Flurry of feathers and fascinators at Galway Races Ladies’ Day

Quick Jack takes the Hurdle as Alex Butler claims the honours off the track

The Galway public may have recently voted in favour of marriage equality, but there were calls for another form of parity at Ballybrit.

Laois-born Leo McCormack, a loyal visitor to the Galway Races, said it was "high time that Ladies' Day got gender neutral".

“It’s like a time warp out here,” he said, as a flurry of heels, feathers and fascinators came through the turnstiles on the fourth day of the festival.

As if they could read his lips, half a dozen male teenagers with the twitching shoulders that give away shiny new suits strutted past with a jaunty air.


"So those lads look as if they got the shoes - and socks - in Lidl or Aldi, but why shouldn't they have their dress-up day," said McCormack, who has been coming to Ballybrit for 15 years.

Cork visitor Alex Butler had more important things on her mind. This was her sixth time aiming for the big prize at the festival.

Not the Galway Hurdle, but the Ladies’ Day marathon.

She'd begun preparing at breakfast with her own make-up, fitting on a one-shoulder midi-length red dress with the Teria Yabar label and a headpiece made by Leitrim milliner Jennifer Wrynne.

The shoes - nude Louboutins - were a present from her boyfriend, and her bag was a pearl clutch bought at home in Midleton.

It paid off, for she won the "best dressed" category, valued at more than €10,000 and sponsored by the Kilkenny Group.

Milliner Mary White from Claremorris, Co Mayo, won the best Irish design prize, with a 1950s-inspired outfit by Irish designer Laura Jayne Halton.

Best hat was secured by by Yorkshire-born Danielle Gingell, who lives in Claremorris, Co Mayo, for her entry from the US-based Arturo Rios collection.

Out at the track, there were gasps during the Guinness Galway Hurdle when jockey Barry Geraghty hit the deck as his horse, Thomas Edison, fell in the final stages.

The jockey, who felt he was in with a real chance on last year's winner, was none the worse for his fall, and was generous in praise for Denis O'Regan on Quick Jack, trained by Tony Martin, which came in first at 9/2.

Former jockey AP McCoy was among the visitors to the meet, along with his wife Chanelle.

Also attracting some attention yesterday was the sun – despite it being a little nervous at times, as if it was not sure what season it was in.

"Nothing quite beats the bit of it," Lydon House director John Sherry, who has seen many a wet day out west, had remarked.

Mr Sherry runs many races and jumps many hurdles before the festival even opens.

It is his 31st year co-ordinating catering for the event, which involves planning for 50,000 meals, buying in 5,000 burgers, 3,500 chickens, 500 strips of sirloin and three-quarters of a tonne of chips, as well as looking after the 1,500 bottles of champagne that have to be chilled to the right temperature.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times