The 150th Galway Racing Festival gets underway today.

Horse pass the Killanan stand at Ballybrit. Photo credit: Shane Tighe

Ireland’s biggest racing festival gets underway at the Ballybrit course this evening. The festival is in it’s 150th year and bumper crowds are expected to attend the races over the next seven days.

Over the last ten years the attendences have fallen away from the pr-crash peak of 216,942 in 2006. Last years combined seven day attendence figures were over 80,000 down from that record. However, very wet and windy conditions contributed to a fall in casual punters attending the races. This years weather forecast for the week is much more promising and Thursday, traditionally the best attended day, promises to be a scorcher.

Today’s races start with an opening ceremony on what has been themed the ‘Gather Your Tribe’ day as the Galway Tenors will perform in the Parade Ring before the first race. The first of seven races on today’s card gets underway at 5:20pm. The full schedule for the week is posted at the bottom of the article.

Tuesday is ‘Sports & Social Day’ at Ballybrit, it’s also an evening meeting and the action starts at 5:20pm. But it should be worth arriving early as the ‘Paddy Power Zorbing Challenge’ takes place prior to the first race. The fundraiser in aid of the injured jockies fund features five compeditiors pitting their wits against each other, Ollie Canning, the defending champion, will be back to defend his title. The feature race of the day is the Colm Quinn BMW mile Handicap, with a prize pot of €120,000 it’s sure to be keenly contested.

Wednesday in Galway is synonymous with it’s feature race, this year is the 150th running of the famous event. The 2 mile, 6 furlong & 111yds Galway Plate was first contested 1869 and has taken place every year since, with the exception of 1922 when the meeting was postponed due to the outbreak of the Irish Civil War. There are fourteen fences to clear before  the tape and the last jumps, situtated three furlong from the finish, at only 70 yards apart are the two clostest fences of any racecourse in the world.

Thursday in Galway is all about the style, as ‘Ladies Day’ takes centre stage. Traditionally the best attended day of the meet, ladies day sees the prizefund for the ‘best dressed’ & ‘best hat’ being as keenly contested as the action out on the track. The eight races of the day are all sponsored by Guinness, with the feature race being the ‘Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap’ which has a lucrative prize fund of €300,000.

Friday’s theme is ‘Most Stylish’ and this meeting has grown in popularity over the last number of years, with many attendees using it as a starting point for a Bank Holiday weekend in the west. Guinness once again sponsor all 7 races on Friday’s card.

‘Social Saturday’ is the second of the weeks 3 day time meetings, with the first race off at 2pm. It’s traditionally the family day of the meeting, with all children admitted free of charge.

The final day of the festival is ‘Mad Hatters Day’, once again children go free in on Sunday. Action gets underway at 2:10pm and the tape drops for the 8th and last race on the day, and the 52th of the festival, at 6pm.

(Times indicate start of first and last races)

Monday 29th July – 5:20pm-8:40pm, 7 races

Tuesday 30th July – 5:20pm-8:15pm, 7 races

Wednesday 31st July – 5:10pm-8:30pm, 7 races

Thursday 1st August – 2pm-6pm, 8 races

Friday 2nd August – 5:10pm-8:25pm, 7 races

Saturday 3rd August – 2pm-5:55pm, 8 races

Sunday 4th August – 2:15pm-6pm, 8 races



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