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Umbrella is the ultimate accessory as Fair Ladies battle it out for top prize

AFTER a heavy night of champagne-filled madness, fashionistas battled the elements as they kicked off their bank holiday weekend at Ballybrit.

Despite tired bodies and sore heads, revellers picked up where they left off in the betting stakes at the track yesterday, for day five of the popular horse racing gala.

Last night's event brought wet weather throughout, however, it didn't dampen punters' spirits, as determined fillies made the most of another chance to win a Best Dressed prize.

Umbrellas were the key accessory as the Friday Fair Lady contest got under way and Dublin based Jane Higgins was the crowned winner.

The Belfast native - who wore a cream Coast dress with a navy Zara jacket and nude-colour Jimmy Choo shoes - is not a regular race goer and told the Herald she travelled to Galway "last minute".

"I'm genuinely shocked because I never come to these events, but I'll definitely have to more often now," she said.

Judged by Marietta Doran, this year's offering saw women opt for more practical style.

"The women want to dress for comfort and warmth, but also look great, so it's traditionally not as high glamour as the previous days," she said.

"The ladies never let me down and they always put in an effort."

The beauty received a shopping package courtesy of the Athlone Town Centre Shopping Centre and Sheraton Athlone Hotel.

More than 100,000 people passed through the turnstiles of Ballybrit this week.

John Moloney, manager of the racecourse, said he's pleased with the footfall.

"The betting and bookmakers figure of over €1.8m and the Tote just four thousand short of a million is great - so it's good to see racing on its way back. We're in the entertainment business and we've put on a show," he said.

The meeting kicked off at 5pm and the feature race was the €100k Guinness Handicap.

The festival continues this weekend for locals and tourists alike.

A special mass will take place at the grounds tomorrow to remember stars of the equestrian world, including late RTE broadcaster Colm Murray, who passed away in July 2013.