Galway races kicks off with special opening ceremony

By Conall Ó Fátharta

Galway is often the best place to be but for one week of the year it's the only place to be.

That can only mean one thing - the Galway Races are back for another year of winners, losers and general debauchery.

Judging by the lines of of men, women and children hiking up the Dublin Road to Ballybrit, the festival has lost none of its lustre. For all the talk of Galway Tents being gone, it remains one of the highlights of the racing calendar and also one of the social highlights of the year anywhere in the country.

While Galway is never not full tilt on Monday, this year saw it get off to a bang of a different sort with a special opening ceremony - Gather Your Tribe - put on for punters.

Racegoers were greeted by tribal drummers at the two main entrances to the course before the Galway Tenors kicked proceedings off with a rousing rendition of The West's Awake.

The last time it was sang with such gusto was when Joe McDonagh blasted it out on the Hogan Stand when Galway took home the Liam McCarthy in 1980. That could be a good omen for 2017.

Racegoers also get an expanded range of offerings of food and drink this year. While not quite the site it was during the boom, a new Festival Village has been added this year offering craft beer, a shopping village, a big screen to watch the racing, betting facilities and live music all week long.

The first race of the day kicks off at 5.20pm with the feature race of the evening the €100,000 Connacht Hotel Qualified Riders Handicap.

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