentioned the book. They were all thinking about it though," laughed one bookie.
Punters got a reprieve from rain for most of yesterday but unexpected showers still had them running for the stands.
Hundreds of women gearing up for Ladies Day were also keeping a close eye on the skies. Last week the odds on favourite colour choices were cream or white. But the torrential rain and mucky course saw those colours fall out of favour to be replaced by reds and blacks, according to Boylesports. The bookmakers were also taking bets of 20/1 that the Best Dressed Lady winner would be wearing fashionable wellies.
ALL the day's action: See sport