Racing start for ‘gaffer’ in Galway

Galway Plate Day always brings a bit of showbiz to the West, with elder statesmen and football royalty mixing it with Joe Public in the parade ring.

If it’s not a handshake with a celebrity that gets people running in Ballybrit, it’s the weather and despite two days of glorious sunshine, yesterday brought something a little more traditional to the West — rain.

It didn’t stop people flocking to the Ladbrokes pitch in the parade ring where none other than Ireland manager, Martin, the gaffer, O’Neill was checking out the odds. There was no sign of Roy, but Martin is probably a little less intimidating for your average racegoer. It was the Ireland manager’s first time in Galway, but he did have a share in a horse which won on the Ballybrit turf some years ago.

“This is my first day at Galway racing, but believe it or not, a way back years and years ago, I was in a wee syndicate with some of my old school friends and we had a horse. They’re all solicitors in Belfast now. Anyway, we had the horse years ago and it actually won here in Galway, although I wasn’t here to see it,” he said.

As for Roy, he is going to be a no-show at Galway this year, but Martin said he’d be meeting up with him next week.

“Roy is working with Aston Villa at the moment. He has just come back from a trip to America; they played a few games out there, and I’m hoping to see him in the early part of next week just for a little catch-up but I think he’s enjoying it,” he said.

A perennial punter favourite in Galway is President Michael D Higgins, who did his annual walkabout in flying form, despite the rain. Admitting he had no tips for a winner, the President said he had been coming to the meeting for over half a century.

“It’s appreciated by the public and it’s actually easier to get to the races now than it was years ago. It shows, and there’s a great atmosphere. In 1960, I came to the Galway Races for the first time and there’s a great sense of tradition of Galway people abroad coming back for the races, but now it’s a very significant international event as you can see,” he said.

In the big race of the day, Road to Riches capped off a miserable day for punters. Paddy Power spokesperson Féilim Mac An Iomaire said the Galway Plate was another in a series of good results for bookies.

“The rain reflected the mood of the racegoers early on as the bookies raced into an early lead before being reeled in by two short-priced favourites. However, Road To Riches in the Galway Plate hit the punters hard to leave the bookies up on day three,” he said.

Boylesports’ Liam Glynn was in agreement: “Slow and steady always wins the race, and at present, the bookmakers are on top but with four days to go, we aren’t counting our chickens before they hatch.”

Tralee woman, Josephine O’Dea was one of the punters who did some damage in the Galway Plate, winning €40,000 on the Tote sweepstake. Speaking after the race, she still looked a little bit shell-shocked.

“I’m over the moon. It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m now definitely Shane Shortall’s and Road To Riches’ number one fan,” she said.

Let’s hope a bit of her luck runs off on punters for Ladies Day.


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