Bookies take an early beating

Dermot Weld celebrated his 65th birthday in style in Galway yesterday by hammering the bookies early on.

The King of Ballybrit struck in the first race with Diplomat and took the third with Mustajeeb. Weld already looks set for another golden year at Ballybrit, to go with his nine winners from last year and his record- breaking 17 in 2011. By the time we got to the 6.45pm race, bookies were looking nervous.

“It’ll be a bloodbath if he wins this. It’s only one day in and we could already be looking at carnage. People just blind-back Weld and it works every year,” said Leon Blanche of Boylesports.

Luckily for the bookies, Weld failed to have the winner in the fourth race.

Although not officially on the race card, few of this year’s big races will be as keenly contested as the annual bridal race, which is rapidly becoming an annual event.

In aid of Special Olympics Ireland, a strong crosswind did not deter 30 brides, a sprinkling of bridesmaids, and even a divorcee, hurtling up the last furlong to take the first ‘race’ of the week. It wasn’t without controversy, with a false start ending the early celebrations of one over-eager racer. When it came down to it, Michelle Cawley, 32, from Sligo took the honours with an impressive late sprint for the line. Michelle, who works for Special Olympics Connacht and is a self-described “serial bridesmaid”, took part in the race last year and had clearly learned some strategy in the intervening 12 months.

“I ran last year but I didn’t do so well. I was a bit of a dark horse. This time I held back behind my boss and let them all out in front of me and then came up on the outside so it was great. It’s been a fantastic day and hopefully we can all win a few pound,” she said.

Yeliz Tolga was really keeping her chin up. After finishing well back the field, she was now looking forward to formalising her divorce with a party.

Opting to run as a “corpse bride”, complete with a funereal black corset and sign bearing the inscription “Soon to be divorced”, she was more than happy to celebrate the impending demise of her nuptials in Ballybrit.

“This is the first time I got to wear my wedding dress since my wedding 11 years ago and the first time before my divorce party, so I’m celebrating and I can’t wait to drink Champagne later,” she said.

There were some slightly less dainty attendees at Ballybrit as the usual gathering of burly rugby players managed to get out and enjoy some racing.

Leinster stars Fergus McFadden and Seán Cronin were studying the form with Connacht players Andrew Browne and Brett Wilkinson.

All of them were waiting for the arrival of Munster boys Mick Sherry and Tommy O’Donnell, who were apparently delayed on the way to the course.

No doubt they would have taken the chance to catch up on all the news from the sports wedding of the year — that of Paul O’Connell to childhood sweetheart Emily O’Leary.

Fergus McFadden played dumb when asked about events in Toulouse and then quipped that he was still waiting for the invite from O’Connell. “I sent Paul a text last week and said I was still waiting for the invite. Eoin Reddan and a few of the lads were over for it and said it was great so I wish him all the best,” he said.

As for enjoying a good old-fashioned race week knees-up, it was out of the question for the Leinster and Irish star.

“I’ve been down a few times but it always coincides with pre-season. The first week has been tough so I’m quite sore, but it’s good to be back in the routine,” he said.

As for the weather, the West broke with tradition on the first day of the Galway Races and was soaked in sun rather than drenched in rain. Well, for an hour or so, at least.

If it ain’t wet, it ain’t Galway but the punters weren’t complaining.


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