Hats Off to the Races!

By Amanda Crowley  |  Photography courtesy of Galway Races

Jockeys compete at the Galway Race Week 2015.

Each year, the last Monday of July officially kicks off Galway Race Week. Tradition has it that racegoers dress up for the event, both to support those racing and for fun. It’s the time of year that men pull out their three-piece suits and women search for the perfect hat. The week-long event is filled with exciting horse races and great craic all around for the 250,000 attendees.

The Galway Races are widely recognized as the premier horse racing festival in Ireland, but they’re also the most fashionable. Drawing the biggest crowds and the highest fashions during the week at the Ballybrit Racecourse is Ladies Day (Thursday). Women don their best dresses, pull their haute couture hats from their closets, and compete for the prestigious titles of Best Dressed and Best Hat. If the lure of fashion isn’t enough, the prizes may pique your interest, as the Best Dressed winner takes home a prize worth over €10,000, and Best Hat receives a prize worth €2,000!

It is the pinnacle of the summer race calendar, and this year all races on Ladies Day (28 July) are sponsored by Guinness, with the feature race, the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap, beginning at 1.50 p.m. Gates open at 11 a.m. Live music will fill the race grounds throughout the day, and there will be plenty to eat and drink. While there is no formal entry procedure for the Ladies Day Best Dressed and Best Hat competitions, those who are interested in competing should arrive early, as finalists are chosen by 2.30 p.m. Judges will simply make their way through the crowds, inviting finalists to the Ladies Day Marquee, and the winner will be announced by 3.30 p.m.

Last year’s competition saw Alex Butler from Ballyedmond, Midleton, County Cork, crowned Best Dressed. Her winning ensemble featured a one-shoulder mid-length red dress by Teria Yabar and a headpiece by award-winning milliner Jennifer Wrynne. The look was completed with nude Christian Louboutin heels and a pearl clutch. The competition was sponsored by the Kilkenny Group, and altogether the prize was worth over €10,000, including a shopping spree at Kilkenny, a luxury five-star break courtesy of Ireland’s Blue Book, clothing by Irish designer Aideen Bodkin, a bespoke Waterford Crystal trophy, jewellery by Irish designer Maureen Lynch, a year’s worth of haircare from Peter Mark, and a luxury Lancôme cosmetics hamper.

Whether you’re betting on a horse or your outfit, you’re sure to come out a winner by just attending the Galway Races!