Dickie bows and hats of every shape and size abounded as champagne flowed and racing seemed a million miles away. Thursday is about fashion. Even the men get in on the act nowadays, with one chap kitted out in knee-length riding boots. There was even a touch of rock ’n‘ roll with Ronnie Wood’s horse Sandymount Duke romping home in the fifth race. Unfortunately for Rolling Stones fans, the man himself was not in attendance.
Stars have been in relatively short supply in Galway in recent years but TV’s finest regularly make the trip west for a day of punting. He might be a Kerryman, but Dáithí Ó Sé is practically an honourary Galwegian, he’s so regular a visitor.
“I’m here with one of the lads so we’ll have a few pints and a bit of craic — it’s ironic enough that we’re having a boys’ day out on Ladies Day,” said Ó Sé. “The countdown is on to the Rose of Tralee — I try to stay away from these days out during the summer because we’ve so much of it during the festival.”
His TV partner, Maura Derrane, was back in her native city, was judging the best dressed lady competition, and was more than happy to have an excuse to get her glad rags out.
“I think a lot of women who come here are mums like me and are at home a lot, so they come here to enjoy their one day of glamour in the year,” she said. “For myself, I’ve been in trainers and wearing no make-up all summer at home, so this is the most make-up I’ve worn since finishing The Today Show in April. It’s a great excuse to dress up.”
Models were also in plentiful supply at the track. Roz Purcell, attending the races for the first time, was down to judge a best dressed lady competition but was also looking forward to the craic in Galway.
“I’m looking forward to tonight because it’ll probably be a younger crowd, especially when they’ve been traipsing around in their heels all day and then they have to go to a competition that night — it’s a real test to see who is actually comfortable in what they’re wearing and who’s given up and put the flip-flops on,” she said. “I’ve never been to the Galway Races before so it’s great to be here on Ladies Day to see all the commotion.”
There might have been winners on the course but the big winner was Alex Butler from Ballyedmond, Midleton, Co Cork, who scooped the Kilkenny Best Dressed Lady title and a prize worth over €10,000. It includes a shopping spree at Kilkenny; a five-star break courtesy of Ireland’s Blue Book; clothing by designer Aideen Bodkin; a bespoke Waterford Crystal trophy; jewellery by designer Maureen Lynch; a year’s haircare from Peter Mark; and a luxury Lancôme cosmetics hamper.
The 23-year-old Cork woman took the prize for a stunning one-shoulder mid-length red dress by Teria Yabar and headpiece by acclaimed Leitrim milliner Jennifer Wrynne. She accessorised her outfit with nude Louboutins — a present from her boyfriend.
“I am absolutely delighted,” she said. “I really wasn’t expecting it. I am really honoured to have won. This is my sixth year coming to Galway. Two years ago I was actually picked for the best hat.
“In April, I was picked for a finalist in Mallow so this is my third time being picked so I am delighted.”