The thing about racing is that it’s so bloody accessible. You have your hearty grassroots supporters who love point-to-points; your top hat-wearing sorts at Royal Ascot; your *shivers* student race days; your Mecca-seeking commuters to the Cheltenham festival. And then you’ve got Galway.
It’s a combination of people being delighted that racing is so accessible and people wishing that that accessibility was limited considerably.
Galway is unique in so much as the racing might not be top drawer, but the marketing around the festival has been so cleverly done that it’s effectively the blueprint for how the sport can be self-sufficient.
If you’re one of those braving the entire week for the first time, I commend you and, more importantly, I come bearing advice.
Set forth to Ballybrit.
Don’t Be Daft, Sense the Draught
I don’t care if the Netherlands are currently experiencing the hottest temperatures ever recorded. I don’t care if the world is literally burning around us. Yes, the polar ice caps are melting and plants are dying, but believe me – do not rock onto Galway without more layers than you think you need.
Now, generally this is aimed at Irish people who should know better, but if you’re arriving in from the Mediterranean where a pair of flip-flops is deemed excessive and you think we follow suit here, I wish you well.
Galway isn’t for the faint-hearted in the first place, but if you come here expecting the Tropics, you’ll leave like someone who had to brave Siberia for a couple of Grade 3s.
I like a drink. You like a drink. My Ma likes a drink. My Da also likes a drink.
This is a week-long festival. At some point during it, you should probably see some racing. It’s generally a focal point of the Galway Races.
A couple of pints during the day is a fine enhancement of your experience, but you best line the stomach fine and early.
If you’re from this country, you know the drill. If you’re not, an insurance policy for your future headaches looks like this: two sausages; two rashers; two eggs; white pudding; black pudding; beans; a controversial waffle; mushrooms; a hash brown; four slices of toast; eight little squares of butter; a glass of orange juice – and a pot of tea.
Try Your Best to Fit In
Here are some useful terms for you to say so you don’t look like an absolute eejit at the betting ring:
- ‘He doesn’t go well on this ground.’
- ‘The yard is flying.’
- ‘I couldn’t back him at that price.’
- And please, please do not call a mare ‘he’, or you’ll be the shame of Galway. And given the sporting year they’ve had to date, that’s quite something.
Cash is King
No, the old bloke with the electronic board does not want your Revolut card, no matter how much you believe he has the capability to do so.
He pays you out in cash, so I’m unsure how you think he’ll have the cash on-hand unless he’s taking it in. Get your cash either outside the course, or very early in the day. There’s often been people queueing for 45 minutes for their five each-way poke to refuse to start.
Don’t be that guy.
Maybe Learn a Few Things
Just remember: AP McCoy retired some time ago and Rugby Walsh retired a few months ago. I think that leaves Dickie Johnson as the last active jockey you’ve heard of.
Use the Galway Races as a means to educate yourself about the up-and-coming generation of sublimely talented flat and jump jockeys we have in this country.
Irish racing really depends on your invested interest, so maybe realise that these big meetings may not be the be-all and end-all when it comes to racing in this country.
Hopefully we’ll see you at Ballinrobe next time, too.