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4 Things Not To Do At The Galway Festival



The Galway Festival kicks off this evening and, as always, it promises to be another fantastic week of racing, a profitable/disastrous week of wagering and most importantly a raucous session of ‘socializing’. Here are just a few helpful hints on what not to do as you try to survive the busy week ahead.

1. Don’t trust the weather

The weather in Galway, as in the rest of this beautiful Country, is as about as reliable as a politician’s promise. One minute you are applying the sun cream and readjusting your shades, the next you are running for cover just like the fine fillies in the picture. Brollies are a must when entering the gates of Ballybrit, failing that always purchase a copy of the Racing Post beforehand, which, as you will find out, kills two birds with the one stone. Be advised though, it is never easy to pick through the form whilst holding a sagging paper above your head and trying to juggle a pint glass which now contains an equal mix of beer and rainwater in the other hand.

Of course the paper technique only really applies to the fellas, who are pretending to be far too cool to carry around a brolly. There is also a third option (which is my personal favourite). Perch yourself in the bar where you can be assured that your drink stays undiluted.

2. Don’t overdress for the occasion


Part of the attraction of attending the Galway races, is, of course, the chance to dress up in apparel that you would never usually have the chance to adorn. Now I am not talking of dusting off the top hat and tails but for the women it is a chance to wear over the top dresses and ridiculous hats usually saved for graduations or weddings at a push. It also allows the men to peel off the jeans and t-shirt and slip into suit pants, a shirt and a tie if it comes included at Penneys.

All of the above mentioned are fine, within reason, but don’t slip into the trap that yours truly did last year and go completely over the top when it comes to overdressing for the occasion. After a nice day on the racecourse, I, in my infinite wisdom, decided that it would be apt to wear a waistcoat (yes a waistcoat) as I ventured into town for a few tipples. It backfired….badly!

Now let me explain, I am a man from simple roots and would usually never even dream of wearing something so flamboyant but hey, it’s Galway, I’ll chance it. I actually thought I looked pretty good! All was fine on arrival for my night’s entertainment but it soon turned sour as me and my waistcoat quickly became the entertainment for everyone else.

A certain jockey that had accompanied me on the night out pointed out to everyone that I had a distinct look of a snooker player and so came around the nickname Stephen Hendry. For the rest of the night I was greeted by chants of Hendry,Hendry, Hendry and mimicking cue actions, even being forced have my picture taken pretending to be a snooker player with a leading lady jockey, who thought it was hilarious.

So, in summary. Shirt and suit pants and maybe even a tie are acceptable but never, ever put on a waistcoat.

3. Don’t trust the word of a trainer


Now there is a couple examples of this, as you will see. First up though the usual example of hearing a whisper of a complete cert in an upcoming race from, if you forgive the pun, the horses mouth. Most times it is like getting blood from a stone when it comes to trainers’ ‘exact’ plans but there are a few that are only too willing to provide you with some inside information… not trust it. A trainer that is open about telling you that his charge is a dead cert is not one  to listen to. My advice, simply listen to what they have to say, nod, smile and say thank you and walk in any direction other than in the direction of the betting ring.

Another example of not trusting the word of a trainer brings us back to the infamous night of the waistcoat. In between the snooker player digs, I became involved in a conversation with a well known trainer about a subject which I can’t remember, obviously because of drink induced amnesia. During our ramble, we were approached by the trainers’ wife who was introduced to me in this fashion. “Have you met my wife? Talk away there and I will be back in a minute.”

This is where the trust of a trainer’s word came into question again. After plenty of head nodding, polite smiles and a discussion about the weather, 20 minutes had passed by the time I realised that the trainer would not return. I eventually made my excuses and made my way to the toilets, well the two mile line that had formed outside the toilets and spotted said trainer having a brilliant time amongst a crowd of racegoers. Very clever indeed and I am proud to say I have used this technique plenty of times since.

4. Don’t forget which horse you have backed


You will be placing many wagers throughout the week and unfortunately, unless you are very lucky, or you just back horses trained by Dermot Weld, invariably a high percentage of bets will be losing ones. This is ok. Losing is a big part of betting on the nags and we have all been there, done that and got the waistcoat!

One important thing about having a bet is to always remember the name of the horse and the colours worn by his jockey so that if you lose you know you lose, which is a darn sight better than losing and thinking that you have won, as happened to a friend of mine a few festivals ago.

My learned friend and I had made our hasty judgments on the following race through tiring, bloodshot eyes whilst propping up the bar in the Guinness tent. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the horse which my friend had stuck his ‘hard’ earned money on now and unluckily for him moments after placing his bet neither could he!

He did have the colour of the silks in his mind however, “some sort of red,” (his words) unfortunately for him there was also another horse in the race who carried ‘some sort of red’ on their backs. Halfway through the race I began to get nudges in my side – “I have a chance here mate.”

As the field turned for home he began to get more animated, “he is still travelling.” This is where I realised that my friend had made the ultimate mistake. His actual selection had pulled up two from home but he continued his cheers all the way to the end, as the other ‘some sort of red’ colours crossed the line in front.

He was delirious, as was I for completely different reasons. I had never seen a man celebrate something with such excitement, everyone in our vicinity knew that this guy had just had a big win. After more celebrations, he skipped his way down to collect his ‘winnings’ and while he was gone, I informed everyone around me what had really just happened.

I can still see his little sodden face as he made his way gingerly back to the stands, head bowed, betting slip still in his hand and I can still hear the laughs and abuse fired at him by all my new found friends. Poor sod!

So people, that is just a few tips for you on what not to do during your week at Ballybrit. There is, of course, plenty of things you should do but I am sure you will work that out on your own!

By Kevin Walsh

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