July 30, 2012 Leave a comment
The Olympic Games might well be underway but that will be nowhere near enough to stop the best part of 250,000 racing fans from both sides of the Irish Sea heading Galway Races this week for the annual seven day Summer Festival at the Ballybrit Racecourse.
The Streets of Galway after Racing…
Situated on the outskirts of GalwayCity, the Racecourse has been hosting the Summer Festival since it first began in 1869 and has seen it convert into a pilgrimage for many. They go each year to witness the best of both the Irish National Hunt and Irish Flat Racing and do so with the word “Party” very much in mind. They love the racing, of course they do, but the atmosphere engendered during the festival is every bit as important. I was lucky enough to go in 2010 and the scenes on Quay Street in the evenings after the racing was often more akin to Magaluf than those you’d expect from a crowd of racegoers!
Race after race ensues, from the first day, Monday 30th July (this year) until the final day on Sunday 5th August. Some days the racing takes place during the day while on others, evening meetings are the order. This allows for a little breathing space during the week.
Whilst the horses are doing their utmost on the course, the army of entertainers are doing the same off it. Horse racing to a backdrop of traditional music and dance is guaranteed to create the party atmosphere the festival is famed for. Laughter, cheer, song, and dance are common practices of all at the Festival, as is the optimism of punters who rarely show fear when backing their selections. Fashion these days also plays a very important role at the Festival and this year, Ladies Day is on Thursday 2nd August.
In all, there are 51 races spread over the seven days, with a feature race being held each day. However, the Festival of course first came into prominence with the emergence of the ‘Galway Plate’ one of the most famous handicap National Hunt races in Ireland. This is the feature race of the entire week and it takes place on Wednesday, August 1st (Day 3).
The ‘Plate’ was won in 2011 by Blazing Tempo, trained by Willie Mullins, and he could be in the field once again this time around. That said, Mullins has the more fancied Blackstairmountain as his main representative and could run Blazing Tempo in the Galway Hurdle the following day. There was only one entry from the UK, which is a pity as the race has been won by both Phillip Hobbs and Paul Nicholls in the recent past. This time, the UK National Hunt interest will be represented by Made In Time, trained in South Wales by Rebecca Curtis.
Top of the support bill on the racecards is the Galway Hurdle, which takes place on Ladies Day. This race is almost certain to be one of the most competitive of the week, with virtually the entire field in with chances of some description. Amongst the favourites will be the Donald McCain trained, Lexi’s Boy, who will be looking to emulate stablemate Overturn who won this great race in 2010.
It is impossible to close an article on the Galway Festival without mentioning the great Dermot Weld, his training success’s at the Summer Festival are beyond legendary they are beyond belief. Last year the County Kildare trainer his the target 17 times bettering his previous best of 11 by 6. 17 winners of course represents one third of all the entire racecard and whilst he might struggle to get too close to that this year, he is certain to finish top trainer and is the man as always, to follow.