Michael Moloney, son of John Moloney, the outgoing General Manager of Galway Races, is more than ready to take over the role and the handover process began months ago. On 6 August, John will officially be finished as GM. It is sure to be a memorable week for the whole family and all who love the Races as he has been the face of the festival for 26 years.
With a family steeped in racing, Michael’s knowledge of the races and the racecourse goes back to when he was four-years-old. “The races are a huge part of our lives, always have been,” he says.
Four years ago, Michael took up the position of Financial Controller at Plumpton Racecourse in England and progressed to become the Chief Executive.
“I always had the intention of being involved in racing. When the time came, I thought it would be good idea to go to another country and see how things are done there. I now hope to be able to implement some new ideas in Galway and bring back lots of positives from my time in Plumpton.”
He doesn’t feel the pressure in taking over from his father. “I’m fortunate that the position came up. I’ve grown up in Ballybrit and I know everyone here and every part of the racecourse. I’m very excited about the role and what I can bring to it. I know what it takes to run a festival like this. I’m not coming in totally fresh from outside, which I feel is a great bonus.”
With only days to go until the races begin next Monday 27 July, the activity on site is immense. 100 people will be working on preparing the course in the days and weeks beforehand and hundreds more will take up jobs at the course, from catering to taking bets. A recent survey revealed that the Galway Races brings in €54 million to the economy in the city and county.
“Everyone works very hard to get the course ready for the meeting. Planning for this year’s festival began the week after last year’s one finished,” explains Michael. The scale of the festival itself is huge and the prizemoney this year is at a record high.
Galway exudes a special feeling and that buzz has never seemed to wane. It’s the buzz too that Michael lives for. “It’s why we love racing. The roars as people cheer off the race and their delight if their winners come in. It’s an incredible buzz.”
That’s one thing that Michael always keeps at the forefront of his mind – the customers. “They are the most important. We want to offer them an experience in Galway they don’t get anywhere else. I will be trying some new ideas to excite people who come here. We want people who come to have a great time and to want to come back again.”
The crowds have been talking with their feet as record crowds turn up every year at the turnstiles at Ballybrit. Michael believes that the last few years have seen a higher quality of horse come to race at Ballybrit. “People want to see the best horses run here. Top quality trainers come to Galway.”
The prizemoney this year reaches a record €1.8 million. The Guinness Galway Hurdle now has a staggering prizemoney pot of €300,000, the biggest of any national hunt race run in the country this year. Prizemoney for the Galway Plate is €220,000.
Incredibly, the Galway Races have been around since 1869.
Over the past two decades, regulars to the festival will have noticed the huge investment made in facilities.
“John and the Race Committee have put a huge amount of work into the facilities and the course. This is what makes Galway what it is now.”
As racegoers count down the days to the festival, ladies across the country and overseas are deciding on dresses, shoes and handbags. “The social and fashion element of the races is also huge. People come to Galway for the atmosphere and this is what Ballybrit is famous for. Regardless of the weather, people always come to the festival.” As well as the hugely regarded Ladies’ Day, Friday’s Fair Lady and Mad Hatters Day on Sunday are also huge events during the week.
When this festival is over, Michael will be looking ahead to next year. He also faces huge challenges regarding the choice of the new N6 bypass route, which will hugely affect the course.
“We are very disappointed with the choice of route. Galway Races has been around since 1869 and it is our job to protect its future. We are unhappy with it. It is going to affect our stable yard, an entrance building and the enclosure. No one has come to us with how things will be resolved and how Galway Races will continue into the future.” He fears that the course will have to close for a time, which would be disastrous for the local economy. With the races worth over €54 million, a closure for any length of time would have a huge negative effect.
For now, Michael and the team are ready to welcome what will be record cro