It’s perhaps as much about the craic as the winners on the track but there is no doubting the magic spell that the Galway Races cast out west this week.
Estimates of €60 million being wagered over the seven days may or may not be based more on headline writers desire than bookmakers bank balances but there will be a lot of money left behind in the town.
It will need a bit of cheering up after the County footballers were beaten at Croke Park by Kerry yesterday but that’s the way of sport and by the time of the first race at 5.20 this evening, all sorrows will be packed away.
Accommodation in and around the city is at a premium. Race week to the Galway diaspora is like Christmas for the rest of the country with emigrants returning home from Britain, Europe and the US in the knowledge that their friends will be there as well.
There will be more security this year as a result of a general tightening of measures with bag sizes restricted.
A new food village will spread the movement of people once they are in but for many, it’s the experience of being there rather than the need to see much or indeed any of the racing action that is the most important thing about race week.
With fifty-two races over the seven days, each day now offers a minimum prize fund of €100,000 for the feature race. The overall prize fund has been increased by €123,000 on last year’s Festival and now exceeds €2 million for the first time.
Among the major sponsors are Guinness, Tote Ireland, Colm Quinn BMW and all the Galway Hotels.