Galway races off to a flying start with over 150,000 visitors on way
THE hotels are booked out, tickets sales are up, and there's even an increase in the number of helicopters expected.
While perhaps not reaching boom-time levels of partying just yet, the Galway races appear to be back with a bang.
"We're expecting at least 150,000 over the week. Pre-sales are very strong this year, we're up 15pc on last year and we always do well with sales on the day," racecourse manager John Moloney said.
Mr Moloney said a big attraction this year was the increase in prize money.
"Things are good and the punters are in for a treat. The prize money is €1.8m, which is well up on last year. The Guinness Galway Hurdle is up to €300,000," he added.
Mr Moloney said they had also seen a surge in UK entries for the races. He said the numbers were slowly increasing but were still well below the numbers during the boom.
"Helicopters are on the way up. We have a few more booked in than last year. We have 20 this year, but it's still a far cry from 349 in 2007," he added.
Hotels and businesses across the city are also looking eagerly ahead to the influx of visitors.
Shay Livingstone head of Galway branch of Irish Hotels Federation said pre-bookings had exceeded all expectations with the city's 3,800 hotel rooms almost completely full.
"Some hotels were full for Race Week as far back as three months ago on certain days. It has all the hallmarks of being the best festival for many years.
"Hotels are 100pc full for the week. There are literally single digit rooms left for the whole of Galway and it is reverberating out into the county," he added.
Mr Livingstone said they were also seeing an increase in younger visitors booking in for the latter part of the week.
Bookies are also preparing for a bumper week and while the weather is supposed to stay good, many are taking bets on the outcome. Ladbrokes are giving just 9/4 on rain during racing every day of the Galway Festival, but on the bright side for punters, the odds of Dermot Weld having at least one winner each day are shorter at 2/1.
Aside from racing, the style stakes also look set to be higher than ever and broadcaster Maura Derrane will be on hand to judge this year's Best Dressed Lady competition on Thursday.
Model Roz Purcell will be another familiar face as she is on the judging panel for the Friday's Fair Lady competition.