Umbrellas the necessary accessory as it buckets down on Ballybrit


JUST TWO days into Galway Race Week 2012 and reserves of stamina are being sorely tested. Beguiled by the brilliant sunshine of Monday’s opening stage, the crowds were dealt a sucker punch as the heavens opened from early and drenched anything that moved.

The stylist was sacked in favour of raincoats and umbrellas as it bucketed down on Ballybrit. Racegoers scurried into the cover of the stands, the hardy few emerging to throw a weary hand out to confirm that no, it hadn’t stopped.

Even the champagne tent, where a mere four out of 35 tables were occupied before the first race on Monday – everyone, it seems, was out soaking up the sun – had sucked in the soggy punters. More than half of the tables had bums on seats midway through yesterday’s card.

They paid for the privilege, however, with prices starting at €90 for a bottle of Brut Vintage.

Those unaffected by the downturn were invited to part with €160 for either a bottle of Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle or Dom Pérignon. They could also enjoy a bottle of water for just €2.50, but one suspected that everyone had had enough of the stuff outside.

One racegoer who cut a dash in the worst of the weather was Jim Goldie from Glasgow. On his first visit to Ballybrit, he did what any self-respecting Scotsman would do and donned his kilt.

Accompanied by fiancee Joanne Kavanagh, Jim was enjoying the hospitality at the Irish Racegoers Club tent. But was he not, em, feeling the chill as he made those essential trips to the bookmakers outside?

“Not at all,” he said. “Most people don’t know that there are three layers of wool in a proper kilt and it’s surprisingly warm.”

He had opted against carrying the fearsome skean dhu (dagger) in his stocking. “I don’t think the security guys would have been too impressed if they found it,” he wisely noted.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny had earlier travelled to Galway to launch a report at the Marine Institute, but opted against travelling on to Ballybrit.

Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food Simon Coveney made it to the racetrack in his own right, however, to launch a new report on the Irish horse racing industry. Mr Coveney was quick to acknowledge the contribution the annual Galway summer festival made to the industry.

It was music to the ears of the Galway Race Committee which was last evening anxiously checking the weather forecast for today’s meeting, with the famous Galway Plate Steeplechase, carrying a €200,000 prize fund, the highlight.

Sponsored by Tote Ireland, the event will have a new Galway Plate trophy for presentation to the winner. Designed by Matthew Lynch, a student at the National College of Art and Design, the Plate will be presented to the winning owner by Galway hurler Joe Canning.