And they're off ... delight for Jessica and Ruby as the festival fun begins
AS the Galway Races kicked off, it was a day of high emotion for some.
Trainer Jessica Harrington and daughter Kate (25) teamed up to fulfill a long-held dream to win the main race of the day, the Connacht Hotel Handicap, on Modem. The young jockey had been placed in the same race three times before but never took the crown.
But her delight at the win was tinged with sadness that her beloved dad, Johnny, who died last year, wasn't there to enjoy the moment.
"It's amazing, I just can't believe it's happened. I will say I wish my late father was here to see it because I don't think he'd believe that I'd actually won it," she said.
The start of race week was also bittersweet for racecourse manager John Moloney, who was beginning his final year at the helm since 1989. He said he was looking forward to overseeing his last races in charge.
"Next year, I can enjoy it as a visitor. I expect this week will feel the same for me as the first races did, but I'm delighted to be handing it over to my son. It's in safe hands," he said.
But for Isabella (5) and Elsa (4) Walsh it was a day of pure delight. Not only did their dad Ruby take the first win of the day on Bachasson, but the girls celebrated with new binoculars.
"They've been coming here for a few years now to watch their dad. They love coming to Galway, and the binoculars are keeping them busy. We're just travelling up and down from home for the day, but we'll probably come back on Saturday," said mum Gillian.
And among the real winners were the local businesses.
Therese Geoghegan closed her bridal business for the week, transporting the entire enterprise to the Ballybrit Racecourse.
"I'd been thinking about doing it for a few years but this is the first time. We just closed up the shop for a week and shipped out here.
"We've had 30 in so far and it's just the first day," she said.
While Monday is usually quiet in fashion stakes, this year fashionistas were out of the stalls early, with rogue hats gusting across the racecourse more often than horses.
Fashion blogger Rebecca Casserly and her model sister Stephanie were keeping a close eye on the ensembles and an even closer eye on their own headpieces.
"We're wearing hats by Mark Garvey and we'll have a different one each day if we can just find enough pins," said Rebecca.