Galway is a unique combination of a teeming city and a university that’s full of life. Aside from this, Galway Racecourse, also known as a Ballybrit Racecourse, is a big tourist attraction. In itself, the course is beautiful, and blends with the city’s contemporary vibe.
Every year, the racecourse hosts a popular Irish horse racing event – the Summer Festival which attracts over 140,000 spectators around the world.
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Galway racecourse history
Shockingly, the earliest record of horse racing in Galway wasn’t in Galway Racecourse but Kiltulla. The racing results found in the Cheney Racing Register are dated from 1750. Kiltulla and Bushfield were the main horse racing venues for the better part of the early 1800s.
The earliest record of horse racing at Galway track located in Ballybrit is in 1869 when over 40,000 people flooded to the grounds for an inaugural meeting. The racecourse sits on land that was donated by Marquis Clanricard and Lord Claremorris.
As was the norm back then, the meeting got support from the Great Western Railway who graciously offered to transport horses to the races free of charge. Since then, the meeting has grown in popularity and quality with its main event being the Galway Plate that’s run during the Galway Summer Festival.
Speaking of which, the Galway Summer Festival started as a 2-day event which later grew to 3, then 4, 5, 6 and finally a 7-day event attracting thousands of people from all over the world.
One of the most historical moments on the course was the Pope’s visit in 1979. With the visit from His Holiness John Paul II, over 280,000 people flocked Ballybrit. There were about 77 concelebrants, 800 priests distributing communion, 200,000 communicants and 4,000 stewards.
This is a right-handed track that’s 1.25 miles around. It has a steep incline towards the finish but unless the course is particularly testing, the circuit is relatively sharp. However, the finishing stretch is straight and short (a little more than a furlong) which is a good thing.
Given the nature of the circuit, horses that compete here need to be strong and have stamina. Also, the jockey should be experienced to stand a chance.
This right-handed track has a circuit that’s a little over 10 furlongs. Like the flat course, it has an incline towards the finish. As such, it often favours horses with stamina. The chase course has about seven fences in every circuit. Of the seven, the last two are close to each other and are followed by a stretch of about 2 furlongs. The hurdle course is found within the chase course and ends at the final hurdle that’s in a straight stretch of about 1 furlong.
Note: the hurdle course is sharper compared to the chase course.
Galway main racing events
The Summer festival starts on the last Monday of July and lasts for seven days and is one of the longest Irish horse meets in the land. It attracts a crowd of over 140,000 racegoers. Of the 7-days, the busiest is when the Galway Plate, the Ladies’ Day and Galway Hurdles are run.
This is a handicap race that’s part of the National Hunt chase that is open to horses that are 4 years and above. It’s run at the Galway Racecourse over a distance of about 6.5 furlongs. To complete the race successfully, jockeys have to race their horses over 14 fences.
Grade 3 Ballybrit Novice Chase
This is a Grade 3 event that’s open to horses over four years and covers a distance of 2 miles. Initially, it used to happen in early September, but it has since been moved to August. The earliest recording of the event is in 1997. It has grown from strength to strength and was upgraded to a Grade 3 event in 2002.
Listed Comb Fillies Stakes
This is a flat horse race that is open to fillies and mares over 3 years old. It is run over a distance of 1,408 meters and is part of the Summer Festival.
Where to bet on Galway races
Like with most Irish horse races, you have the option to place bets through online betting sites or local betting shops conveniently located in and around the racecourse.
Each of these options has its pros and cons. For instance, betting shops provide a unique social experience that online betting lacks. Moreover, though betting sites have improved in payout times and options, betting shops are still faster. The payouts are handed out minutes after the races have ended.
On the flip side, online betting sites are convenient and are free of extra expenses, including beverages and travel costs. Moreover, live betting is faster in online sites than betting shops. Most importantly, online betting sites have unique tools and resources to help you analyze the current and past performance of horses you have your eyes on. As a beginner, take advantage of these resources as well as bonuses to get the most from your betting experience.
With that said, there are over 52 races you can bet on. Though there are no Group races on the High-Grade events, there are many competitive handicaps in codes and maidens to consider in your betting strategy.
How to get to the Galway racecourse
The closest airports to Galway city are Shannon Airport, Knock Airport, and Dublin Airports. Shannon and Knock airports are an hour away, while Dublin airport is 2.5 hours away from Galway.
You can board a shuttle bus from Eyre Square to Galway at scheduled times during the festival. Return bus services start before the second last race and after all the races are done for the day. It’d take about 36 minutes and cost you anywhere between $6 and $11.
You can drive or get a taxi from Dublin or Limerick. Directions are easier on Google Maps from both areas.
Galway is a beautiful town with a romantic setting and great races to watch, including the Summer Festival. If you are a horse racing fan, you should make time to visit.