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Not only is Ballybrit the home to seven days of top-quality jump racing action, but it is also the site of a huge party. In the heady days of Ireland's Celtic Tiger, the Galway Races was a mixing zone for many of the country's top politicians and business figures. But while politicians have been a little shy about returning to the tents, punters have never lost their love for a day at the races and a night out in the neighbouring city.
One of the biggest fixtures on the calendar sees horse racing, fashion, community, craic and reunions with friends all combine for an intoxicating spectacle, with over 150,000 people set to attend throughout the week. It is always a great mix of sport and fun.
When And Where Is it On?
The seven-day-long meeting will run from Monday 31st July to Sunday 6th August. Every year the festival takes place at Ballybrit Racecourse, also known as Galway Racecourse. The townland of Ballybrit in County Galway is only around six kilometres northeast of Galway City.
What Are The Big Races, And Who Should I Bet On?
The two major feature races during the week are the Tote Galway Plate Chase and the Guinness Galway Hurdle. Both contests are highly competitive and prestigious handicaps, with trainers plotting out their runners for the contest a long time in advance.
On Wednesday 27th July, the Tote Galway Plate, worth €250,000, will be the highlight of the card. The historic race, first run in 1869, is contested over two miles, six furlongs and 111 yards.
Before Royal Rendezvous was the winner in 2021, you had to go back to Ansar in 2005 to find a horse that carried more than 11 stones to victory. So history tells us that it often pays to keep tabs on those towards the bottom of the weights.
Indeed, Ansar won the race for a second successive time in 2005, while Royal Rendezvous won the race with a taking performance after finishing runner-up in 2020. So it is often worth paying attention to those with good experiences in the race.
Moving onto the Guinness Galway Handicap Hurdle, the simple advice is to follow the Mullins family. Patrick Mullins, the son of his father Willie, has ridden three of the last four winners of the race, an incredible feat for an amateur jockey.
In 2018 Sharjah (12/1) carried top-weight to win the race in muddy conditions. A couple of years later Aramon (7/1), also top-weight, won in the hands of Patrick before finally, Saldier (18/1) won it in style in 2021 wearing the number one. In sum, unlike the Plate, it has paid to go with the classier types in this race despite them carrying heavy weights.
Other races to look out for at the Galway Races Summer Festival include the Connacht Hotel (Q.R.) Handicap run on Monday, and the Colm Quinn BMW MileHandicap run on Tuesday.
Betting Advice For Galway Races
For many, many years, the sole advice you needed for the Galway Races was to follow the horses of legendary trainer Dermot Weld. Weld is known for targeting some of his best-handicapped horses and most promising juveniles at the race meeting, both on the flat and over obstacles.
Trainers to follow
In 2015, Weld remarkably scooped the Galway Festival's top trainer gong for the 29th time in the previous 30 years. Since then, national hunt king Willie Mullins has become a dominant force at the track.
Other trainers for fans to watch at the meeting include Tony Martin. Despite not being one of the biggest trainers in the country, Martin often targets his horses at Galway's big handicaps. Between 2014 and 2019, he had a hat-trick of winners of the Galway Hurdle Handicap with Thomas Edison (2014), Quick Jack (2015) and Tudor City (2019).
Summer ground horses
Aside from trainers, it often pays to look out for horses who enjoy some summer ground. Pay attention to those horses who tend to struggle during the heavy ground of the winter months but come alive on a sounder surface.
For instance, in the handicap races, a horse's recent form may look below average going into the race, but the horse could have been running on unsuitable ground. If a horse runs out of the frame, the handicapper will often try to give them a better chance on their next run by reducing their handicap mark, meaning they will have to carry less weight relative to their rivals' next time out.
How To Place A Bet
If betting on the Galway Races, you have a wide range of options. For the newcomer, it can often be very confusing. To break down how betting on horse racing works, let's first consider what we mean by the odds.
Simply put: the odds are the expected probability of something happening. If a bookmaker prices a horse at 3/1, it means that they think that 1 in 4 times the horse will win the race. If the horse is 5/1, they think it will win 1 in 6 times.
The odds tell punters how much they will make if their horse wins the race. So, for example, let's say we stake a €10 bet on a horse with odds of 5/1. These odds tell the punter that for every €1 they stake on this horse, if it wins the race, they will win €5. So, if they put €10 on this winning horse, they will win €50 (€10 x 5) while they will also get their stake back.
If someone exclaims that they had a 100/1 winner, it means that for every €1 they put on the horse, they won €100! This fractional odds format is the most commonly used in Irish horse racing. There is also the Decimal and American format, which present the odds differently but use the same principles.
The Win Bet:
This is the most simple and common betting type used in horse racing. It is all-or-nothing. You are betting on your horse to finish 1st in the race, but if the horse doesn't win, you lose your stake. Whether the horse finished second or last is irrelevant to your bet as they didn't win the race.
