Punters ready for the off at Galway
Annual Tribal gathering to attract 150,000 but conditions could prove tricky
The prolonged heatwave might have been replaced in untimely fashion by squally rain showers, but the annual Galway revelry is expected to get under way with typically large crowds in Ballybrit this evening.
While attendances at the week-long gala are a fraction of what they were during the boom, the time-honoured mystique of the Galway Races continues to lure hordes of people west. Recession or no, in the region of 150,000 racegoers will again populate the suburban venue, before marching en masse on the Tribal City's famous cobbled streets into the wee small hours.
Prize money for the week will top €1.6m, and the hard-working course executive, headed by racecourse manager John Moloney, has again succeeded in defying the general trend that prevails in the current economic climate by securing sponsorship for each of the 52 scheduled races, with Dermot Weld backed to feature prominently in many of them.
Up to €1.5m of punters' hard-earned cash could pass through the various on-course betting platforms, though the quest for winners may not have been helped by the changing weather.
Having been artificially irrigated to maintain the quality of grass cover during the heatwave, the ground is now quite soft after persistent showers hit the track since the watering process was concluded this day last week.
Conditions for Flat racing are officially described as yielding, yielding to soft in places, with the jump courses predominantly good, good to yielding in places.
"We had a couple of heavy showers on Saturday but it has been fine here since," Moloney said yesterday. "We could still get the odd shower but (today) is supposed to be mainly dry. I'd imagine the Flat boys will probably find the ground on the slow side of good, whereas it should be perfect for the jumps races."
Following the change in going, the main mover in the ante-post markets last night was Willie Mullins' soft ground-loving Terminal for Wednesday's big feature, the www.thetote.com Galway Plate.
Although still available in a couple of places at prices of up to 10/1, the likely mount of Ruby Walsh (above) is now as low as 7/1 to secure his peerless rider a third victory in the €200,000 chase.