Hidden Cyclone fails to materialise as Ballybrit keeps pulling crowds in
It was business as usual at the Galway Races - save for scarcity of serving Fianna Fáil TDs
Bridie and Paddy Twomey from Mitchelstown, Co Cork, studying the form at the Galway Races yesterday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Adam Jordan (4), from Navan, Co Meath, at the Galway Races. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Miss Galway Laura Fox. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
You can keep Glorious Goodwood, and have Royal Ascot too while you’re at it. Galway remains the summer racing festival so famous it doesn’t need an adjective. Recession or no recession, it keeps packing the crowds into Ballybrit and, beyond it, to the grateful city on the Corrib.
Day two of the 2013 instalment was, in most ways, business as usual. The weather certainly wasn’t glorious and, with leaden skies overhead, a horse called Hidden Cyclone sounded a bit ominous as it threatened to win the second race of the evening, The Latin Quarter Hurdle.
In the event, it could only finish second, and its namesake weather also failed to feature as, despite the clouds, the rain stayed well away.
Shrieks of joy
The Latin Quarter Hurdle – named and sponsored by the Galway neighbourhood that probably most benefits from the week – was won by a horse call Rathlin. The result brought shrieks of joy from one woman outside the winner’s enclosure.
Had she backed it? “No, I bred him and I love him,” she explained between gasps, in a south of England accent. With her husband Lawrence – who was also celebrating, if more quietly – Carrie Wells had sold the gelding as a two-year-old for £22,000. Since then he had changed hands again for four times that amount to Gigginstown Stud, of O’Leary family fame.
But, despite no longer having a monetary interest, the Wellses appeared at least as thrilled by the horse’s latest win as did the Gigginstown connections, who experience such victories so often these days it must be hard to get excited.
Business was even more usual in the next race, the Topaz European Fillies Maiden, won by a trainer who all but owns this festival. Indeed, if Galway ever does acquire an adjective, it will have to be something to do with Dermot Weld, who long ago tamed this part of Connacht so that it’s not so much the Wild West anymore as the Weld one.
He was saddling the winner of the fillies race for an incredible 13th time since 1990 and later predicted much bigger things for the winner, Tarfasha, which runs in the colours of another member of racing royalty – official royalty in this case – Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.
In certain, limited respects, latter-day Galway is greatly changed from the festival of 10 years ago.
Serving Fianna Fáil politicians are a lot rarer here than they used to be, in the days of the tent. And insofar as the party had any presence at Ballybrit yesterday, it was a sobering one: former minister for finance Ray “Mac the Knife” Mac Sharry, a ghost of recessions past.
There was also, between races, a poignant note to proceedings, courtesy of the late and much-admired Colm Murray. The evening began with a minute’s silence in his memory, continued with the jockeys wearing black armbands, and included a recorded tribute on the big screen, in which the man himself was heard fondly recalling his experiences of Galway, albeit in a voice slurred by his illness.
The film drew warm applause from a respectful crowd. Then it was back to the festivities that Murray, of all people, loved.
Although there were still 36 hours to go to Ladies Day, these even included an impressive array of frocks and hats, as if some people were having dress rehearsals for tomorrow’s competition.
Asked it they’d mixed up their dates, one particularly glamorous group revealed that, no, they were all nurses and midwives, and would be working or otherwise occupied for the rest of the week. This was the only chance to show off their finery, which it had to be said was very fine.
So, even though they won’t be there tomorrow, let it be known that Aoife Ryan, June Petrie, Kate Hennessy, Tara Johnson, Noelle Greene, and Sinead Walsh – variously employed by the National Maternity Hospital, Blackrock Clinic, and other hospitals as far away as Kenya and Australia – would all surely at least have made the shortlist, if only they’d had the chance to enter.