Sunday, July 24th
Today is a day marked in my calendar for a long time. Not because there is no race meeting today but because it is All-Ireland Final day and from the start of the year us Kerry folk fancied our chances of getting to the Big House for the final.
Beating The Dubs in the semi-final was huge for the Kingdom as it meant a first Championship win over them in 13 years and today we meet an up-and-coming Galway team.
The kids are with me, with Jack home from London and daughter Siun on summer holidays from Dubai. It’s the first time the three of us are together for a final so it makes it all the more special.
Thankfully, Kerry get the job done 20 points to 16 making it our 38th Final success. A first in eight years which is considered a drought for the green and gold!
Since the last one we have looked on in awe and I’ll admit a bit of jealousy at our Dublin friends with their magnificent six-in-a-row team, and you never know, this could be the start of something special for us.
With the Galway Festival starting tomorrow, I don’t have a drink today and drive everyone home, getting back to Listowel for 10.30pm. Sure, I will make up for it during the week.
Monday, July 25th
I arrive to Galway for 11am this morning, meeting up with my landlord Michael in the apartment off Eyre Square and after sorting the logistics, duvets, sheets, towels, bathroom essentials, sure I have the place looking like home from home and I rock up at the track for 1pm.
The media marquee is situated behind the Tote building in the middle of the enclosure and there is plenty of space for all the photographers and journalists.
This year’s Festival is due to be the biggest yet with prize money for the seven days and 53 races coming in at €2.1 million. There are more improvements around the enclosure with new bars and marquees and lots more public seating.
The team here led by Chairman Anthony Ryan never rest on their laurels and they are continuously raising the bar for racegoers’ experience, and this year there will be 35 live music acts over the week.
We are back to mixed cards this year and the traditional opening hurdle race is won by trainer Gordon Elliott with Royal Eagle. It’s a lovely story with the horse owned in partnership by Paddy Monaghan of “Potato Merchant” fame from back in the day and Adam Lord whose son Jack is leading the winner up working for trainer Elliott. His other son Adam is also on hand and tells us that he even rides out the horse in Elliott’s stables.
The feature is the Connacht Hotel (QR) Handicap and jockey Patrick Mullins finally puts 16 years of trying to win it to rest with success aboard Echoes Of Rain trained by his dad Willie, from stable companion Maze Runner. Willie tells us: “I wasn’t sure which horse to shout for as my wife Jackie owns the second!”
The rest of the card belongs to trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Shane Foley who combine to win three races with Pivotal Trigger, Dairerin and Irish Lullaby.
Dairerin is owned by The Sniper Alley Syndicate with members, jockeys’ gent Ciaran O’Toole, John Browne, Jimmy Nolan and 1999 Cork Hurling Captain Mark Landers living the Galway dream.
Tuesday, July 26th
Today’s feature is the Colm Quinn BMW Mile and it is won by Magic Chegaga and Colin Keane for owners Magic Lads Syndicate and trainer Brian Duffy.
The five-year-old filly scooped the €72,000 first prize in a manner that wasn’t related to her journey from her Trim base to the track.
Brian has four horses in training and was running two of them this evening with Mean Fomhair travelling in a different horsebox to Magic Chegaga because she can be a handful.
The box with Magic Chegaga overheated near Kinnegad with Brian having to pull into the church there, what does he do only head in and say a prayer, as we all do now and again when in trouble!
From there to the races you have to salute groom and former jockey Mark Flanagan who jumped into the back of the second box with the two fillies and kept them nice and calm.
It’s a huge win for the Duffy team with Brian telling us that he bought the filly for €12,500 with a €15,000 budget online while working his day job doing a customs clearance for a logistics company!
It’s Colin “Baby Mick” Keane’s third win in the race and he gains high praise from Brian telling us “we had a champion on board and he is champion for a reason.”
Now don’t laugh lads, but on my travels around the town this evening I meet two lovely girls from The Virgin Islands!
Julie and Marci are on holiday travelling around our beautiful country and they both tell me they are impressed with the friendship and hospitality they are being treated to.
They are heading for the Kingdom in a few days and I’ve told them to make sure they hit the Dingle Races for the craic. Keep an eye out for them lads.
Wednesday, July 27th
Galway Plate day and the management have themed it Country Music Day with Nathan Carter of “Wagon Wheel” fame playing on stage after racing.
President Michael D Higgins is also in attendance today which is great for our sport and you can see the pleasure the personalities in the game get from meeting and chatting with him during the day.
The Plate itself is always a brilliant spectacle with 21 runners galloping full steam over 14 fences for a winner’s prize of €164,000.
It is won by a horse bought for €850 called Hewick ridden by Wexford native Jordan Gainford, trained by Kilkenny man John “Shark” Hanlon and owned by Kildare man TJ McDonald.
It is his seventh career victory and brings his total career earnings to €320,000! The Shark is a huge character in the game both physically and personality and is probably one of the most recognisable faces the sport has.
He is a proud man today with his son Paddy leading the winner up and his Mom Brenda and Dad Willie both here racing for the first time in three years.
He tells us he always liked Hewick and he was “unlucky” as a young horse in point-to-points but if he was “lucky” he probably would have been sold and he wouldn’t be standing in the winner’s enclosure in Galway today!
Thursday, July 28th
Ladies Day today and you would make a great film of the day with the style, fashion and winner’s enclosure tales.
Tudor City bags the €162,000 first prize in the Galway Hurdle for the second time and being a 10-year-old, he is the first since 1947 when Point d’Atout triumphed. It’s trainer Tony Martin’s fourth hurdle in nine years and owners John and Debbie Breslin’s third hurdle success.
And what about his jockey? Twenty-seven-year-old Tyrone native Liam McKenna having his first ride of the season after breaking his collar bone in a fall in the Irish Grand National, giving the winner a ride that Martin tells us “Ruby would be proud of”.
It’s fantastic to see Liam enjoying his moment in the spotlight. His cousin and All-Ireland winner with Tyrone last year Conor McKenna is on hand, as is Liam’s girlfriend Louise Magee (groom of Don Cossack) and her kids Ciaran, Andrew, Michael and Thomas.
To add to the feel good vibe, trainer Peter Fahey and his local owner Basil Holian have a day to remember completing a double with chase winner Visionarian and flat winner Soaring Monarch.
But then folks on the flip side of the day our thoughts have to go out to young Limerick rider Wesley Joyce who got a terrible fall from his mount Red Heel on the flat and is carried to hospital. Wes is in our thoughts and prayers and please God he will be back in the saddle in no time.
Also, our thoughts and prayers have to go to the Newell family on the passing last night of former amateur rider Peter, who owns the super filly Surrounding. She won her 11th race in 44 starts in the Listed Corrib Stakes for trainer Mick Halford and jockey Ronan Whelan.
Peter’s sister-in-law Linda is on hand to represent the family and they decided that Peter would love the filly to take part today and she is in no doubt that Surrounding got a bit of divine intervention to win by a neck.
That’s the beauty of the Galway Races, sometimes it will break your heart, but you just love it so much you can’t get enough of it. A magical week.