Rugby stars in attendance of Day One of Galway Races as Taoiseach lauds 'iconic' venue
Conor Murray, Stephen Ferris and Alan Quinlan were among those in attendance on Day One of the festival in Galway
IT’S been described by the Taoiseach as the iconic feature of the racing calendar and that proved just the case for the thousands of punters who headed West today to kick off the week of racing, high fashion and frolics.
Almost 19,000 people attended the first day of races, close to 1,000 up on last year. Over the course of the seven day festival 150,000 race fans will make their way through the turnstiles.
A host of rugby stars took a well earned break from training to enjoy the first day of the Galway Races.
Leinster and Ireland star Fergus McFadden was enjoying the races with Ireland teammates Conor Murray, David Kilcoyne and Robbie Henshaw along with Connacht player John Muldoon and his coach Pat Lam.
Former players Alan Quinlan and Stephen Ferris were also on enjoying a few bets, with the odds coming up trumps for Ferris with Michael O’Leary owned ‘McKinley’ - all thanks to a former teammate.
“I only won a few quid and I’m throwing it away pretty quickly. It as a bit of a punt. One of the lads James McKinney he’s moved by to Rotherham this year. Mark Anscombe the head coach called him McKinley for the first six weeks of pre-seaon training so we took the piss out of it for more or less the whole year and I said I’d throw ten quid on it each way. I’ve taken a picture of it for him, it’s a bit of craic,” he added.
Connacht player John Muldoon revealed that the entire squad were set to enjoy the races on Friday night and were looking forward to a few beers.
“The whole lot of us are coming and hopefully we’ll have a well earned beer or two. We’ve been pretty quiet so far so hopefully we’ll have a beer or two on Friday night and get into the swing of things and I’m looking forward to it,” he added.
In between the racing action, the thousands who descended on the race track for the opening day were on hand to see jockeys Nina Carberry and Jane Mangan as they were jointly presented with the Mary Hyde Cup for leading lady rider.
Among the crowds was Noelle Fleming from Claregalway who won the Most Appropriately Dressed Lady Competition with her outfit from Concepts in Oranmore.
Punters at the first day of the Galway Races were enjoying a New York state of mind throughout early betting.
‘Manhattan Swing’, trained by Dermot Weld was well backed for the opening day but it failed to be placed in the first race of the week. But it was Brian Ellison’s ‘Streets of New York’ that had bookies quivering.
Hayley O’Connor revealed how Ladbokes was liable for over quarter of a million euro in bets before the turnstiles had even opened. The bookies were more than a little relieved when it failed to place.
One anxious punter was holding out hope that Dermot Weld’s ‘Call Vinnie’ would do the business and net him returns of a cool €42,000 in the process. He placed a €20,000 bet on the horse at 11/10 odds but to no avail after it failed to place.