Mike Quigley

Irish horse racing, betting and other stuff

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Leopardstown and Galway 2019

You can’t have too much of a good thing….

I was asked the other day how many times I’ve been to Galway, my favourite Irish city. Eleven occasions, I think. Eight times to the summer festival: 2014-2019 inclusive plus 1995 and 2010.  October racing in 2011 plus Arts Festival visits in 2003 and 2007 when racing at Ballinrobe.

As for Leopardstown, visits are more frequent than that including 2014-2019 inclusive as part of this double. 

I had considered flying to Shannon on the Friday and missing Leopardstown. With airport strikes threatened (later postponed) this looked to be a good decision. In the end it didn’t matter. BA from Heathrow to Dublin is a good option, other than the hassle of getting to Terminal Five.


25 July: admission charge 2euro (1euro seniors)

A one-night stay with a top floor room - at the Harding Hotel - reserved during my last visit! Out on the Luas Line to reach the track in time for the second race. I was not particularly inspired by the card and decided to concentrate on the one-mile handicap. Before that I backed JOB’s runner in the Fillies’ Group Three and was disappointed to see it finish runner-up to AOB’s second string Love.

Leopardstown: Kevin Blake with JOB

As for the handicap race, I made a very strong case for the top weight Kafu and had a decent bet at 6/1. It was 5th a furlong out but ran on strongly to get within a nose of the favourite. I was standing right on the line and knew it didn’t get up which made my glance at Betfair - to see he was 14.0 to win the photo - rather unnecessary.

As the winner was announced I walked quickly out of the track with the cheers of favourite backers ringing in my ears. Back into town for a couple of these:

Guinness at Neary’s, Chatham Street

Next day I was ready for the rail journey to Galway. On the way I spotted this poster at Heuston station, a sad summary of modern life. Phone watching:

Staring at your phone anywhere nice this weekend?

The races didn’t commence until Monday so after checking in at the Connacht Hotel it was off to see “Citysong” a play by Dylan Coburn Gray. A cast of six actors playing a multitude of parts. A superb production and part of the Galway Arts Festival of course. There were other events of interest to attend before the festival closed on Sunday. Meanwhile it was dinner on Friday night at Il Vicolo, one of Galway’s finest Italian restaurants. It didn’t disappoint. Here’s the view from our table:

Il Vicolo: the view was as good as the food!

As for Saturday night’s dinner we chose Oscar’s Seafood Bistro in West Galway. Prior to that we were at Beirhaus across the road which boasts a huge choice of craft beers including the excellent Oyster Stout by Porterhouse.

Oscar’s was a revelation. That day’s catch presented on a small blackboard brought to the table. Our server, Shavaun, was very knowledgeable both about the food choices and the wines on offer. All three of us went for the hake, which was delicious. 

My starter at Oscar’s: potted brown crab

West Galway, a lively part of the city

Galway races

29/30 July: admission charge 25 euro (15 euro seniors)

Entry costs are reasonable so no need to avoid them!

Galway races started as a two-day event in August 1869 so here we were on the first day of the 150th anniversary. 

The Galway Tenors gave a rousing rendition of “Ireland’s Call” to open proceedings. Crowd reaction was not dissimilar to the Cheltenham roar.

The Galway Tenors in fine voice

As in previous years, our main betting focus would be the 7f handicaps, one on each of the two days we were attending. On the betting front I’d stopped playing the tote win pool. The main issue is the slow updating of tote odds. It was no longer possible to back something with any certainty at anticipated greater odds than the ring. Hand-held Betfair prices (on a smartphone) was a far better alternative and, of course, you would guarantee your price. Tote is still useful for the occasional exotic though: jackpot, trifecta, exacta etc.

Today’s race was the 19:05. With the horse drawn two a non-runner it was a 15-runner race. Amongst the low numbers JOB’s Syrena, drawn three was strongly fancied and was my main bet. I also backed Improving (1) and Galtee Mist (4) combining all three in forecasts. Galtee Mist broke well and made all, just holding off the late challenge of Syrena. Improving was fourth. Terrific “draw” result. Galtee Mist’s SP was a decent 20/1 although I was on at an aggregate price of 27.6 on Betfair. More importantly the straight forecast paid 149 for the six-unit outlay. Annoyingly, the tote exacta paid 204 euro, which I’d missed. What a time to ignore the tote options! Still a major win.

Galtee Mist on his toes prior to Monday’s 7f handicap

Very small bets on the rest of the card and only one other winner for me, Russian Diamond in the bumper.   

Dock 2?

We were surprised to learn that one of our favourite bars/restaurants Dock 1 had unexpectedly closed earlier this year. However, something new had risen from the ashes: Ruibin (https://www.ruibin.ie/ ). Food only served in the bar currently, upstairs restaurant to follow soon. It’s a good place for a late snack (service until 10pm) after evening racing.

Selection of tasty craft beers too. Great draft IPA from Sligo. Monkfish dish was very good (so good I had it twice!). If you’re very hungry have a portion of the parmesan potatoes with it. At lunchtime the salmon and asparagus salad is great value for 12 euro.

Incidentally, just opposite Ruibin was the boat owned by the Pianocean singer.

Making waves: Pianist/singer visiting Galway docks

During the Arts Festival she played twice a day and then extended this to the following week. An interesting concept and a relaxing listen.

On day two of the races, we again concentrated on the 7f handicap which was the last race of the day. 

Before that we managed to go through the card without backing a winner. As with Monday, stakes were kept low.

The entertainment was excellent reducing the need to bet on every race!

The 16-runner denouement proved unsatisfactory as the nearest we got was sixth place with the main bet – Tintoretto – which led briefly and then got into trouble.

The end of another brilliant holiday and what betting conclusions can be drawn? Being selective and patient pays off. A total of 21 races on offer (Leopardstown/Galway) but only three of these attracted serious bets. Returns on Monday’s 7f contest ensured that an overall betting profit was made. Happy days.

What’s next? In 2020 Galway is European City of Culture so a visit next year seems an even more attractive proposition. The full programme of events will be published in September.


August 2019