The Galway Races is an Irish festival that is famous as one of the best horse-racing events in the world. It starts on the last Monday of July each year and is held at Ballybrit race course in Galway, Ireland, over seven days. It is the longest race meeting in Ireland or Britain and combines Flat Racing and National Hunt, attracting some of the best horses from Ireland and Britain.
The biggest race of the week, The Galway Plate, which is a steeplechase run over two miles and six furlongs is run on Wednesday and it attracts the biggest crowd of the festival. This race was first run in 1869 and has produced numerous famous winners. The only horse to win it three times was Tipperary Boy at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The race meeting is now a seven day festival but it was not always so. When it started out at the same Ballybrit track in 1869 it was only for two days. In 1959 it was extended to three days, in 1971 to four days, in 1974 to five days, in 1982 to six days and it has been extended to seven days since 1999.
The race meeting is a massive bonanza for local businesses especially in the hospitality and catering industry. Hotels and bed and breakfasts all over the region are usually full and pub , restaurants, clubs and shops take full advantage of the influx of huge crowds for that week.
The city and surrounding areas is abuzz with activity throughout the week and the streets are full of music, street theatre and vendors of all kinds of goods. A carnival atmosphere permeates the whole area with celebration and revelry continuing into the early morning.
2010 was a year which saw Ireland suffering from a severe recession and banking crisis but this was not evident in Galway during the festival. Millions of euros were gambled on the races and prize money was a healthy 1.5 million. Many more millions was spent on food, drink and entertainment.
Businessmen and politicians ahave been availing of the race meeting to get together and do some networking. There has been no difficulty in getting businesses to sponsor races as they see it as a great opportunity to advertise their products to a worldwide audience. The seven days of racing is viewed by an audience of tens of millions since it is broadcast live on television’s racing channels.
Like many of the top race meetings worldwide, Galway has a ladies day when women dress in their finest outfits in a bid to win the prize of “Best Dressed Lady” There is also a prize for the “Best Dressed Man” but this does not usually get as much attention.
The Galway Races have been the subject of numerous poems, songs and stories over the years and continue to generate a wealth of popular tales and folklore even to this day. Stories of heroism and tragedy, romance and reality, and fortunes gained and lost are the stuff of many a saga related to captive audiences in the late nights in many a bar in Galway and beyond each year.
Jared Sarkey writes about accommodation in Galway for Galway Hotels website. Book your Galway Hotels or Galway Bed and Breakfast for the Galway Races well in advance