Monday 20 November 2017

Galway Festival A-Z: From Euro to jams and mad hatters to Yeats

Road To Riches on the way to winning last year’s Plate
Road To Riches on the way to winning last year’s Plate
Dermot Weld
Aidan O'Brien
Mick Winters
JP McManus
WB YEats
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey lists 26 of the things that make the week in Ballybrit such a special occasion for racing fans

A is for is Antique Platinum, which survived a stewards' enquiry at last year's festival to ensure a double for Pat Smullen and Dermot Weld.

B is for Best Dressed Lady. This year's competition has a new sponsor for the first time in 13 years with the Kilkenny Group coming on board. The prize is €10,000.

C is for Captain Wilson Lynch, who donated the land upon which the racetrack was built.

D is for distance. This year's track has been re-measured along the position of the innermost running rail and professionally surveyed to the nearest yard to provide more accurate race distances.

E is for Euro. This year's prize fund is €1.8m.

F is for Flame, as in Shining Flame, who was JP McManus' first winner of the Galway Plate back in 1978. The Limerick tycoon bought the horse from Wexford hurling legend Nicky Rackard.

G is for Guinness, whose sponsorship of this year's Galway Hurdle is worth €300,000, making it the richest National Hunt race ever run in Ireland.

H is for hospitality, of which there is plenty at the festival every year.

I is for international. There was just one foreign winner last year, with Brian Ellison's Baraweez winning on the Sunday.

J is for jams, as in traffic, of which you can expect plenty at another bumper festival.

K is for Keane, John B, who declared that the "Galway Races are a state of mind".

L is for length. The old bar under the Corrib Stand was anecdotally the longest bar in the world until it was replaced in 1999.

M is for Mad Hatters Day, which rewards the punter with the craziest hat.

N is for notorious. Trainers, jockeys and maybe even the horses know that the last two fences at Ballybrit are closer together than on any other race track in the world.

O is for O'Brien, Aidan. The Ballydoyle handler famously saddled the first three home in the 1995 Galway Plate.

P is for Plate. The Galway Plate is the highest profile race of the festival since the Ballybrit course opened in 1869.

Q is for quantity. The festival was extended to seven days in 1999.

R is for Road To Riches, which stormed to victory in last year's Galway Plate, winning it by 11 lengths.

S is for Shane Shortall, who brilliantly rode Road To Riches to an emphatic win.

T is for tourism. The festival is worth in excess of €55m to the Galway region. A total of 148,237 punters came through the gates last year, with that number expected to rise again.

U is for upper hand, which the jockeys and trainers will be trying to get over one another, as well as the punters over the bookies.

V is for Vastonea, which last year regained the 'Mile' crown that he had last won in 2012.

W is for Winters, as in Mick, whose mare Missunited managed to delight the Ballybrit crowd in 2013 with a heroic win in the Galway Hurdle for the second year running.

X is for (e)xtra train and bus services that are usually required, given the large crowds that flock to the west coast racing festival.

Y is for Yeats who in 1908 wrote a poem entitled 'At Galway Races' after spending a day at the festival.

Z is for zzzzz, what everyone will need when the week-long festival is over.

Irish Independent

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