Prize money at the Galway Races will total a record-breaking €2.3 million next month as the country's largest horse racing event celebrates its 150th summer festival.
The €250,000 increase in the prize fund from 2018 is expected to attract even bigger crowds to this mecca of racing in Ballybrit. Ten of thousands of punters from Ireland and abroad make this annual pilgrimage to the west for seven action packed days of racing.
The event will begin on Monday July 29 and run until Sunday August 4. Fifty-two races will take place over this week long period, each day offering a minimum prize fund of €120,000 for the feature race. The minimum value for any race is €17,000.
The hotly contested thetote.com Galway Plate on Wednesday July 31, a race synonymous with Galway and key to the history of the festival, received a significant increase of €50,000 with the prize fund for the 150th running of this race now standing at €300,000.
The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins is expected to present the Galway Plate to the winner on the day. Worth €300,000 in total prize money, the race has produced some high-class recent winners including, Carlingford Lough, Road To Riches and the 2017 winner Balko Des Flos.
The Galway Races contributes more than €54 million to the local economy. Advance ticket sales have proved very strong, pacing ahead of last year's figures. To celebrate its 150th birthday and to thank its customers for their support over the years, Galway Races is offering €5 off general admission tickets. This offer ends on Friday July 5.
Corporate hospitality is very popular at the Ballybrit venue with the first five days now sold out and active waiting lists and limited availably for the weekend.
Guinness announced earlier this week the renewal of its partnership with the Galway Races. This sponsorship will continue for another five years, making Guinness the longest continuous sponsor of horse racing in Ireland.
Paddy Carberry, the sponsorship manager at Diageo, said the company was delighted to continue its longstanding commitment to the Galway Races.
"Guinness has been involved with the Galway Races for 54 years, it is exciting to be here for the 150th anniversary of the festival. We're looking forward to another brilliant racing festival this summer and seeing who comes in at the Guinness Galway Hurdle."
Guinness sponsors the card at Galway on the Thursday and Friday of the summer festival with the hotly contested Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap race of €300,000 taking centre stage on Thursday August 1.
The highly acclaimed sculptor John Behan, who lives in Galway, was commissioned last year by the Galway Race Committee to design and produce a bespoke piece of life size art entitled "Leading in the Winner" to celebrate the 150th milestone at Ballybrit. This piece will be unveiled on the opening day of the racing festival and will be located beside the parade ring.
Racegoers this year will receive a complimentary Galway Races 150th lapel pin and a commemorative brochure as a memento to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Galway Races.
The Races, in association with the Galway Chamber and the Galway City Business Association have for the second year organised the "Galway Races Shop Window Competition" and are inviting businesses in the city and county to take part. They could be in with a chance of winning a VIP day at the races for their team worth €3,000.