History of galway races

For those wih an interest in the past, the Galway Festival history is a fascinating one. Incredibly records exist that tell of horse race meetings in Galway as long ago as the 13th century, when ‘horse matches’ were organised under the ‘Kings Plate Articles’. Then in 1764 a horse racing festival took place near Loughrea in County Galway with the feature race being the 'Plate' A century later, the meeting had become more formalised and the feature race by then had become the Western Plate. Its entrants were confined to either those qualified for the National Hunt or the County Galway Hunt.

The first racing festival on the Ballybrit racecourse took place on 17th August 1869 where it is believed 40.000 people turned up to watch. The Ballybrit racecourse that measured one and a half miles long was described as a course that excelled any other course in Ireland for good going. The first festival was staged over two days, with four races on each day, but the main attraction for the huge crowd was the Galway Plate,a steeplechase that carried a prize of 100 ‘Sovs’ and raced over a 2½ miles. This first Galway Plate was won by ‘Absentee’in a thirteen horse field.

The festival became an overnight success and the Galway Plate rapidly became one of the biggest races in Ireland. Improvements to the course were constantly made and reputations earned over the next fifty years.

Liberator won the plate in 1879 and went on to win the Grand national in the same year, but the most famous of all Galway Plate runners was the legendary Tipperary Boy who won the Plate three times, in 1899, 1901 and 1902. The Ussher stables became synonymous with Galway races saddling seven winners and Harry Ussher himself set an unprecendented feat in 1920 of saddling all the winners on ‘Plate’ day except the ‘Plate’ itself. With the advent of radio broadcasting in 1929 the Galway Races received a huge following, the Galway Plate was broadcast live in that year as well as the Irish Derby. These days with TV coverage, corporate sponsorship and a seven day meeting, the Festival has become one of the sporting highlights of the Irish Calendar year. It also is one of the biggest betting events anywhere in the world and the Galway Festival 2009 odds will reflect how avidly the races are followed. These days those making bets can usualy do so free with the many fre bet offers available and often combine the free bet with one of the thousands of unqualified tips that are available at the drop of a hat See Galway Festival betting here.

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