Top tip of the day - pack a poncho for the rain
The Fianna Fáil tent has been confined to the dustbin of history but the champagne tent stands defiant against the downturn – and the downpours
DURING RACE week almost everyone in Galway has a tip to share but, as seasoned festival-goers know well, most are as worthless as a Fianna Fáil membership card in Ballybrit. The only useful tip yesterday came from a taxi driver who suggested punters pack ponchos for the third day of the festival.
He was right on the money. Shortly after the fourth race, the heavens opened and rain lashed down on the frocks and the fascinators of those unable to make it to the shelter of the bars on time.
While the frequent downpours made the going heavy for the horses, the relentless economic gloom meant the going was almost as ponderous for celeb-watchers.
The ripple of excitement that spread through the press tent after (former government minister) Tom Kitt was seen placing a bet at the Tote was a depressing sign of how the races have changed since the bubble popped four years ago.
There was no Bertie Ahern glad-handing the locals, no ministerial Mercs, few helicopters and few bubbles being quaffed by the well heeled and the well known throughout the day.
While the Fianna Fáil tent has been confined to the dustbin of history, the champagne tent is still there, standing defiant against the downturn. Until it started raining, however, it was half-empty, with most racegoers choosing instead to swig €5 beer from plastic cups.
The skies-over-Saigon feel of the city has also disappeared and the buzz of choppers over Ballybrit yesterday was barely loud enough to wake a sleeping mare.
Tuesday evening’s meeting was dreary and damp but the sun was there for much of yesterday, unlike Enda Kenny who, despite the rumours, steered clear of the festival again.
Maybe he’s waiting for Ladies’ Day today.
Wild horses couldn’t have kept Kilkenny trainer Paudie Barron away. He was nervously stroking his Padre Pio medal outside the parade ring minutes before the first race as he waited for his horse Excellent As Usual’s moment in the sun in the third race of the day.
“He’s got a great chance,” Barron said. “We had him running last year but he fell three jumps out. It is not easy to compete against the big boys with all the money but hopefully the medal will give me the edge,” he said.
It didn’t. Excellent As Usual was anything but and was nowhere to be seen at the end.
There was some drama in the day’s first race when favourite Too Scoops and long-shot Gold Ability went head to head. It was a family affair that came good at the death. Gold Ability is owned by Tracy O’Hare, wife of bookmaker Barney O’Hare, and it was trained by his son Michael.