Tuesday 21 January 2020

All mud slinging aside, feel-good factor gets clean bill of health

Brian McDonald

FROM the slime to the ridiculous.

Galway city on the morning after Ladies' Day is not a pretty picture. Did the sight of six shapely young things stripped to their underwear and fighting dirty down by the Spanish Arch surely mean that the bonhomie of Race Week had been taken a little too far?

Not a bit of it. The muddy lovelies were doing their bit to promote a betting website.

Welcome to day five of the festival.

Just 24 hours earlier, two others masquerading as lovelies among the near-45,000 crowd at Ballybrit had also created quite a stir.


The drag queens with their blonde tresses had been posing with contestants in the Best Dressed competition at Ladies' Day before being approached by racecourse officials and asked to leave. They were both working for the same gambling website, BetPack.com.

Among the others who avoided the crowds at the racetrack were the standard bearers of the Fine Gael party. More than the odd eyebrow had been raised in Galway at the absence of FG heavies in the enclosures all week.

Brian Cowen, Bertie Ahern and Albert Reynolds all paid high-profile visits to the track, as did Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore. The Greens just don't do racing, but the Fine Gael troops? Busy plotting as usual.

They turned up in large numbers at the Galway Greyhound Stadium where they held a fundraiser for the party, raking in a handy €10,000. Mind you, Enda didn't quite make it, but frontbenchers Phil Hogan, Jimmy Deenihan and Frank Feighan headed up the event.

Centre-piece of the night was the members draw for a prize of €1,500. It went to Kilkenny senator John Paul Phelan.

Fine Gael councillor Padraig Conneely said: "While the Fianna Fail lads were up in Ballybrit looking for their lost tent and losing money on the horses, we showed a nice profit from our own night at the dogs. Clearly, we should be in charge of the country's finances."

One hesitated to inform the Galway councillor that up to 2008, when the tent was demolished by Brian Cowen, the FF fundraiser was pulling in a weekly profit of €140,000.

"Ah, but there wasn't a developer in sight at our bash," was the councillor's indignant reply.

At Ballybrit last night there was no love lost as hundreds of unattached 20, 30 and 40-somethings turned up for Ireland's largest ever singles party on the second floor of the Killanin stand. The joint promotion by racecourse management and dating site AnotherFriend.com proved a TGIF hit with those still standing after Ladies Day. A €25 ticket gained entry to the course and to the party, as well as a complimentary drink and a €5 Tote betting voucher.

There is, of course, some serious form at Ballybrit for those looking to get hooked up. Property developer Sean Dunne and former gossip columnist Gayle Killilea famously met at the Galway Races, as did Ireland's top trainer Aidan O'Brien and his wife Ann Marie. And leading jump jockey Barry Geraghty hit it off with wife-to-be Paula Heaphy also at Ballybrit in 2004.

On the track, trainer Charlie Swan and 17-year-old jockey Joseph O'Brien, son of trainer Aidan, were the toast of the Rathcoffey racing syndicate as their purchase, Rajik, ran away with the featured €65,000 Guinness Handicap.

The celebrations continued late into the night as they did at the annual Race Ball hosted by Grainne Seoige in the Radisson Blu Hotel. Guests included Rosanna Davison and racing personalities Mick Kinane, Ruby Walsh, Nina Carberry, Dermot Weld, Willie Mullins, Tom Cooper and the Forpadydeplasterer syndicate.

The ball raised €25,000 for local charities.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News