Bumper crowds expected for 2023 Galway Races

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Fondly regarded as quite the highlight for local businesses, due to the arrival of huge crowds of enthusiastic racegoers from far and wide, the Galway Races first began at Ballybrit Racecourse back in August 1869. Originally a two-day event, the summer festival became a three-day meeting in 1959, extending to five days in 1974 and six by 1982.

Since 1999 the Galway Races and festival increased to seven days, making this a week-long festival as the schedule of races also continued to expand, both in terms of international prestige and the importance of key races on the card. Held behind closed doors in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then limited to 1,000 daily attendees in 2021, the festival roared back to life in 2022 with an estimated 130,000 crowd

This number could even be surpassed in 2022, during the seven days of the 2022 Galway Races and buoyed by the festival atmosphere, as racegoers flock to this popular event. Hardly surprising, considering how influential it is within local culture and history, becoming one of the most popular events in Galway city and county, helping to put this part of Ireland firmly on the international tourist map.

Galway Races in popular culture

Throughout its history, the Galway Races and Summer Festival has entertained and inspired. Serving up drinks to attendees, after the Corrib Stand was built in 1955, the pub underneath was believed to have the longest bar in the world, up until being replaced by the Millennium Stand in 1999. One can only imagine the volume of drinks consumed, within that timeframe.

And imagination is what inspired Irish poet and writer William Butler Yeats, one of the most highly esteemed literary figures during the early 20th century, when he penned At Galway Races in the most poetic way. “Delight makes all of the one mind” is one line from the poem, epitomising the popularity of horse races and this wonderful summer event.

“Me mind being elevated” at Ballybrit also forms the subject of an eponymous Irish folk song, with The Galway Races performed by various artists over the years. This was popularised internationally by performers including The Clancy Brothers, The Chieftains, and The Dubliners. Importantly, the song itself highlights an immense gathering of people, and “Of all denominations” enjoying the spectacle in perfect harmony.

Understandably, having become such an internationally recognised event, wagering on the outcome of daily runs at Galway Races forms a large part of the entertainment. But as always, punters are wise to compare the best horse racing betting sites, ensuring they can get the best value odds and most appealing promotions, based upon the latest bookie reviews and guides from industry experts.

The 2023 Galway Races festival schedule

Held over the course of an entire week, there is certainly no shortage of racing action to keep attendees entertains, with 53 races scheduled for the complete racecard this year. Getting this popular festival going, there are seven races on each of the first three days, followed by eight on the racecard every day over the final four days.

The Opening Day commences on Monday 31st July, with The Galway Tenors performing before the grandstand, ahead of the opening race of the festival. This is followed by Throwback Tuesday on 1st August, themed around 80s music and headlined by the Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap. Midway through the week, Galway Plate Day is on Wednesday 2nd August, featuring the headline race that has been held at Ballybrit Racecourse since 1869.

Typically one of the most popular days at Galway Races, Thursday 3rd August is Ladies Day and headlining the eight races is the Guinness Galway Hurdle, boasting a €250,000 prize fund. Heading into the weekend on 4th August is Friday’s Most Stylish, featuring eight national hunt races on the card, all sponsored by Guinness this year. 

During the Bank Holiday weekend and the final two days, Saturday 5th August features eight flat races and is appropriately known as The Weekender by racegoers. Sunday 6th August is typically the Family Fun Day, featuring a mixture of eight national hunt and flat races, plus activities for racegoers of all ages. Given there is clearly so much to see and enjoy, the Galway Races promises to be unmissable once again in 2023.