Mike Quigley

Irish horse racing, betting and other stuff

   Home      Leopardstown & Galway 2014

Three Italians in Galway

Leopardstown 24 July, Galway 28/29 July

I'd arranged to meet two friends at Leopardstown for the evening meeting on 24 July. We arrived in Dublin at different times from different airports. One from Birmingham (B man) the other from Heathrow (H man).These days it's easy to get down to the track from central Dublin, just 22 minutes on the Luas Line from St Stephen's Green and then a courtesy bus or a short (15 minute) walk to the track. Even though the track is very close to Dublin I can remember often getting lost trying to find it by car!

Are my friends Italian? No. Am I Italian? No. More on three Italians in Galway later!

The Leopardstown card was not brilliant; just 54 runners across the seven races. But there was the attraction of a Sharon Shannon band concert after racing included in the entrance price. I thought it would be busy, not least because of the live music. But that was not the case. Incredible value ticket prices though. Full price was 15 euro but it was only ten euro if you were over 65. These days ten euro is only about eight quid. Ireland continues to call senior citizens OAPs. I prefer the phase used in the Czech Republic: super adults!

My afternoon flight to Dublin was late so I was the last to arrive at the track. The chaps were already engaged playing tote bets. However betting opportunities were few and far between. I backed Mr Snagsby in the 19:30 (on the tote) mainly because it was showing 4.00 at the off and had been well supported in the ring down to 6/4. It won in an exciting finish but paid only 3.10. These winnings I promptly lost in the penultimate race with no bet in the four-runner last.

The concert was excellent so we listened for a couple of hours accompanied by some decent Guinness. Then back to Dublin and our three different hotels. I was staying at the Camden Court.

Friday morning we were off to Galway from Heuston station. I have found this route via Dublin to be the best way of getting to Galway since the local airport closed in 2011.  I was staying at the Connacht Hotel on the outskirts of the city. I've stayed here before – it’s very busy in the summer months but has excellent facilities including a terrific indoor pool.

Three reasons to come to Galway at this time: visiting a friend who had recently moved here from London following retirement; the arts festival; the racing festival! It was the final weekend of the arts festival and I'd been lucky enough to secure a ticket for 'Ballyturk' a new play by Enda Walsh which had subsequently become booked up for the whole fortnight of the festival. Quite a disturbing experience it was too. I'm still trying to work out what it all meant! It starred the excellent Cillian Murphy. You may know him from the BBC series 'Peaky Blinders'. If you don't you should watch the second series in the autumn. It involves bookmaking and fixing races in the Edwardian era in Birmingham. Series one was a great watch.

On our first night we went to an excellent Italian restaurant recommended by our friend the new Galway resident (NGR). Unfortunately BM had to return to Dublin so it was just the three of us in Il Vicolo on O'Brien's Bridge overlooking the river. I had the house made ravioloni stuffed with crab meat followed by prawn risotto with asparagus, mascarpone, white wine and saffron - washed down with a refreshing Italian beer.

View from our table overlooking the River Corrib 

The following day we took in some street theatre including this 'invasion' from some very strange individuals:

Saturday night we found ourselves in another Italian restaurant this time on Buttermilk Walk called Via Veneto in the premises that Il Vicolo used to occupy. This was more of a wine bar/cafe than a restaurant. The bruschetta here is excellent. Pasta was very good too.

The Galway races started on Monday and ran for seven days. It was just HM and me at the races as NGR is not a racing man. More value to be found at the entrance gate. It was 20 euro entrance fee but only ten euro for OAPs. Man on the OAP desk tipped me up Manhattan Swing in the first – one to avoid of course not least because it was a short-priced Weld runner. Finished sixth of eight.

Played small but there was no joy in the first four races. However we thought we had an angle in the seven furlong handicap. This is the shortest distance they run over here. When the ground is quick there is an advantage being drawn on the inside. Certainly to be in the first quarter in the draw is advantageous – provided the jockey gets a fast start.

We’d had a good look at the race in the morning and there was one horse with a live chance drawn in the front three. This was Botanical Lady. A substantial bet at 6/1 was placed. Imagine my horror when they trapped from the stalls and our jockey took a massive pull and dropped in behind. As a consequence we were trapped on the rail as they headed into the straight. The jock got out eventually and finished like a train for a close second.

No good in the penultimate but some relief in the last - a Bumper in which we took on the Weld hotpot (5/4f) with a couple of selections and were rewarded when Princely Conn stayed on at 7/1 paying £9.60 on the tote. So it was a losing day but tomorrow was another day.

It’s strange there are so many Italian restaurants in Galway. I was under the impression half the population had Spanish roots but never spotted a Spanish restaurant. I don’t know exactly why but we ended up in our third Italian on Monday night. It was a trip to Venice:

Some excellent spaghetti with fresh prawns, garlic, courgettes, chillies, white wine in a basil cream sauce. Accompanied by a pretty decent South African sauvignon blanc.

After that it was across town to Garavan’s.

Punters outside the popular Garavan's pub. Great for traditional music

Next day was my second and final outing at Galway races. Entrance: 25 euro or 15 euro OAPs! My morning was spent looking through the card, with particular reference to the 7f handicap. This was a tricky affair with 16 runners. J O’Brien was on the one dog – Battleoftheboyne which was a decent ew price – 16/1. I also gave a good ew chance to one of the rags – Surreal in the two box – 33/1 with a few firms. So it was those two that were significantly backed each-way before arriving at the track.

The first two races passed without a pick-up. In the third I opposed the Weld short one (evs). My two selections finished first and second with the winner returning at 12/1 but paying a nice 20.0 on the tote. This was the lightly-raced Legatissimo trained by David Watchman. Near misses in the next two then it was the big one - the 7f handicap. My picks were showing at 16/1 and 25/1 respectively in the ring. The latter was showing 50 on the tote so I had a top up.

JOB burst from stall one and led until the furlong pole. Surreal got a nice break too and was third entering the straight. Then JOB blew up and finished out of a place by a head. But, incredibly, Surreal kicked on for a comfortable win! The crowd went rather quiet.…..

Surreal! Bursts clear of her field to land a bumper payout

The winner paid 36.80 on the tote a bit less than I was expecting. But it didn’t really matter as all the holiday expenses had been covered with today's betting. Aside from a small bet in the last on Henson against the 2/5 Weld runner that was the end of the racing. I didn’t bother waiting for the outcome of the enquiry in the last – in which Henson was an unlucky second and the stewards took 30 minutes or more to decide he wouldn’t get the race.

Following another visit to Via Veneto - to indulge in the most expensive things I could find on the menu - it was back to Dublin by train the following morning and onwards to the UK.

A great adventure which had proved financially successful too….