Galway Races begin on wave of emotion as Ruby's kids cheer on dad
Their dad may have taken the first scalp at the Galway Races with an easy win, but for Ruby Walsh's young daughters the highlight of the day was their new binoculars and a bun.
Isabella (5) and Elsa (4) Walsh were keeping an eagle eye out for dad Ruby as he won in the first race with Bachasson.
"They've been coming here for a few years now to watch their dad. They love coming to Galway and the binoculars are keeping them busy. We're just travelling up and down from home for the day, but we'll probably all come back down on Saturday," said mum Gillian.
However, dad's victory was not the only highlight of the day, with Isabella revealing: "We LOVE Galway, we got a bun."
As the Galway Races kicked off yesterday, it proved a day of high emotion.
Trainer Jessica Harrington and daughter Kate (25) teamed up to win the main race of the day, the Connacht Hotel Handicap, on Modem.
Jockey Kate had been placed in the same race three times before, but had never taken the crown.
However, her delight at the win was tinged with sadness that her beloved dad Johnny, who died last year, wasn't there to enjoy the moment.
"It's amazing, I just can't believe it's happened. I wish my father was here, I don't think he'd believe that I'd actually won it," she said.
The modest jockey also admitted she was just glad one of the women took glory.
"Going into the straight it was the three girls, so as long as it was one of us," she said.
The start of race week was also bittersweet for racecourse manager John Moloney, who was beginning his final year at the helm.
He said he was looking forward to overseeing his last races in charge.
"Next year I can enjoy it as a visitor. I expect this week will feel the same for me as the first races did, but I'm delighted to be handing it over to my son. It's in safe hands," he said.
As the rain stayed away, numbers were up for the first day of racing. And among the real winners were local businesses.
Therese Geoghegan closed up her bridal business for the week, transporting the entire enterprise to the Ballybrit racecourse.
"I'd been thinking about doing it for a few years. We just closed up the shop and shipped out here," she said. "We've had 30 in so far and it's just the first day.
"One girl had only got engaged last week, so she was delighted to see us," said Therese.
While punters were wondering if there would be a week of wins for 'The King of Ballybrit' Dermot Weld, the first scalp went to Willie Mullins. However, he wasn't counting his chickens for the rest of the week.
"It might be the only one, but anyway," he said.
Asked if he might take the Ballybrit crown from Weld this year, Mullins was staying circumspect. "I don't think I have enough numbers, but we have a few nice horses. We've nice chances in the big races," he added.
Bookies were left on the back foot thanks to early wins by Bachasson and True Solitaire, but they clawed back the advantage with the feature race.
"It was all on the line in the feature and thankfully Modem got us off the hook by seeing off Ted Veale to leave it all to play for in the coming days," said Féilim Mac An Iomaire, a spokesperson for Paddy Power.
While Monday is usually quiet in the fashion stakes, this year fashionistas were out of the stalls early, with rogue hats gusting across the racecourse more often than horses.
Fashion blogger Rebecca Casserly and her model sister Stephanie were keeping a close eye on the ensembles - and an even closer eye on their own headpieces.
"We're wearing hats by Mark Garvie and we'll have a different one each day if we can just find enough pins. There's a lot of jumpsuits so people are dressing for the weather," said Rebecca.
Catwalk Model Agency owner Mandy Maher, who will be casting her expert eye over racegoers for the Kilkenny Best Dressed Lady prize on Thursday, said she expected coats and capes to be the order of the day.