Galway Races: And they’re off... earlier start for thousands of punters
THOUSANDS of punters hoping for a successful flutter are arriving at the Galway Races this afternoon for the opening day of the festival.
Organisers scheduled an earlier start time of 4pm in order to accommodate RTE's coverage of the Olympics.
Monday is traditionally considered a local day at the races with most of the crowd expected to be from Galway and the area.
Also joining the crowds today are some of the country's top soccer and rugby stars, including Ireland and Wolverhampton player Stephen Hunt, Leinster’s Eoin Reddan and Munster’s Legend David Wallace.
They will join Today’s FM’s sports commentator Paul Collins to give their views on the races and the ones to watch.
Also making a splash are the hundreds of brides taking part in the special charity race for Special Olympics Connacht.
The event will see them don their dresses once again for a race over one furlong.
Manager of Galway Racecourse John Maloney says there is a mixed weather forecast for the week – but he expects high attendance figures for some of the highlights such as Ladies Day and the Guinness Galway Hurdle on Thursday.
While the Galway races attract everyone from fashionistas to horse fanatics, they all have one thing in common according to Mr Maloney.
“Everyone who comes to the races, no matter who they are, they want to back a winner. A lot of people coming here might have no real interest in horses but they all want to back that winner,” he said. He added that his money will be on 'Follow the Plan' on Wednesday.
City businesses are hoping that the huge crowds traditionally drawn to the Galway Races will continue with expectations that it could bring €60m into the local economy.
The 47 food outlets on site are also hoping for a bumper week but are hedging their bets on the weather with everything from ice cream to warm drinks on offer.
However, hotels enjoying yet another bumper festival have been warned by Minister for Tourism Michael Ring to avoid “price gouging”.
Mr Ring urged local hoteliers to maintain the reasonable pricing policy that they agreed to for this year’s Volvo Ocean Race for the races. His comments came after some hotels in Galway doubled their room prices for race week.