herald

Sunday 22 April 2018

Punters under starter's orders for a feast of racing at Galway

Ladies Day is always a winner at Galway.
Ladies Day is always a winner at Galway.

The Galway Races have been given a fresh make-over - with an on-trend selfie wall, the first-ever Zorbing Derby and a new Festival Village serving up craft beer.

There's just two days to go before one of the biggest events in the Irish racing calendar gallops into action, with thousands of Dubliners getting ready to saddle up and make the annual pilgrimage out west.

This year has seen organisers overhauling the event with the addition of several new attractions, including a shopping area, a festival space with large screens and live entertainment, and a grass-covered selfie wall.

Success

Galway Races committee chairperson Peter Allen said it was vital to keep things contemporary to ensure the event's continued success.

"You have to keep giving people something new," he said.

Ruby Walsh and Clondaw Warrior after winning last year’s Galway Hurdle PA
Ruby Walsh and Clondaw Warrior after winning last year’s Galway Hurdle PA

"It becomes boring when everything's the same. People lose interest you have to keep moving with the times."

This year has seen the corporate areas sell out in advance for the first time ever, with huge advance ticket sales indicating a busy week ahead when things kick off on Monday.

Mr Allen reckons it's part of the "feel-good factor" that appears to be dominating events this summer. He is expecting a higher attendance figure than last year. "I think people are a lot more confident in their future. They feel their jobs are more secure," he said. "Multi-nationals are hiring people instead of letting them go. People are happier and feel they have a future in Ireland now."

The week-long racing festival will kick off with an opening ceremony with the theme of Gather Your Tribe, which is aimed at encouraging locals to support the event.

With nearly €1m in prize-money up for grabs over the course of the week, the racing highlights will be the Galway Plate and the Guinness Galway Hurdle.

Worth an estimated €60m to the local economy, 150,000 people are expected to attend over the course of the week, with some 30,000 expected on Thursday alone.

Effort

The social highlight of the week will be Ladies Day, which will be judged by Aoibhin Garrihy and Baz Ashmawy.

It's worth making the effort - there's a €10,000 prize up for grabs for the best dress, while the Best Hat wins €2,000.

"If we are to be honest in the racing world, few people go purely for the racing," Mr Allen said. "It's more about having a good day out, catching up with your friends, having a good time in a place with a good atmosphere and nice facilities."

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