Top teams at parade ring as Galway races kick off

Over 150,000 racegoers to pass through Ballybrit turnstiles over seven-day event

In the grander scheme of things, the only tip that mattered on the first evening of Galway’s Race Week was to be found in the blue and gold colours in the Killanin stand. But not even the 300 supporters of the Premier County’s hurling team were buying into the “racing certainty” jibes after cruising into the semi-finals of the All-Ireland hurling championship on Sunday.

The hardy 300 had coughed up €150 each for the pleasure of supporting the Tipperary Race Day on day one of the seven-day marathon. A buffet lunch and the services of a racing tipster helped to soften the blow of the cost of their loyalty.

In truth, Team Tipp was keeping a low profile. Captain Brendan Maher and manager Eamon O'Shea were ducking the media and it was left to county secretary Tim Floyd to fend off the questions. "We're saying nothing. There's nothing won yet," he told The Irish Times.

The Tipp contingent, which included singer-songwriter Paul Brady, had the comfort of looking down on the parade ring where the hardy national hunt and flat riders climbed on and off a variety of favourites, no-hopers and unknown others who set off around the old racecourse in the evening sunshine.


But even the men who risk life and limb over the obstacles had to play second fiddle to the country's leading pair of women riders. Nina Carberry and Jane Mangan were belatedly presented with the Mary Hyde Cup which they shared for their efforts in national hunt racing last season.

The likes of international rugby players Fergus McFadden, Dave Kilcoyne, Robbie Henshaw and John Muldoon were also among the also-rans in the parade ring as Carberry and Mangan posed for the scrum of photographers. McFadden admitted that the Leinster players had been noticing the absence of the retired Brian O'Driscoll over the past two weeks of pre-season training.

“Yeah, you’d miss him around the place all right, but I think he’ll do well as a pundit. I’m sure there will be a bit of slagging, but Brian just doesn’t have a bad word to say about anybody,” he grinned.

The punters certainly didn't have a bad word to say about leading trainer Willie Mullins as he provided the winner of the opening novice hurdle, McKinley, for Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud at odds of 7/1. The locals were smiling after the second race on the card which went to Beckwith Star, a 12/1 winner trained by Henry de Bromhead for veteran Co Galway owner Herb Stanley.

More than 150,000 racegoers will pass through the turnstiles at Ballybrit over the seven days of racing. The highlight will be €260,000 Galway Guinness Handicap Hurdle run on Thursday, the traditional Ladies Day at Ballybrit.

Off the track, trainers Dermot Weld and Jim Bolger will be honoured by NUI Galway tomorrow. Both will receive honorary degrees to mark their outstanding contribution to Irish racing. Also being honoured are Galway brothers Michael and John Earls, who will receive a presentation from the Irish Thoroughbred Association.