John Moloney in sight of finish line

After a quarter of a century in the one of the hottest of racing’s hot seats, John Moloney, manager of the annual Galway extravaganza will oversee his last festival this week before folding his tent (no, not that tent!) and returning to normal life on his farm in Limerick.

John Moloney in sight of finish line

He leaves a remarkable footprint on the event, one of great growth in both the crowds and facilities at the course.

Moloney personifies the old adage: “If you need something done then ask a busy man.”

In his own words, he describes how he will spend today, the first day of his last festival in charge.

Morning

I live on the course which makes things easier, so by 6.30 in the morning, we’d be walking the course, where we would decide on the going for that days racing and then we would plan the layout for the hurdles and fences for the day. Decide where we’d put the running rail and we’d make any decisions if watering was needed.

We’d finish that and issue a going report about 7.30am to the trainers, the press, and all the different people who need it.

After that we’d be back into the office when the race cards arrive and we’d go through all those to make sure everything is correct. Then we’d meet all the key staff to see if everything is coming together, especially on the first day. There is always something to be dealt with.

Then we’d tour all the enclosures, make sure they are all clean and tidy, ready for the days racing and from there we’d make sure everything was arranged for the sponsors lunches, that all the gifts had arrived, that everything was looking okay.

At around 10am we’d get the declarations for the following days racing which is really important and I’d meet with Lorcan (Wyer, Clerk of the Course) and Horse Racing Ireland to see if any of the races needed to be changed, see how many runners there were for each race, check the weather forecast just in case we’d need to reissue the going report.

As the first day is an evening meeting all the staff and security would start to arrive at around 12.30pm and we’d need to make sure that they were all going to the right places.

The first day is always different as you’ve waited a year for it and you are wondering if something is going to go wrong and you’d have to reschedule everything, but then the gates would be opened at about 2.30pm on the first day and it sounds like music to hear those turnstiles click and people start to arrive.

Afternoon

Once the turnstiles are opened the bookmakers start to set up their pitches and it’s then you’d feel it’s started properly.

About an hour before the first race, we have a last seniority call, by this time the caterers are at full tilt and we check one more time that everybody and everything is in the right place, meet the security people on last time and by the time we finish that there will probably be horses in the parade ring.

When the bell rings and they go down to the start, that’s a great feeling. The game is on, the races are on and it’s a great feeling to have achieved that.

The clerk of the course is totally responsible for the running of the races, but we’d have three individuals following every race to see if there is anything needed, screens, horses to be caught, making sure that everything is running the best way humanly possible.

Things always happen in races, but at this stage I think we have just about everything covered.

It’s no time from there to the last race and that’s one days racing over. And then it all starts over as we need to look at the course again. There may be more decisions needed then about watering for the following day about rearranging the rails, wondering if the ground was soft here, but not there, all that needs to be done again that night.

Night

On Monday night, we always take down the rails to make a new track for Tuesday because there are chases the next day. We would finish off at the course then and we’d go back to the office, there’s always something waiting to be done and that might take an hour or so.

I walk back to the house, which would be full of people dropping by, or maybe staying the night. I admit that by this stage I’m not very social and I’d say hello and go to bed about 11.30pm. I wouldn’t worry as such when I’m trying to get to sleep, if you worried you’d never get anything done. I always find if you go to bed thinking about a problem by the time you wake up it has righted itself anyway.

It’s hard to say one moment stands above others over the years, but I have to say when I watch the races from the Stewards stand and hear the crowd behind me roar home a hot favourite, it really sets the adrenalin going. To see so many people have so much enjoyment that have travelled and supported the Galway races down the years from all over the world. It is not us that make Galway races — it’s the people that come, it’s all about people. I’m delighted I have had the health to see it through for 25 years.

Up to now, we’ve never had a holiday after the meeting because the next one is only four weeks away. The Galway races is a bit like a circus, we come, we prepare, we build all the temporary structures and then it’s all over, they’re taking down the marquees and by the time all that is cleared up, we need to be starting to get ready for racing again September. It’s great to look back though and see how successful we have become.

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