Welcome to the ultimate Galway Races betting guide! The Summer Festival at Galway's Ballybrit Racecourse, better known as the Galway Races or the Galway Festival (not to be confused with the two-week Galway International Arts Festival taking place immediately beforehand), is a seven-day meeting taking in both flat and jumps races. It starts on the last Monday of July every year, and all of the top horse racing betting sites will have plenty of markets available throughout the week.
While only the Galway Plate and the Galway Hurdle have any great significance outside the festival, it's a great social occasion enjoyed by thousands and the site of many a monster horse racing betting gamble.
Trainer Dermot Weld may have won some of the biggest races in the world including the Derby and the Melbourne Cup, but to many he is synonymous with the Galway Festival having been champion trainer 30 times including an unbroken stretch from 1998 to 2015.
This year marks 150 years since the first Galway Races in 1869 with eight contests held across two days. It has grown steadily over the years to become the sprawling behemoth it is today. And while it may lack the star appeal of a Cheltenham or a Punchestown Festival, it provides competitive action with plenty of connections set on having a Galway winner.
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With 52 races to get stuck into, there is no shortage of horse racing betting opportunities at the Galway Festival. There are no Group races on the flat or high Grade events over the obstacles, but there are plenty of competitive handicaps in both codes as well as some interesting maidens to take into account for your horse racing betting strategy.
There's a few simple things that can help when attacking the racecards in Ballybrit and whilst they seem obvious in parts, keeping a few factors in mind is definitely advantageous to staying financially afloat over 7 frantic days in the west of Ireland.
Course experience is worth it's weight in gold: Galway is a real specialist track given it's unusual undulating nature, so if your fancy has ran well here in the past it's a massive boost.
The importance of the draw: With Galway being such a tight track, you do not want to be on a horse who is drawn wide. Of course there is exceptions to this, but generally, it's ferociously difficult to get across from a wide draw due to the quick sharp bends and the aforementioned tight nature of Ballybrit racecourse.
Don't simply follow Weld blind: Whilst this was a tactic that would have led to umpteen winners several years ago, Dermot himself has stated that he no longer targets horses at this festival like he used to. Human beings are naturally loyal, so people still back his horses at Galway and this leads to betting markets that are advantageous to those that take his horses on.
In 2015 Dermot Weld was the Galway Festival’s top trainer for the 29th time in 30 years, but he lost his crown to the juggernaut that is Willie Mullins and many struggle to see him getting it back anytime soon!
There is very limited ante-post betting on the Galway Festival until the week beforehand with only the Galway Plate and the Galway Hurdle priced up then.
With 22 runners in the Galway Plate, four places will be available for each-way betting although some bookies may offer extra places on the day. The maximum field for the Galway Hurdle is 20 so, again, there will be four places for each-way ante-post punters.
These markets can be quite volatile with 2004 Galway Hurdle hero Cloone River available at 16/1 ante-post before being sent off the 7/2 favourite.
First run in 1869, this will be the 150th renewal of the most prestigious race of the entire festival. Gordon Elliott's Clarcam took victory last year to make it four wins in five years for the famous Gigginstown House Stud colours.
The two miles and six-and-a-half furlong (4500m) contest boasts an unusual finish with the last two fences just a handful of strides apart before a mammoth two-furlong run-in to the line. Unsurprisingly, the big yards and owners have dominated in recent years with the green and gold battalion of JP McManus and Willie Mullins worthy of plenty of respect.
For some, the Galway Plate is a valuable stepping stone to bigger things. McManus's last winner came in 2013 with Carlingford Lough who went on to win two Grade 1s, while 2014 hero Road To Riches won the Lexus Chase the same year before being placed in a Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase.
Dermot Weld's Ballybrit specialist Ansar, a Galway Hurdle winner in 2001, was the last horse to win back-to-back renewals in 2004 and 2005. Before that, Aidan O'Brien achieved the feat with Life Of A Lord in 1995 and 1996.Galway Hurdle (€300,000)
Like the Plate, this handicap hurdle is a real puzzle with the winners often coming from smaller yards. That said, Sharjah last year made it two wins in three years for Willie Mullins.
Held over two miles (3200m), the winners are usually just short of top-class with Donald McCain's gutsy dual-purpose frontrunner Overturn victorious in 2010. Michael Winters had consecutive wins in 2012 and 2013 with Rebel Fitz and Missunited respectively, before Tony Martin saddled Thomas Edison and Quick Jack to take the 2014 and 2015 editions.
As with all Galway contests, watching the money is vital before having a bet. There will be whispers aplenty in the days leading up to the big races, and horses will have been prepared specially to try and land a big pot.
"Diarmuid is a published horse racing journalist and creator of the #racehour twitter community which produces a weekly podcast and a home for all things horse racing throughout the flat and jumps season across the UK and Ireland."
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