Galway Races kick off in style as fashionable fans come out in force
The Galway Races got off to a galloping start as throngs of racing fans made the pilgrimage west for their annual blow-out at the Ballybrit racecourse.
An unexpected smattering of sunshine helped elevate spirits around the course as attendees got ready to saddle up for a week of studying the form and forgetting the nine-to-five grind.
This year saw organisers revamping the annual event, erecting a new festival village complete with shopping, a "selfie wall" and a festival bar where the party started from early on.
Stylish ladies braved the elements in colourful ensembles as they made the trek to the champagne tent to catch up with friends and show off their carefully-planned outfits.
Despite the hefty price of €115 for a bottle of champers, racegoers thronged the area from early on, with a supervisor saying they were "booked solidly" for the week as proof that the feel-good factor is back. Around the course, the air of excitement was palpable as punters waited for the first race of the day to get proceedings under way.
Despite increased security checks and a more visible garda presence around the track, there were no reports of any delays entering the venue.
There were some familiar faces in attendance for day one - including former Rose of Tralee, Maria Walsh, who revealed she was enjoying a far more glamorous day than previous years.
"I used to work in the carvery across the way there and now I'm allowed dress up and pretend that I'm a professional," she said.
"I was a wonderful table cleaner and server and I loved it. I'd be like 'come on lads and give me some tips' and run across the road and bet when one shouldn't be betting. And then lose all the money I made that summer."
Today FM presenter Hector O hEochagain was praying to his lucky stars that a horse that he had an interest in would do the business in the fourth race of the day. He was pacing around the parade ring more nervously than his entrant Delegating, the horse owned by the Michael O'Callaghan Racing Club, of which he is a member. Unfortunately, the horse placed third - but Hector still has a week of festival fun to look forward to.
"It's the buzz you're waiting for all year," he said when asked what made Galway so special. "We're very lucky. I've been living here for over 20 years, I call it the San Francisco of Europe. This is the week when Las Vegas comes to town."
He also had some tips for surviving the week.
"A 24-pack of Solpadeine," he said. "They ask you a lot of questions, like 'have you taken this before?' Just say 'no, I'm going to Galway'."
The feature race of the day was won by the 16/1 entry Whiskey Sour, the Willie Mullins-trained mount.
Day one was a great day for bookies as punters took a hammering with only one of the favourites winning.
"It was probably one of the best opening days in Ballybrit history," said Leon Blanche of Boylesports.