Although known affectionately to all of us as Galway Racecourse, Galway Races or simply Galway, this track in Ireland is also called Ballybrit Race Track.
The course is located within Ballybrit, close to the city of Galway, features two popular stands for racegoers and is famous most of all for its seven-day Galway Races Festival which is held every August, coinciding with Glorious Goodwood in Britain.
- Address – Galway Race Course, Ballybrit, County Galway, Ireland.
- Owner – Galway Race Committee.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat and National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
The extremely popular turf tracks at Galway support both Flat and National Hunt races.
The Flat track at Galway is right-handed and tight, just around a mile and a quarter in total length.
Not surprisingly, the track here is described as sharp however there is a pronounced incline towards the winning line and when the rain comes it can be very testing indeed, meaning stamina is needed.
After the final bend, which is also where the 1½-mile start is, there is just a smidge over a furlong to the line with that short straight meaning few come from very behind to snatch victory.
Flat Track Analysis
The jockey feedback from Galway is that it indeed is very tight and difficult to ride at times.
Runners are just about always on the turn and, despite the short run-in, the stiff finish is actually one of the hardest in Ireland.
While jockeys may want to be in pole position on the final bend, owing to the short straight, stamina is offered by riders as the main requirement here as many runners go off too early and that finish is tougher than many think, so keep that in mind.
There are a few hard luck stories at Galway too, with fields remaining very tight on the turns.
With this in mind, remember that there is a difference between hold-up horses and those with stamina. Those attempting to come from the back will always be disadvantaged here, though you do need to see out every yard.
Where possible, look for a horse you know is already proven at Galway as it has been described by jocks as a specialist’s track.
Again right-handed and tight, the jumps course is just over 1¼ miles round and features the same stiff finish.
Once more, the National Hunt track is described as being tight, but in softer ground conditions can be particularly testing so just as is the case with the Flat course, stamina is needed, with those running at or near the front also gaining an advantage.
There are seven fences on each circuit, the last two being close together with a run-in after the last of more than a quarter-mile.
The hurdle track is on the inner of the chase course, at least until the final flight which is on the short straight of around 250 yards.
Jumps Track Analysis
Jump jockeys really need to know how to ride Galway, and they describe the track as being for specialists too as far as the equine talent is concerned.
Much like the Flat track, the NH course is tricky for jockeys to ride. Those in the know, even when not in the position they want to be in, allow their horses to gather themselves up going downhill as otherwise it is well known within the rider ranks that you won’t finish out your race at Galway.
Good jumpers are needed if for nothing else than those two final fences which are close together, with energy to be conserved before tackling the stiffest finish of all.
As well as looking for returning horses who’ve run well, it could be even wiser to go for riders who are proven around Galway as that will stop you as a punter getting a major disadvantage.
Visiting Galway Racecourse
Either side of your visit to Galway Races, there are plenty of other things to see and do in the area.
Galway is known as Ireland’s Cultural Heart, with various festivals taking place. The seven-day Galway Races Festival in August is just one of them.
How to Get to Galway Racecourse
Galway Racecourse is situated near the M6 and can easily be reached from Cork, Dublin and Limerick among other places.
The track is also just a 40-minute drive from Shannon Airport, an hour from Knock Airport, two hours from Dublin International and 2½ from Cork Airport.
If you’re driving from the Dublin area and the east of the country, head across the R148, the N4 and the M4 to the M6 towards Bothar na dTreabh/N6 Galway. The racecourse is then signposted.
From the Limerick area, take the R445 to the N18 at Clare. From there, take the M18 to the N66 in Galway, following the N18 and the R446 to the track.
Coming from Cork, take the N20, N18, M18 and N18 again to the R339. Take Ballybri t Cres towards the racecourse.
From the north you can take the A12 after the A1, then the M1 to the A1 in Lisburn. Take the A1 exit from the M1, carry on to the N1, then take the M1, M4 and M6 to Bothar na dTreabh. The racecourse is signposted.
There is also a shuttle bus service in operation for Galway Racecourse. The bus runs from Eyre Square to the track for the Galway Festival, departing from the Skeff Bar. Return services begin just before the penultimate race.
Where to Stay
Within Galway city there is more than enough accommodation for racegoers. Many hotels, B&B’s and rental properties are made available so staying further out is not needed, though with advanced travel booked you can commute from Dublin or other parts of Ireland.
The Galway Festival
Other major meetings do take place at Galway and the track operates all year, though the Galway Races Festival is highlight of the whole programme.
The Festival takes place over a full seven days, beginning in late July or early August each year. It coincides with the Glorious Festival at Goodwood in England, though that is staged over five days.
More than 140,000 people attend the festival during the week, one of the biggest social events of any type in Ireland.
The Galway Festival is unique within racing as it stages both Flat and National Hunt events, though the former is competitive if not terrific quality.
Based not just on the c20,000 people on-course but also those betting online and around Ireland in the shops, the Galway Festival races’ betting markets are the most competitive in Ireland, turning over many millions.
Racing highlights during the Galway Festival include:
|Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle||2m½f||Jumps||Monday|
|Premier Handicap||4yo+, Handicap||2m1f||Flat||Monday|
|Novice Hurdle||4yo+, Novice Hurdle, Listed Race||2m½f||Jumps||Tuesday|
|Mile Premier Handicap||3yo+, Handicap||1m½f||Flat||Tuesday|
|Mares Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Fillies & Mares, Handicap Hurdle||2m½f||Jumps||Wednesday|
|Galway Plate||4yo+, Handicap Chase, Grade A||2m6½f||Jumps||Wednesday|
|Novice Chase||4yo+, Novice Chase, Grade 3||2m2f||Jumps||Thursday|
|Corrib Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Listed Race||7f||Flat||Thursday|
|Galway Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle, Grade A||2m||Jumps||Thursday|
|Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle||2m||Jumps||Friday|
|Handicap Chase||4yo+, Handicap Chase||2m6½f||Jumps||Friday|
|Premier Handicap||3yo+, Handicap||1m4f||Flat||Friday|
|Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle, Grade B||2m7f||Jumps||Saturday|
|Eileen Kelly Memorial Chase||5yo+, Chase||2m6½f||Jumps||Sunday|
|Lord Hemphill Memorial||4yo+, Handicap Chase||2m2f||Jumps||Sunday|
|Ahonoora Handicap||3yo+, Premier Handicap||7f||Flat||Sunday|
About Galway Racecourse
Galway Racecourse has a long and rich history.
There are records of organised racing meets in County Galway going all the way back to the 13th century, back when ‘horse matches’ were run rather than the multiple-horse races we see today.
In 1864 a full five-day meeting was organised at Knockbarron near Loughrea. Exactly a century later, the ‘Western Plate’ was run and at the time was confined to specific jockeys, namely ‘gentlemen riders who are qualified for National Hunt races at Punchestown, or members of the County Galway Hunt”.
That event was a precursor to some of the great racing we see at Galway today.
The opening day of the meeting at Ballybrit was staged on August 17, 1869, reportedly in front of 40,000 people. From that point onwards racing at Galway became bigger, more organised, and grew organically to become what we know today as some of the most competitive racing anywhere in Europe.
Galway Racecourse Today
Those 100+ years of racing at Ballybrit have really counted for something, with what is now the Galway Festival bringing 140,000 ticket sales during the week and all that is associated with that.
The most popular summer festival in Irish horse racing, fans of the sport from all over the country, as well as from Britain and further afield, come to the track every summer to witness one of the best, most competitive and certainly longest horse racing festivals of all.
Galway Races has been going for a long time, but boasts modern fixtures and accommodates its tens of thousands of racegoers in fine style.