On Women’s Day at the Galway Races, Ballybrit is the fake tan capital of the world – The Irish Times

The crowds may not have reached the heights of the boom days, but Ladies’ Day at the Galway Races this year saw a post-Covid Ballybrit back in exuberant form.

The weather was nice and hot and a visibly younger crowd thronged the track for the first daytime meeting of the seven-day race festival.

“Older, more traditional racegoers aren’t back in great numbers yet,” our taxi driver said as we rode back into town ahead of the final race in surprisingly short time.

Business was better during the recent arts festival. “This is the quietest week so far this summer.”

Nonetheless, the place was buzzing.

We took the shuttle service on our way out. Six euros from Eyre Square to Ballybrit with air-conditioned bus routes filling up from a fast queue and heading to the course. It seemed like a well-managed exercise.

Bus Éireann was clearly determined to avoid a repeat of last Sunday’s transport fiasco when the Dart service, overwhelmed by crowds traveling to the Bray Air Display, completely collapsed.

Aside from a few burly punters in sensible suits with their newspaper racing pages already annotated and a few older ladies in picture hats, our bus was packed with very excited young boys and girls eager to get going. If Ireland uses more fake tans per capita than any other country (and we do), then Ballybrit was the fake tan capital of the world on Thursday.

It was like being caught in the middle of a Debs dystopian dance – even though everyone seemed delirious with joy. The intoxicating scent of eye-watering aftershave rivaled relentless screams as girls in strappy dresses with eyelashes like chimney sweep brushes alternated between choruses of The Fields of Athenry, Sweet Caroline and a plowing championship favorite called Hit the Diff.

The polite young lad next to us unscrewed the screw cap of a Buckfast naggin as soon as the short journey began. He had had it before we arrived. The portaloos installed in the bus parking lot did great business. At the turnstiles, two big, burly gasuns in regulation spray-on skinny pants, vest, and tight-fitting jacket approached with a rather unexpected request.

“Would you like to welcome us as your children?

This is how we learned that minors participating in Galway races must be accompanied by an adult. And when we realized almost every young guy at the racetrack was dressed like a three-piece brown-shoe pundit from The Sunday Game after Spillane and O’Rourke.

Heels were high and strappy and emergency flip flops sold for five cents a pair at the ice cream stand.

But hats off (or hats off, to be more precise) to the ladies of Ballybrit Women’s Day. They made a huge effort for the day that was there. Maybe they did it all, and then some, because it was the first large-scale festival since the pandemic hit and it was time to shine again.

Tiaras and jeweled headpieces were everywhere, emerging new hairstyles in all sorts of weird and wonderful arrangements of crystal baubles and geegaws. Feathers swarmed over the elaborate brushings. Little dresses covered in feathers. There were neon puffball designs in taffeta and satin. Heels were high and strappy, and emergency flip-flops sold for five cents a pair at the ice cream stand.

The Women’s Day pageant sponsored by the Connacht Hospitality Group was the epicenter of this fashion extravaganza. The judges patrolled the area surrounding the stage for several hours before settling on a shortlist of 25 finalists who were then questioned for what seemed like an eternity about their outfit choice and where it came from. This took place in front of a very knowledgeable, mostly female crowd, some of whom had hoped to do the final cut.

They are known for their rather snide attitude and the catchphrase they mumble to themselves and their disappointed colleagues: “sheep dressed as lamb”.

Bars, restaurants and mobile food parlors were doing a roaring trade. The sprawling, high-level champagne bar ran well without the debauched folly of the Celtic Tiger era.

We stumbled upon a relic of the infamous days of Galway Tint, those days when you were nothing if you didn’t have access to a helicopter, a senior Fianna Fáil politician and the generous ear of Seánie FitzPatrick.

Our man seemed to be fine again, sitting with friends at a groaning high table with fully occupied ice buckets and small designer clutches with gold chains.

“What are you drinking?”

“Moet. It’s just the standard bog stuff,” he says.

Judging by the laminated bubbly menu we nicked from a table, it was indeed entry-level non-vintage “stuff” at €125 a bottle. The Rosé was at €140, the Grand Vintage at €150 and a Ruinart Blanc de Blancs at only €220.

Guinness sponsored the race card with the Guinness Galway Hurdle the featured race of the day. It was won by Tudor City, a 10-year-old bay gelding owned by John Breslin, trained by Tony Martin and ridden by Liam McKenna on his first outing since breaking his collarbone in April. It was the second time Tudor City have been in the winners’ enclosure, having also triumphed in 2019.

The race brought in €270,000 in prize money, with a first prize of €160,000. No worries for the sponsor. Parent company Diageo had another big event on Thursday: the launch of its year-end results. Our business reporter Ian Curran wrote that business is booming, with net sales in Ireland up 71%, “after falling significantly” last year and driven “by strong growth at Guinness” with the reopening of pubs and bars.

There were sightings of Ivan Yates and Tom Parlon and various Galway GAA players and some rugby heads

No wonder the company is also sponsoring Friday’s card. The amount of drinks sold at the racetrack should put a nice dent in his spending.

There were no big names around the place. On the notice board in the media room, the presence of two personalities was announced. Belgian Ambassador and uh, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what Her Excellency Karen Van Vlierberge looks like, and there was no sign of McConalogue, likely because he was over in Dublin competing in the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings Climate Targets Hurdle, which is will run for the next five years. . There were sightings of Ivan Yates and Tom Parlon and various Galway GAA players and some rugby heads.

The winners of Best Dress and Best Hat were announced and duly taken to the Parade Ring, which they shared with Guinness Novice Hurdle runners, for the traditional two-legged clip-clop to the presentation stand.

They looked fantastic. Catherine O’Connor of Newry won €3,000 for her pleated design in cream ivory tulle by Marc Millinery in Cork.

Sandra Faller of Eyre Street in Galway has won her first best dressed competition after years of participation.

“Hand on my heart, I’m completely shocked,” she said.

She wore a black Laura Hanlon hat and a bronze satin Róisín Linnane trouser suit from Olori in Cork. She last wore her Premoli sandals on her wedding day last August.

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