Wednesday 20 September 2017

Punters hold on to their hats for Ballybrit's last hurrah

Winner Mary Kate O'Shea at Mad Hatters Day at the Galway Races. Photo: Ray Ryan
Winner Mary Kate O'Shea at Mad Hatters Day at the Galway Races. Photo: Ray Ryan

Sean O'Grady

They came, they saw and they conquered.

Proceedings at the Galway Races drew to a close yesterday as thousands of punters descended on Ballybrit for one last hurrah.

A total of 9,874 people attended the final day of the festival, while 137,000 passed through the turnstiles over the seven days.

The hectic pace of the annual festival eased off with day seven focused on family fun.

The voice of Fr Michael Riley, Chaplin of the Galway Races, boomed through Ballybrit as he prayed gamblers would walk away happy. Despite not being a racing fan himself, he correctly predicted Dream Walker would be first past the post in the coveted Irish Stallion Farms Handicap feature race. "The Mass is popular. We've had six, seven hundred at it (before)," he said.

Day seven saw the annual Mad Hatter's competition take place with hundreds of punters struggling against the wind to keep their masterpieces in place.

Mad Hatter Lily Walsh Craughwell at the Galway Races on the last day of the Summer festival. Photo: Andrew Downes
Mad Hatter Lily Walsh Craughwell at the Galway Races on the last day of the Summer festival. Photo: Andrew Downes

The competition was won by Mary-Kate O'Shea (39), originally from Co Kilkenny and now living in Connemara, Co Galway. The former art student, who described her hat as a "creature of inspiration", walked away with flights to Lanzarote and seven nights accommo-dation for herself and her family.

"I started it on the May bank holiday. I said I'd start in advance and see where it went. This is my first time at the Mad Hatter's Day and it certainly won't be my last," she said.

Ladies' Day winner Aoife Mac Cana was back on the racecourse to enjoy the final day's proceedings. While still riding the high of coming in first place, the Galway project manager admitted it hasn't been all smooth sailing since.

"Somebody did send me a screenshot of some negativity but you know, it's not something I concern myself with," she said.

Mad Hatter Leah McEvoy with two hungry admirers. Photo: Andrew Downes
Mad Hatter Leah McEvoy with two hungry admirers. Photo: Andrew Downes

Trainer Willie Mullins looked back on the week with satisfaction.

"Trainers have confidence in Galway to produce lovely ground and Galway produces fantastic prize money as well. It's a win-win," he said.

Amy Connolly from Bullaun, Galway at the Galway Races. Photo: Andrew Downes
Amy Connolly from Bullaun, Galway at the Galway Races. Photo: Andrew Downes
Aoibheann and Saibh O'Shea from Rosaveal Galway at the Galway Races on the last day of the Summer festival. Photo: Andrew Downes
Aoibheann and Saibh O'Shea from Rosaveal Galway at the Galway Races on the last day of the Summer festival. Photo: Andrew Downes

Irish Independent

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