Mike Quigley

Irish horse racing, betting and other stuff

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Getting Wet In Galway – 22/23 October 2011

Rather than travel straight through Dublin I thought it might be fun to have a night in the capital before taking the train across the country to Galway.  I had stayed at the Camden Court Hotel before and chose to stay there again as it is well located just a short walk from St Stephen’s Green. A double room was the same price as a single so I opted for the former and was rewarded with something resembling a suite (with three beds!) up on the fifth floor. In addition to the excellent accommodation there is a leisure centre with a large swimming pool and the breakfast is first class. Highly recommended.

Next morning it was the long walk down to Heuston station to catch the train to Galway. Unlike Dublin this train arrives right in the city centre and within a two-minute stroll you are in Eyre Square. Unfortunately my hotel was not in the centre but a 20-minute walk away. It was worth it though. The Carlton Hotel is up on the Dublin Road. As I approached it I thought I’d done it wrong. At first it resembled one of those Eastern bloc hotels built in the ‘60s. It’s a very large complex with a huge leisure centre.

The 20-metre swimming pool at the Carlton Hotel, Galway

The key to a reservation here is to ask for a room in the new block. These are superb. I had booked myself a three-for-two nights’ deal so I was effectively paying only £40 a night including full Irish breakfast. I doubt that you would get in at three times this rate during the summer festival. This is a mass-market hotel and not surprisingly there were masses of people! Not a problem though provided you chose your times carefully for visits to breakfast and the pool.

Friday night I made my way into town for a nice meal at Maxwell’s. Warm goats cheese salad (lovely flavours including beetroot) followed by their signature dish - fish pie washed down with a carafe of Sauvignon Blanc.

The pool was not too busy before breakfast. There was plenty of opportunity for getting wet inside these hotels but what about outside? No problem there as I was about to experience the wettest weekend I’d ever encountered in the Emerald Isle!

I braved the wet weather, walking to Eyre Square to take the “special” race bus. Unfortunately there was no sign of it and bus drivers seemed oblivious to its existence. I was advised to take a number nine which went all around the houses (and, annoyingly, right past my hotel).

How strange it was walking into a near empty track. The contrast with the summer festival could not be more evident. It did make for great viewing though despite the constant rain. The ground was already heavy and getting wetter by the minute.

On to the betting: a mixed day, moderate racing. I opposed the odds-on chance Jenari in the first, but not with the winner. Reasonable pick up in the next with easy winner Letter Of Credit, 2/1 (£3.20 tote). 

Letter Of Credit: was in the money

No joy in the third but then followed the money in the fourth with Best Served Cold. Opened 14/1 in the ring and backed into 8/1. Paid £9.50 on the tote. This was beaten two out. Finished like a sprinter on the run-in and won easily at the death. It was a 2m4f hurdle in heavy ground. He will get three miles and beyond on this evidence. Definitely one to watch.

Remaining three races were losers. The bumper queen Nina Carberry won the last by ten lengths on a 9/4 chance. Paid poorly on the tote of course. Punters were happy but not this one. Still I had kept my nose in front with two decent winners on the day.

Saturday night it was into town again for eats and drinks: Da Tang Noodle House, which you’ll find in Middle Street. I started with the Hong Dong Soup and followed up with a chicken and prawn stir-fry accompanied by a half-bottle of Pino Grigio. Another good find and one for the notebook.

On Sunday I was able to catch the number nine bus from a stop adjacent to my hotel. This was just as well as the rain had not relented. I was surprised to learn that racing was going ahead. Not many people at the track – even less than Saturday – despite a free entry promotion thanks to the tote go racing club (15 euro saved!).

It was an afternoon of seconditis. Not that my selections were narrowly beaten – the dreadful ground conditions led to tired horses finishing well strung out. I think the low point of the afternoon came when I ordered a coffee and was sold a cookie ten days past its sell-by date! My money was quickly refunded though.

The suitably named Pond Cottage won the penultimate race at 50/1. No I wasn’t on! By the time we got to the last I was wet through. My profits from Saturday had gone and I’d slipped into the red for the two days’ betting. I was beginning to think I should have left early and gone to a music session I’d seen advertised in Galway. The last was a bumper though and I had a good record in these often taking on short-priced favourites.

What better opportunity did I need? The bumper queen Nina on an odds-on chance for Charlie Swan. Head down I piled into Valleymount – showing around 7/2 and Bridgets Pet a 6/1 chance. It was 10/1 bar the three with Nina’s mount Sands Cove a 4/5 poke. I even played my two in a reverse forecast. What joy as Bridgets Pet storms up the run in to beat Valleymount 11 lengths with Nina a further six lengths back in third. 

A mud splattered Joe Burns dismounts from the victorious Bridgets Pet

The exacta paid a respectable 24.40. The winner returned a disappointing £5.90 so the Nina factor had not been as strong as I thought it would be.

Nevertheless a small overall profit had been achieved and that had looked highly unlikely half an hour ago. It was time for that music session in Galway. The pub was called Garavan’s. They have a facebook page so it’s worth taking a look.

It’s a very traditional place and despite its central location I think I was the only tourist in there. The Sunday session was in full swing by the time I got there. They did not seem to mind me taking off various articles of clothing and drying them on a radiator – including wet socks!

Having enjoyed some excellent music it was off to the Thai Garden a pleasant restaurant down on the waterfront.

Monday I took the train back to Dublin and the rain followed me there. The capital was suddenly under a serious amount of water and I think I was fortunate to get an Aircoach back to the airport and fly out on time. The next day I learnt that not long after I left the traffic had come to a stand still in the centre.

As someone once said, it always rains in Ireland.

But as my father was fond of saying:  it never rains in a pub!


October 2011