Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Irish Racecourses: Galway

Galway horse racing fun
Galway Racecourse, also known as Ballybrit Racecourse, is situated in the village of Ballybrit in Co. Galway, in the West of Ireland, less than four miles northeast of Galway city centre. The racecourse stages just three meetings or, in other words, just twelve days racing, each year, but is synonymous with the Galway Races Summer Festival, one of the most celebrated race meetings in the world. 

Staged over seven days in late July and early August, such that it coincides with the August Bank Holiday in Ireland, the Summer Festival features an eclectic mixture of moderate, but dog-eat-dog, Flat and National Hunt racing. That said, the two feature races of the week, the Galway Hurdle and the Galway Plate, are worth €300,000 and €250,000 in prize money, respectively, so they typically attract numerically strong, top-class fields, with capable contenders from both sides of the Irish Sea. Aside from the Summer Festival, Galway Racecourse also stages a three-day meeting in September and a two-day meeting in October, which coincides with the October Bank Holiday. 

The steeplechase course at Galway is a right-handed, undulating diamond, just over a mile and a quarter in length, with seven, moderately stiff fences to a circuit and a two-furlong, uphill run-in. The hurdle course, which is situated inside the steeplechase course, is sharper in character, with six hurdles to a circuit and a shorter run-in, of just over a furlong. 

Heading away from the stands, the course rises to its highest point before falling sharply towards the home turn, but the final climb to the winning post is probably the stiffest in the whole country. Jockeys, naturally, allow their horses to ‘freewheel’ down the hill but, on the steeplechase course, the last two fences come in quick succession and the second-last, in particular, often catches out horses carrying too much momentum. Galway is a deceptively difficult course to jump around, and to ride, so it is no surprise that course specialists – horses and jockeys – emerge. 

Similar comments apply on the level; Galway is on the turn almost throughout and, despite the stiff finish, unless the going is heavy, tends to favour horses that are ridden prominently. Consequently, races are typically run at an end-to-end gallop, so Galway is no place for horses with stamina concerns. A low draw, next to the far side rail, may prove advantageous over seven furlongs or a mile. However, in large fields, which are commonplace, hold-up horses may have difficulty threading their way through weakening horses, from off the pace, on what is a tight enough course in any case. As over hurdles and fences, course specialists abound.



Loving The Atmosphere at Galway Races