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My Ireland

Looking for inspiration? Planning a trip? Or just want to scroll yourself happy? We'll show you an Ireland that's tailor-made for you.

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    GR 4 GR 4

    Galway Races

    They've been described as "Ireland's Mardi Gras", and they're the biggest event of the island's equestrian calendar. So what are the Galway Races all about?

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    County Galway
    County Galway
    • #Horseriding
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    Big hats, flouncy dresses, and some of the most exciting equestrian high-jinks this side of Royal Ascot...

    The Galway Races isn't just an event – it’s an institution, an annual week-long celebration that kicks off on the last Monday of July, and brings a real carnival atmosphere to the bohemian city of Galway.

    Galway Racecourse, Ballybrit, Galway, Ireland
    091-700 100
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    Ladies Day at the Galway Races

    Thrills aplenty at Ballybrit

    Dating back to 1869 and located just outside Galway city at Ballybrit, the races now pull in crowds of over 150,000. Both hurdle and flat races are seen over the course of the week, but the hurdles are the big draw.

    Why? Well, at Ballybrit the track is built to allow punters get an especially close view of the horses as they jump.

    You can see in the horses' eyes which ones will jump and which will balk.

    Niall Bleahen, race attendee
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    Competitors in action at the Galway Races

    Highlights and hats

    It's hard to pick a highlight of the week, but the Guinness Galway Hurdle stands out with a Grade A handicap race run over 3km, with a prize of €260,000.

    The trainer with the most points at the end of the week is also awarded a prize, although you’d have a good chance of predicting the winner: internationally respected trainer Dermot Weld has won the Galway Races Leading Trainer award over 25 times.

    There was even a campaign to rename the Galway Races the "Dermot Weld Retirement Fund" Races.

    Betting aside, there's a lot to enjoy at the island’s most famous race week. Here's how to sail through in style...

    Best for: the style-conscious

    Thursday is Ladies Day and the best-dressed woman in attendance wins a substantial prize – 2012’s Best Dressed Lady took home a one-carat diamond.

    Best for: families

    Sunday is Mad Hatter's Day at the races, and the fun gets bigger as the hats get wackier. Expect branches, flowers, feathers, balloons, oversized cupcakes… we’ve even seen sandwiches and shoes on people's heads.

    Best for: the craic (fun)

    Aprés-race, everyone floods the city centre. The Róisín Dubh and The Crane Bar are great for live music. Tigh Neachtain also beckons punters, as does The Quays Bar.

    Best for: a good night's sleep

    The G Hotel is always a favourite of trainers and jockeys, as the five-star affair has exceptional Philip Treacy-designed interiors and restaurant. But if you're watching the pennies, try the Kinlay Hostel in Eyre Square; it's just a 30-second walk from the buses that ferry the masses to and from the races.

    Now all you have to do is pick a winner...

    GR 3 GR 3

    Backing a winner at the Galway Races