Friday, August 1, 2014

The Galway Races 2014

I may have mentioned here a time or two that the Irish are into horse racing. And by into, I mean into. One of my favorite stories to share is of our afternoon in Trim town. We saw a steady stream of older gentlemen bouncing from the pub to the licensed, legal bookie next door and back to the pub. When we went in (to the pub- not the bookie), it was a hopping Saturday afternoon race, and every television in the joint was tuned in to live racing coverage. The local gents were putting a little bit on the horses to pass the time.

All other races pale in comparison to the legend that is the Galway Races, particularly the Galway Races Summer Festival, which comes to a close on Sunday. All week long they have been celebrating all things horse and horse racing, and I've been casually following the buildup and the action on NewsTalk radio and in the Irish Independent newspaper.

One would expect an event so exciting and so Irish to have an Irish trad song written about it. True to form...

Like so many other sports, the entertainment doesn't stop with the races. Each day of the festival has a different theme and a different headline race. Thursday was Ladies' Day, with prizes for the best-dressed-and-haughtiest-hatted ladies. No word if crossdressing men are allowed in the competition.

Monty Python's Eric Idle

...And on Friday, in addition to the Guinness Handicap featured races, another winner will be crowned in the Fair Lady Competition... Another competition involving dressed-up ladies (and maybe crossdressing Monty Python members) in big hats? The races must be pretty boring for the audience if they need two running days of distractions in the form of big hats. Maybe the races are scheduled with too much time in between?

But who would we Americans be to judge? How many show up in tastefully wacky headgear every summer for our own best ninety seconds in sports?

This guy knows how to rock a Kentucky Derby

All smiling aside, this is a big deal here in Ireland. Horse racing is hugely popular, and this festival gets the same king of multi-day media coverage one might expect from the World Series or the Super Bowl... adjusted for proportional population size, of course.

Race punters (bettors) can put their shekels on a number of races different lengths and lineups. Reading the betting options makes my eyes cross, but I'm sure it would make sense to an experienced racing gambler.

They even cheer on well-known jockeys here on the island of horse fans. On Thursday, this Vine went Irish-viral when local favorite Davy Russell narrowly avoided a nasty fall with a bit of mid-race acrobatics.

After the Galway Races Festival closes up, all the horse fans will presumably make the trip over here to Ballsbridge in south Dublin for the Dublin Horse Show at the RDS, another fancy-hat-wearing, pricey-drink-drinking, red-coated English Irish equine tradition!

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