‘Warrior queens’ put a stylish hat on it at Ballybrit

Run on champagne tent after Guinness hurdle

 Helen Murphy from Douglas, Cork,   celebrating her  best-dressed win at Galway races yesterday.   Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Helen Murphy from Douglas, Cork, celebrating her best-dressed win at Galway races yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times


In the clutch bag: lipstick, comb and hair clips, copious Compeed strips for blisters and safety pins in sewing kit. Then there’s the spare tights, nail varnish for small ladders and smart phone for selfies – absent from the finalist’s marquee, of course.

That’s the quick-read guide to Ladies Day, and followers of the fourth wave of feminism would have their theories well tested in Ballybrit. Galway’s university populace embraces the event with a vengeance – “ like warrior queens”, one contestant in Spire-size heels assured me as she described the military strategy involved.

“You know you can dump the stilts and wear the flats if you haven’t had a tip on the shoulder by 1.30pm,” another experienced contestant said, recounting how the milliner was contacted last winter, the hairdresser’s appointment was booked in May and nothing – down to nails, eyebrows and no hint of a fake tan – was left to chance.

This year, bookies were placing odds on white and cream at 2-1, pink/purple at 9-4, with orange definitely “not the new black” at 20-1. Green was one of those colours that can be “difficult to pull off”, according to Boylesports. Then the flurry of excitement as a microphone was tapped and stylist Lisa Fitzpatrick announced the winners. First in the Irish design category was Emer Nash from Castlemahon, Co Limerick, wearing a satin “disc” hat with sinamay twist designed by Loughrea milliner Susie Mahony, and a “Kate Middleton-inspired” cream lace dress.

Then came Paula Clancy from Inverin, Co Galway, winner of the best hat – an Edel Ramberg special described as a “monochrome sunburst” with French goose feathers in a “spiked beret style”.

The diamonds for best dressed woman were secured by secondary school teacher Helen Murphy from Douglas, Co Cork, with a mint green midi skirt and white top and another white disc hat.

Even winning jockeys appeared to know that pale and pastel colours were in, with Brian O’Connell sporting pink and white as he coasted home first in the Guinness Novice Hurdle on Desertmore Stream.

The big cheer of the day was for Tony McCoy’s €250,000 Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap win on Thomas Edison on odds of 7-2 – a horse owned by JP McManus and trained by Tony Martin.

“Carnage!” muttered one bookie. “Thought he’d never make the hill!” said another. Small wonder that within minutes, there was an absolute run on champagne . . . Galway’s summer festival continues until Sunday, while the annual Omey Races also take place on Sunday at Claddaghduff from 1pm.