The Galway Festival is unique in the Irish racing calendar. Seven days of mixed cards between Flat and National Hunt takes some getting for racegoers.
But it’s a fun festival and while it’s important and there’s very good prizemoney on offer it’s not as intense for the jockeys like Cheltenham, Punchestown, Aintree or Royal Ascot are.
It helps that the meeting is on the outskirts of the tourist magnet that is Galway City, as there’s plenty to do pre and post-racing which is half the appeal.
I’ve been going to Galway since I was a kid and dad was riding there. We’d stay out in Spiddal while he went off to work but I don’t think we ever went out to the races then.
I rode my first Galway winner in 1995 on Siren Song when I was still in the amateur ranks. That was very special as he was trained by dad and raced in my mother’s colours.
The Festival has grown so much since then and is so busy that it could take you an hour to get into the city now after racing. I’d be half-way home by that stage.
When I was injured a couple of seasons back and missed the festival it was good craic going out and about around Galway. But there’s little time for late-night Supermacs now.
I’ve had a good break since the National Hunt season ended last May and only really started riding again at the Bellewstown Festival.
Willie Mullins had a few runners at Royal Ascot so we were over there for two days in June. Clondaw Warrior, that my wife has a share in, finished third in the Queen Alexandra Stakes and he’s entered in the Galway Hurdle on Thursday.
After that I was away with the family on holidays so took a complete break from racing.
There’s been a few highlights this summer one of which was caddying for AP McCoy at the Irish Open where we were Rory McIlroy’s group in the Pro-Am. Rory was in good form and was good fun.
Funnily enough, he hit exactly the same shot (to within three feet of the flag) when we were with him to the one that eventually won him the title on the 18th hole on the Sunday at the K Club.
McCoy’s not a bad player although it would have helped if I gave him the right clubs. I was handing him a six iron every time he wanted the nine iron and the ball was flying through the greens.
I’d done it a few times before Rory pointed it out. AP hadn’t copped it either.
Willie has a good few horses entered for Galway this week but they’ll all have to please him in their last pieces of work before they’re given the green light.
There’s 140 horses due to come back to Closutton over the next few weeks as we start to ramp up for the start of the jumps season again. They’re all big and fat at the moment after a summer out eating grass and lying around in the sun. Over the next few weeks though they’ll start their pre-season to get them fit.