Celeb count rises as fast as wallets empty at Galway Races

Jockey Ruby Walsh with daughters Isabella, age seven, left, and Elsa, age six.

It’s only day two in Galway and already the temperatures and the celebrity count are rising as fast as wallets are emptying.

Just under 20,000 hit the racecourse on Monday on what was a pretty good day for the bookies. Numbers are up, as is spending on the Tote and in the bookies.

Monday and Tuesday are usually the more gentle days of the week before the madness really starts.

The second half of the week is when the real hardcore come out in the form of punters and, more importantly, thousands of women keen to look good and win the biggest prize of all — Best Dressed Lady.

However, some of the best-dressed people in Montrose headed west for a Tuesday as RTÉ sent down the bigwigs.

Marty Morrissey, Des Cahill, Seán O’Rourke, and Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh were all in Ballybrit for a day out.

Fresh from cementing her position as RTÉ’s highest- paid female star, Miriam O’Callaghan said it was always “embarrassing” to see her salary published.

“It’s always very embarrassing to be honest,” she said. “It’s difficult for it not to be when the figures go out there but it’s happened to me for years so I’m used to it.

“I try to work as hard as I can. I’m in the middle of my chat show, Prime Time, I do my radio show and that’s all I can say really. I try my best to work hard.”

As for gender pay gaps, Ms O’Callaghan said she had never suffered any discrimination working at RTÉ.

On a less serious note, one of the biggest cheers of the day came before a horse even set foot on the track with the inaugural Paddy Power Zorbing Derby in aid of the Injured Jockeys’ Fund.

However, the bookie admitted he was not familiar with zorbing in advance of taking to the track for the 100-yard dash up the hill.

“I’m actually not quite sure what zorbing is,” he said. “It’s kinda like a football but it’s really big and you’re in it so I am not sure how it’s going to go. I had the perfect preparation as any good Galway racegoer would have had last night.

He had his work cut out going up against former Ireland footballer Stephen Hunt, former Galway hurling star Ollie Canning, and Colm Quinn of BMW, sponsor of the day’s racing.

While Hunt admitted to feeling “nervous” ahead of the race, Canning had no such nerves. Six county medals and four All Stars meant he knew he could step up to the plate and perform in front of a packed Killanin Stand.

“Well, when you have the calibre of these men beside me, it’s always great to test ourself against the best and the guys have been training all week in their zorbs back in their back gardens,” he said. “Paddy just said make sure the ambulance follows our race as well just in case.”

No ambulances were required for Ollie, who stormed home in first place, while Paddy Power was so far back to be described as “remote” by the on-course commentator.

Ollie, brother of current Galway star Joe Canning, said this Sunday’s All Ireland semi-final was “hard to call” but the whole race track was hoping his win here might be a good omen for the weekend.

“There were two great battles in last year and the year before and just a point between them,” he said. “Everyone is really looking forward to this game and the atmosphere is really starting to build in Galway. We are all trying to get through Race Week and come out the far side of Saturday night and look forward to Sunday in Croke Park.

“It’s a huge game and it’s really going to kick off the hurling. We’ve had some fantastic games in the hurling championship but once you get to the semi final stage, people really start to sit up and take notice.

“It’s going to be a couple of points either way, so up Galway.”

Either way, after two days in Galway, usual it’s the bookies — rather than the punters — in the lead.


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