Bryan Cooper Reveals What Makes The Galway Races So Special

At BoyleSports we caught up with recently retired jockey Bryan Cooper who gave us his take on what makes the Galway Races so special.

The Galway Racing Festival is one of the crown jewels on the Irish Racing calendar as anyone who has been to the Galway Races can attest to.

So what is it that sets the festival apart from the rest? Cooper sat down with us and gave his take on what makes the Galway Races so special.

He also spoke to us about tactics at Galway, the pressure that comes with the event, his best memories from the festival and the strong season of Galway native jockey Rossa Ryan.

Bryan Cooper On What Makes The Galway Races So Special

I think the atmosphere there is very, very good. From Monday all the way through to Sunday, you will have a different sort of crowd. On Monday and Tuesday, you might have an older crowd and then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, you might have the younger crowd who want to go there and get all dressed up.

A lot of the jump races start down by the front of the stands as well, as the week goes on the racing start line moves, so you always tend to start in front of the stands and you can really hear the atmosphere a lot.

Quite a lot of people don’t go to Galway to look at the horses, they go for the social side of it. Everyone likes to have a bet, it’s not as competitive as Cheltenham, Punchestown or Aintree for example, but we always got buzzed up for it as jockeys.

There is a different kind of hype there, riding a winner there, even if it’s in a handicap hurdle worth 100,000 euro, but you still get such a good kick out of it and that’s all because of the atmosphere.

I could see people I went to school with there, who I might not see year in year out, but I’ll see them at Galway Races, they have it booked from the previous year.  You have your 19 and 20 year olds but then you’ll have your lads who have been going there for 30 years.

A lot of people will start off in town and then head out for the later couple of races – you can do pretty much anything you want and that is why it is such a unique festival.

A Jockey’s Perspective On How To Win At Galway

It can get quite rough and tumble around Galway! It’s certainly not gentlemanly going around there, there are hard luck stories more often than not.

You need to get a good spot, especially in the Hurdle, Plate, and also the big mile race on Tuesday. It’s always a big cavalry charge, everyone wants to be in the first four or five and there’s probably 20 runners in there.

You find a lot of them will get shuffled back a bit if they don’t travel, if they steady the pace from the front and you’re stuck in behind then you might as well say goodbye to winning as you’ll do well to get into it from the back of the pack.

You can come from off the pace but you need a lot of luck. Getting into the dip, all the way around the swooping bend and then into the straight, you will have a lot of horses coming on top of you. You need to be tactically good around there, be aware, maybe take a chance sometimes sitting on the inner and it can open up.

Other days you might not come off the bridle but you’ll finish seventh or eighth, it’s how quick they go earlier on. It sounds simple but the slower they go at the start, the quicker they’ll finish and the quicker they go at the start, the slower they’ll finish. If you’re in the box seat, you are in the best position.

The Pressure Of The Galway Races

You always find that trainers are mapping out their horses for this time of year. Maybe the bigger jumps trainers won’t have many of their big guns in Galway but they still select and point out races for their horses.

There’s still a lot of pressure riding out in a Galway Hurdle or a Galway Plate, they’re both incredibly competitive races, with a lot of money on offer and it is every man for himself out there.

Bryan Cooper’s Memories Of Galway

Well I missed Galway five years in a row from 2013-16 and then I got a bad fall on Tiger Roll in 2017 when he was going into the dip, he unseated me and I crashed into the next fence. That’s probably the memory that sticks with me for a long time as there was a period where they were worried if I had internal bleeding or something like that. That was a rough few hours.

I have ridden winners there though, I had a lovely winner there last year for Matthew Smith on Tuesday in the Grade 3 Novice Hurdle at a big price and he shocked a few people. I got a kick out, he rolled on and I was at the front and I could just ride my own fractions.

I remember Paul Townend coming in and giving out to the lads afterwards for leaving me out in front, basically giving me a freebie in front. I got a good kick out of that.

But I did miss it a lot of years, I did have some craic the year I wasn’t riding, but it is a great place.

Cooper On Galway Native Rossa Ryan’s Strong Season

I followed him quite a bit as I had heard a lot about him, I think he is a bit younger than me. I remember hearing his name on the pony circuit and then he went straight to the UK and obviously was with Richard Hannon, riding a lot of winners for a lot of trainers too but was maybe struggling to break on to the bigger stage.

Then he had the AMO Racing job but lost it, though that has shown the true character that he is, coming back from that and getting to the top level. This was a very important year for him and he is riding better than ever.

He took matters into his own hands on Shaquille. That was a spare ride he had there as Oisin Murphy was suspended but I like his attitude, he is getting the results he deserves now.

Galway Plate Odds 2023

*Prices Subject To Fluctuation

Remember, always gamble responsibly. Here’s our Safer Gambling Guide.