IT'S regarded as the biggest social occasion of the year when all head west for a week of racing, high fashion and frolics.
The seven-day Galway racing bonanza at Ballybrit will play host to over 150,000 racing fans, with bookies already predicting turnover to exceed last year.
A number of celebrities will also descend on the city for the annual race pilgrimage. This evening will mark Sports Heroes evening at the track where a selection of the country's leading sports stars will be in attendance including Irish scrum half Conor Murray and Alan Quinlan.
Ladies' fashion will be to the fore come Thursday, when Ladies Day sees women descend on the track in all their glamour. Celebrity stylist Lisa Fitzpatrick is among those on the judging panel tasked with picking the best dressed. She urged those taking part to think practically and put their own personalities into their outfits.
However, as always the main attractions will be of the four legged kind as punters hope for a smile from lady luck.
The Tote jackpots for each day of racing will be €30,000 for today and tomorrow, €40,000 Wednesday and Thursday, €30,000 on Friday, while Saturday and Sunday each have a jackpot of €20,000.
Boylesports announced it is giving odds of four-to-one on racing legend Dermot Weld training a winner on all seven days of the festival. It said it was expecting a bumper year from the festival.
"Judging by the year so far, we are expecting turnover levels to exceed last year's figures as in the past six months our mobile customers have grown rapidly and continue to grow on a daily basis.
"With results favouring the punters in the last two months, which included an excellent Royal Ascot, Australia winning the Epsom Derby and the domination of Eddie Lynam's Power horses in the valuable sprints, we are expecting punters to have a betting bonanza throughout the week at Ballybrit," said Liam Glynn, PR executive at Boylesports.
Also attending the races is the Irish Injured Jockeys Roadshow, which will be in situ for the festival offering patrons information, a chance to shop Injured Jockey merchandise and donate to the fund.
Bus Eireann will operate a regular shuttle bus service from Eyre Square for everyday of the festival, while Irish Rail have added additional trains to their schedule for Wednesday and Thursday of race week.
Children under 12 will be admitted free of charge. All other youths will pay the daily student rate of €10 today, Saturday and Sunday, €15 Tues/Wed/Fri and €20 on Thursday.
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