Wednesday 17 October 2018

Racing to Galway for great craic at the track

High rollers, high jinks and high fashion - just some of the highlights of the shenanigans at Ballybrit this week.

While yet again most of the interest focused on the Fianna Fail tent, it was interesting to note that Bertie himself only put in an appearance on Tuesday evening and briefly on Wednesday.

Bertie insisted that it wasn't only builders who were in the Fianna Fail tent but that there were also "shopkeepers and mechanics". What chopper owners like Patrick Rocca, Gerry Gannon, Sean Mulryan, Frank O'Kane, Bill Cullen etc will make of that description is something else. Some people said they had never seen so many choppers in one place!

Bernard McNamara had his usual table, as did Mick Bailey. And Sean Dunne was back again too. He and Gayle Killilea are jetting off to Barbados for a bit of rest and relaxation where, even though it's certainly out of season now, I'm sure they'll enjoy the island.

Tom Moran, president and chief executive officer of Mutual of America Insurance, had a group of guests from the US in the tent on Tuesday evening who all enjoyed their first visit to the legendary festival.

Albert Reynolds and his family based themselves in the panoramic dining room high up on the stand with amazing views of the track. Of course, they come to see the horses run, just like JP McManus and his guests who also had a table nearby.

Michael Smurfit travelled from Ashford Castle each day. Ashford was the headquarters for some of the top bookies and for some bemused Americans who had never quite experienced anything like Ballybrit before.

Highlight of the week for many was octogenarian Paddy Mullins's victory on Wednesday when the legendary trainer won the Galway Plate. Very much the quiet, country gentleman, perhaps Paddy sums up how much racing has changed in this country.

And when it comes to dressing for the races on Ladies' Day, well literally anything goes now. I guess one has to have a sense of humour and see the funny side of it as 'wimmin' wearing everything from their nighties to the contents of their fruit and vegetable racks pose and prance around the track all day.

The heady day out is fuelled by copious quantities of champagne leaving many of them tired and emotional at the end of the afternoon.

But Niamh O'Donovan from Gort certainly got it right, sporting a snappy black dress with a red wrap and an amazing red hat with black trimming. She was one of a number of gals who looked stunning.

An evening of fun and fashion When it comes to stamina, there's definitely something in the air over in the west during Galway race week. In addition to draining lakes of champagne at Ballybrit during the day, the punters still have the energy for more drinks, more food and even more punting at the many card schools in the city's hotels.

And then there are those who packed the guna nua for last night's big bash at the Radisson, which has been party central all week. When figures are totalled, it looks like in excess of ?100,000 was raised last night at the very glamorous Galway Race Ball in association with the Galway Radisson SAS hotel. This highly successful charity event benefits three charities this year - Galway Hospice Foundation, Cancer Care West and Cope.

Grainne Seoige hosted the evening and looked stunning in a fabulous maroon gown and jewellery by Otazu. Miriam Kelly of the Race Ball committee also looked great.

Over 700 people attended this year's event. Tommy Tiernan entertained the crowd and had them in fits of laughter. Michael Flatley and his fiancee, Lisa Murphy, created quite a stir when they showed up.

Michael Kinane, who had a hectic and hugely successful week at the Galway races, attended with Catherine. Justin Carthy of Chronicle bookmakers and Paul Collins and Jenny Kelly of Today FM also turned up.

The introduction of the Galway Crystal commemorative plate entitled 'Irish Racing Legends' was a great addition to the night and attracted huge interest from the true racing aficionados present. Some of the greatest race horses' names are included on the plate - Istabraq, Rock of Gibraltar, Nijinsky and Vintage Crop!

Other auction items also created a great stir. A pair of David Coulthard gloves which he wore when he won this year's Melbourne Grand Prix, an ebookers-sponsored trip to the Breeders Cup in LA in October and one of Bono's hats were all snapped up.

The ball had an Italian flavour this year with the Mionetto family, who own the famous Italian bubbly Prosecco, sponsoring the drinks reception.

Spirit, the exclusive spa at the Galway Radisson SAS hotel, provided a goodie bag of fabulous Elemis products for all the girls at the ball - sorry, boys!

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