The Each-Way Bet:
Oftentimes people want to hedge their bets and have more chance of winning money or getting their stake back. The each-way bet is used for this reason. It is made up of two parts, the "win" bet and the "place" bet. To best understand this, it might work best to take these two parts in isolation.
The "win" bet is exactly the same as the win bet described above. You win money if the horse wins the race but lose all your money if it doesn't win the race.
The "place" bet is when you think the horse will be placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd, although this does complicate on occasions. If there are lots of runners in the race, bookmakers might pay out on the horse finishing 4th and even 5th or 6th. Whereas if there are less than eight runners, it is common that they will only pay out on the 1st and 2nd places.
You stake €5 each-way on Lucky Jim at odds of 8/1. This means you are placing a €5 'win bet' and a €5 'place bet' on Lucky Jim. The race itself has 10 runners, so bookmakers are counting the 1st, 2nd and 3rd horses as being placed. They are also offering a quarter of the odds for place bets.
Here are the three different scenarios for the bet:
Lucky Jim wins the race:
The €5 'win bet' you placed means your profit from this part of the bet is €40 (€5 @8/1). You also won the 'placed bet' of the bet as your horse finished in the top three. However, there was a greater probability of Lucky Jim finishing in the top three than winning the race, so you get shorter odds for the place part of the bet. In this case, you get a quarter of 8/1 which is 2/1. Therefore, for the place part of the bet, your profit is €10 (€5 @ 2/1).
In total, then, for the each-way bet, your profit is €50 (€40 from the 'win bet' and €10 from the 'place bet'). Plus, you are also given your stake back of €10.
Lucky Jim finishes 2nd or 3rd:
The bad news is that you lose the stake from your €5 'win bet' as the horse failed to win the race. The good news is that you won the €5 'place bet' as Lucky Jim was placed i.e. he finished in the top three.
As above, you get a quarter of 8/1, which is 2/1. Therefore, for the place part of the bet your profit is €10 (€5 @ 2/1). It breaks down as follows:
|Win Bet: - €5|
|Place Bet: +€10|
|Your total profit is €5.|
Lucky Jim finishes outside the top three:
This is the worst result. You have lost both the 'win bet' and 'place bet'. You have lost the 'win bet' because Lucky Jim didn't win the race and the 'place bet' because Lucky Jim did not finish in 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
In total, you have lost €10 on the bet.
Ante-Post Betting Tips
It can be a real puzzle of a race, but a horse that looks near-certain to turn up in the Guinness Galway Hurdle is the Desmond McDonogh-trained Hearts Are Trumps. Despite being only nine years old, the gelding has already competed in three editions of this race.
In 2019, he was only beaten just over five lengths when finishing sixth behind Tudor City. In 2020, off two pounds lower, he was a gallant second behind the Mullins-trained Aramon. Last year, he failed to fire and was never on terms when down the field behind Saldier.
Since then Hearts Are Trumps' handicap mark has been slowly falling. Back over hurdles at Fairyhouse after off a long break, he ran an eye-catching season opener to finish seventh in a highly competitive handicap hurdle. Then at the Punchestown Festival, he was travelling strongly and right in touch when crashing out four flights from home.
If none the worse from that fall and getting a decent surface, Hearts Are Trumps looks like he has a bit in hand with the handicapper and could be ideally suited to the conditions of the Galway Hurdle and his connections will be hoping he can account for all the opposition in this year's renewal. Expect a late run with the gelding closing in the final strides.
Galway Races Betting FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive on the Galway Races.
As with any race meeting, there are opportunities to make money if spotting value in the markets. This meeting is typically highly competitive, so unlike race meetings like the Cheltenham Festival, there are not usually many odds-on favourites. It means that there are many big-priced winners, which can lead to a big-money success.
Yes, spectators can purchase tickets on the racecourse's website, galwayraces.com, where there is plenty of information and content on each day's action.
Galway Racecourse is easily reached from all parts of the country. If driving, Ballybrit is just off the M6 motorway, making it only a two-hour trip from Dublin Airport. At the same time, those flying from around the world into Shannon Airport and Knock Airport can make the car journey in under one hour.
There are regular trains into Galway from all the major cities in Ireland, while buses run into the city regularly. During the Galway Summer Festival week, a shuttle bus runs from Eyre Square in the city to the racecourse and return service.
Galway has many hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts and private accommodation options. However, race week is local businesses' busiest of the year, so booking in advance is recommended and often needed.
Prices will often be inflated during the festival week, so it can be worth exploring cheaper options outside the city. Towns like Tuam, Athenty, Claregalway, Barna, Clifden, Ballinasloe, Loughrea and Kinvara have plenty of accommodation options and public transport links to Galway City. They allow visitors to experience great views and the county's many things.
This year Ladies Day will be on July 28, with the first race beginning at 2.30pm and the last race at 6.35pm.