“If we had any sense we’d be getting one of those jackets,” said a girl with a dramatically plunging neckline to her friend with the sky-high hem. Both of them were shivering as they passed the retail tent with its selection of imminently sensible waterproof garments.
Proper attire for a day like this, to be sure.
But her friend just laughed. Everybody knows you don’t dress “appropriately” at the Galway Races – you just dress “for the races”, come what may.
The rain was bound to come eventually. Typically miserable, Galway, slanty rain, and with it a wind that ballooned the bin bags and sent people diving for the covered areas before the racing had even started.
“Hopefully this bit of drizzle will clear soon,” the announcer said optimistically over the speakers, going on to remind us how good the weather had been at Ballybrit over the preceding days.
No help at all to anyone in a little off-the-shoulder number, a bejewelled headband or a blow dry that had taken an hour in the hairdressers that morning.
And if it was soft to yielding for the horses, you could double the reaction time for heels, skidding about all over the tarmac.
How were they going to manage?
“We don’t know,” said Sarah Kearney and Hazel Lane, both from Ballinderreen, Co Galway, and dressed very stylishly in little colourful dresses and, like most other young women, no jackets.
“We weren’t expecting rain with the week we’ve had,” Sarah said.
The plan was to stick to the bars and “throw a few bets on”.
Done up to the nines were Orlagh White, Lucy Fitzgerald, Emma Connolly and Ava Austin, all from Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary.
They had made the journey by car in their finery, arriving to the kind of weather no stylish racegoer wants to see – and nobody had a jacket. “We have a few brollies, though,” said Lucy.
There was a style competition on – Friday’s Most Stylish, sponsored by Athlone Town Centre.
Judge Marietta Doran said she had considered the forecast before dressing that morning, opting for a trouser suit.
When she and fellow judge, RTÉ presenter Bláthnaid Treacy, were looking for their winner, they were seeking someone “colourful, fun and someone who stands out from the crowd”.
That person was Sarah McDermott from Newbridge, Co Kildare, who was celebrating on the double, having got engaged last Sunday in Killarney.
She was wearing a yellow and pink floral-print blazer and shorts by Kevan Jon with a dramatic sequinned headpiece by Australian designer Rebecca Share, teamed with a pink Prada bag borrowed from a friend and studded stilettos from Kildare Village.
She had debated earlier whether to go along because her feet were still sore after Ladies’ Day on Thursday, and the weather didn’t help.
“But I had the outfit, so I said we’d come for a few hours,” she said.
Friday is always the “let the hair down day” at Galway, and it was no different this year. The crowds might have been smaller than in pre-pandemic times, but the mood was good despite the rain, and the racing well worth watching for some solid classics.
The winner of the Galway Blazers – named in honour of the famous hunt – was Rachael Blackmore on Gabbys Cross. It was her first win after a frustrating week in Galway, with her boyfriend, Brian Hayes, having already had a win, steering Rembrandt’jac to victory on Ladies’ Day.
Mud-spattered and triumphant afterwards, she said: “My lad stuck at it really well and it was fantastic.”
The big race was the Guinness Handicap won by Sionnach Eile at 9/1, with Gary Carroll on board – on the back of three victories in Naas during the week.