White flag raised for the races...

It’s all systems go for the Galway Races which get under way on Monday week July 28 and run until the following Sunday August 3.

Groundstaff and officials have been beavering away all week to ensure that the course looks in fine form for the showpiece of the racing calendar in Ireland.

And showing just how eager people are to compete is the announcement that 12 English runners have stated their aim is to come to Galway and win one of the two main races —

Four English runners have been entered for The William Hill Galway Plate, headed by Hoola Baloo from England’s champion trainer PF Nicholls — he also runs the favourite in the race Oslot.

Eight English runners have been entered for The Guinness Galway Hurdle from leading trainers in England i.e. P Nicholls, PJ Hobbs, RA Fahey, and Ferdy Murphy.

The Race Commitee are delighted to announce that Rooney Life and Pensions will once again sponsor the Leading Flat and National Hunt Jockey awards. The Leading Trainer Award will be again sponsored by Chanelle Veterinary. The prize for the best-turned-out horse in each of the 51 races will be donated by Paddy Power Bookmaker.

The irrepressible Hector Ó hEochagáin, will return this year to host “Hector’s Evening with the Sport Stars” on the first day of racing on Monday July 28. This event will take place on a new stage between the Millennium Stand and the Owners and Trainers Bar. Guests will include Galway football hero Padraig Joyce, Munster and Ireland hooker Gerry Flannery, Galway hurler Alan Kerins, Ruby Walsh, Davy Russell and a host of more jockeys. An evening of fun, laughter and general hilarity is guaranteed.

The Best Dressed Lady competition takes place on what is traditionally known as Ladies Day on Thursday July 31st. This year’s competition is again generously sponsored by Anthony Ryan Ltd of Shop Street, Galway and Best Hat competition is sponsored by The Ardilaun hotel.

The winner of the Best Dressed Lady will receive a lavish first prize worth €12,000, comprising of €4,000 cash, a diamond neckpiece worth €6,000, and €2,000 of vouchers for Anthony Ryans store along with a crystal vase from the collection by Irish Fashion Designer Louise Kennedy. The runner-up will receive €1500 Anthony Ryans Shopping Spree..

The prize for the Best Hat is sponsored by The Ardilaun hotel and will begin with a luxurious overnight in the Ardilaun Hotel, Galway, swift chauffeur transfer to Galway airport for a direct flight to Amsterdam where two people will enjoy a three day exclusive visit in the Dutch capital, in four star luxury accommodation overlooking its famous canals.

All finalists at the Best Dressed tent will be presented with a special collection of Versace cosmetics compliments of University Pharmacy, Galway.

This year’s judges are leading officiators from the Irish fashion world, Bairbre Power, Fashion Editor, Irish Independent Weekend Magazine and Fashion Stylist on RTE’s Afternoon Show, PJ Gibbons Editor Social & Personal Magazine, Lorraine Keane, presenter Xposé on TV3 as well as Patricia McCrossan, Galway NOW.

There is a new sponsor for the Mad Hatter Competition, Ireland West Airport Knock and Stein Travel, which will take place on Sunday, August 3. It is a day of fun, colour and excitement. Adults and children are invited to come in their most stylish, creative and outrageous hats all vying for a chance at winning some of the top prizes and enjoy what is one of Ireland's most popular sporting and social events.

This competition will be judged on a large stage at the back of the Millennium Stand. Annette Kearney, Marketing & Route Development Manager at Ireland West Airport Knock said she is delighted to be associated with this fun West of Ireland event.

“Like every other year the staff at the airport look forward to facilitating and greeting the many thousands of visitors who travel through our airport to attend the races. The Galway races is a very significant event in the west of Ireland calendar and helps raise our profile on the international stage and generate tourism to the region each year. We wish the promoters every success again this year,” she added.

Bus Eireann will operate a shuttle bus to and from the races departing outside the Skeffington Arms Hotel in Eyre Square. To facilitate the free flow of traffic.

RTE will televise all seven days of this years festival. At the Races (Sky Channel 418 ) will screen all 51 races live.Radio na Gaeltachta will broadcast all races on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as gaeilge and.Galway Bay FM, will provide Festival Radio with live coverage of every race in English throughout the meeting.

There will be a free racecard draw each day of the festival with prizes from a family holiday, weekend breaks and exclusive jewellery.

Lucky punters can relish the prospect of guaranteed tote jackpots on all seven days of the Festival: Wednesday and Thursday €70,000; Monday, Tuesday and Friday €50,000; Saturday and Sunday €30,000.

Even if your horse loses, you can still be a big winner with the popular tote losing ticket draws each day for weekends away in various hotels.

The organisers cannot emphasis enough to come early to the races and gates will open two and half hours before the first race each day.

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