The Galway Races holds a very special place in the heart of many race-goers from across the globe, and indeed in the hearts of Galwegians themselves. It has been the subject of many a famous songs and poems.
In the Beginning
In 1764 there was a five-day race meeting at Knockbarron near Loughrea, and exactly 100 years later, the ‘Western Plate’ race was confined to “gentlemen riders qualified for National Hunt Races at Punchestown or members of the County Galway Hunt”. The first racing festival held in Ballybrit was a two-day event with the first race meeting on Tuesday, 17th August, 1869.
The visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Galway on the 30th September 1979 is one of the most memorable moments in the history of Galway and indeed the Galway Racecourse in Ballybrit. It is estimated that 280,000 people flocked to Ballybrit to enjoy the papal visit. There were 77 concelebrants, 200,000 communicants with 800 priests distributing communion and 4,000 stewards.
In over one hundred years of racing at Ballybrit, the Galway Races has gone from strength to strength with now in excess of 150,000 poeple attending the week long festival every year. Recognised as the greatest mid-summer festival in Ireland, punters from all over the world visit the famous race track year after year for a great mixture of racing and old Irish craic. When the racing is over they stream into the city to carry late into the night. The Galway Race Course Committee pays tribute to Lord St. Lawrence, the man who started it all.