Tuesday 6 December 2016

Raceweek rain won't ruin punters' big day out

Jane O'Faherty

Published 26/07/2016 | 02:30

Lorraine Keane shows off her style at the Galway Race meeting in Ballybrit, Co Galway. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Lorraine Keane shows off her style at the Galway Race meeting in Ballybrit, Co Galway. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ellen Finn and Niamh Mannion, both from Tuam, Co Galway, enjoyed the opening day action. Pic Steve Humphreys
Kate Lawlor, from Drumcondra, Co Dublin, at the Galway Races in Ballybrit, Co Galway. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Louise Begley from Turloughmore Galway. Pic Steve Humphreys
Karen Leonard from Tuam Galway. Pic Steve Humphreys
Gabrielle Dunne from Oranmore Galway. Pic Steve Humphreys

Dismal conditions and persistent rain over Ballybrit Racecourse promised more spills than thrills on day one of the Galway Races.

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But the wet weather didn't stop the ladies donning their glad rags as the first tests of the seven-day festival got under way.

Kate Lawlor, from Drumcondra, Co Dublin, at the Galway Races in Ballybrit, Co Galway. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Kate Lawlor, from Drumcondra, Co Dublin, at the Galway Races in Ballybrit, Co Galway. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Wednesday and Thursday are the biggest days for both racing aficionados and fashion-forward fans.

But yesterday still proved to be a glamorous get-together, with the first helicopter landing seen within an hour of the gates opening.

And the excitement continued on Ballybrit's race track as the stands heaved with crowds and punters flooded through the turnstiles.

On the course there were few surprises, with Ruby Walsh and Muthaza racing ahead to victory in the opening Radissonhotel.com and Galwaybay.com Novice Hurdle, worth €20,000.

Louise Begley from Turloughmore Galway. Pic Steve Humphreys
Louise Begley from Turloughmore Galway. Pic Steve Humphreys

Later, trainer Dermot Weld began his Galway success with a win from Right Honourable in the Claregalwayhotel.ie (C&G) European Breeders Fund Maiden, worth €16,500.

However, the biggest excitement of the day was for amateur jockey Barry Browne, who sped ahead with Swamp Fox in Monday's feature race.

Speaking after his win, Barry said the race was "definitely one of my biggest winners."

"[The race] felt a long way to me," he said. "I'm delighted I passed the line in front anyway."

Karen Leonard from Tuam Galway. Pic Steve Humphreys
Karen Leonard from Tuam Galway. Pic Steve Humphreys

But he said he'd be postponing celebrations until he completes his runs on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meanwhile, there was no waiting until Ladies' Day for some well-dressed attendees.

Corina Hynes from Sligo was all set for two days of racing action in a striking blue and pink ensemble. As Corina won't get to Ladies' Day this year, her fashionable outfit was turning heads yesterday afternoon instead.

Read more: Patrick Mullins: Muthaza is a horse that could be good enough for Cheltenham

Gabrielle Dunne from Oranmore Galway. Pic Steve Humphreys
Gabrielle Dunne from Oranmore Galway. Pic Steve Humphreys

Read more: Moloney looking to build on Galway glory

Speaking to the Irish Independent, the mother-of-four said her family had a long association with the festival. "My dad has horses, but my father-in-law, Paddy Hynes, won the Plate one year with No Tack," she said.

"I think it was about 15 or 16 years ago - a long time ago," she added.

"But it was a great occasion."

Corina said she attended the Monday and Tuesday of the festival every year, as well as race meetings in Sligo.

But she says the summer Galway meetings always have a special significance for her.

"I went to boarding school in Tuam, and I have plenty of connections with Galway," she said. "There is always a great atmosphere around, and I love it."

"We might not see all the friends for a year or few years, then we always meet here," she added.

Other spectators included TV presenter Lorraine Keane, who arrived in a red cocktail dress and Caithriona King hat. Former Kilkenny hurler Richie Power was also in the stands.

More than 160,000 spectators are set to flock to the Ballybrit Racecourse over the seven-day festival, which is Ireland's highest-attended equestrian event.

It is estimated that one tonne of chips, 4,000 hot beef rolls and 160,000 pints will be consumed by Sunday's conclusion.

There will also be some more glamorous guzzling, with thousands of bottles of champagne expected to be purchased throughout the week.

Meanwhile, Ballybrit can expect to welcome as many as 120 helicopter landings.

There will be plenty of reason to party, with €1.9m prize money up for grabs.

But the real victor is set to be the city itself, with this year's event set to contribute some €54m to the local economy.

For Galway girl Karen Leonard, the races are a must-see annual event.

"From planning your outfit to meeting up with friends you haven't seen in ages, it's just a lovely get-together," she said. "It's like Christmas, but in the summertime and a bit more heat," she added.

Karen (32) also highlighted the influence of the Galway festival, which she said far exceeds the boundaries of the course.

"You'd think that it's all about coming out here to Ballybrit Racecourse," she said.

"But when you go back out to town in the evening, there's so much entertainment for both young and old," she added.

And the locals weren't the only ones gleefully anticipating the beginning of the festival.

Liam Glynn of Boylesports said he reckons the Irish bookmaker will turn over some €12m throughout the week, and expects Wednesday and Thursday to be the busiest days.

"Dermot Weld's record at the festival is outstanding and his runners throughout the week will be massive liabilities for the firm," he said.

"However it's a seven-day marathon and not a sprint for punters, so let's just say 'bring it on'. We are open for business."

Irish Independent

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