Racegoers brace themselves as torrential showers set to pour on Galway Races
RACEGOERS are being advised to bring anoraks and umbrellas to Ballybrit today, as torrential showers are expected to pour for the remainder of the afternoon.
Organisers and volunteers arrived at 10am to the venue this morning and unlike the past two days, were kitted out from head to toe in wind breakers and wet gear.
Met Eireann are predicting heavy rain, with a risk of localised flooding and highest temperatures will be between 16 and 20 degrees.
Attendance was up by 4,000 yesterday, however with the persistent rainfall on day three of the horse racing gala, numbers are likely to be down – with the majority of revellers taking shelter in the stands and corporate boxes.
However, interest will not be dampened as punters place their bets on the main event, the Galway Plate, at 5.30, with jockey Ruby Walsh on-board the much fancied Terminal.
President Michael D Higgins is also scheduled to arrive ahead of the first race at 3pm, to attend a VIP lunch.
Meanwhile off-duty priests and midwives were among the thousands of punters mingling at the Galway Races on day two yesterday.
Making the most of the event were seven childhood friends from Thurles, Co Tipperary, who travelled home from as far as Australia for an impromptu school reunion.
"We'll all be back in the maternity ward come Ladies' Day, so we decided to make this our own," nurse Noelle Green said.
"We've never been racing in Galway either, so it just seemed like a good way to all meet and catch up," added Tara Johnson, who flew back from Perth.
Also on a "work night out" was Chicago-born priest Shane Sullivan, savouring his first ever race day in Galway.
The 27-year-old priest moved to Ireland last year to take on his first assignment in a parish in Tuam and was accompanied by colleague, Fr Fintan Monaghan.
Meanwhile, Topaz ambassador and former Munster rugby player, Alan Quinlan (39), was recovering from the party in Toulouse for Paul O'Connell's wedding last weekend. The retired flanker spoke of his delight at seeing his old team-mates.
"Obviously a lot of us keep in contact but it was great to get all the players together and it was a beautiful weekend for Paul and Emily," he said.
Quinlan, who considers the night life in Galway as fun as the racing itself, was in attendance for the main event, the Topaz Mile Handicap, which boasted prize money of €115,000.
Spotted in the parade ring were RTE presenters Hector O hEochagain and Marty Morrissey, who left with two wins at the end of the day.
Former Fianna Fail politician Ray MacSharry was also enjoying the festivities. With a makeshift car park where the famous Fianna Fail tent used to be, Mr MacSharry said he didn't miss the days of excess.
"A lot of good work was done there but no I don't miss it. I always prefer to be out here among the people. Tents can get too hot here this time of the year."
There may be a noticeable absence of politicians and property developers at the festival, but the meeting is already proving a huge hit with locals.
Hayley O'Connor of Ladbrokes said that the appeal of Galway shows no sign of abating.
"Galway just seems completely resilient to the turmoil of the world economy. Our customers always earmark the week to dedicate it to the festival, punters flock to the track and the betting shops and our hospitality has been booked out since Christmas," she said.
Don't forget we have full racecards for this evening's meeting.