The Ballybrit beer taps usually get some long-overdue respite when the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap comes to town, writes Will Jennings.
The Thursday showpiece has emptied bars at the racecourse since its opening instalment back in 1913 when Red Damsel reigned supreme and kickstarted a glittering roll call of winners.
Nine hurdles across two miles is the challenge that faces the runners and riders - the distance was extended from 12 furlongs after the race’s first six years - and no handler has mastered the jumps joust more adeptly than the trio of Willie Mullins,
Paul Nolan and Tony Martin.
That triumvirate have conquered the famous contest three times each since 1988, while Davy Russell, Robbie Power and the great AP McCoy are the race’s leading jockeys with a pair of wins each.
This year’s contest looks a real humdinger and as eyeballs turn towards Ballybrit on Thursday, we look back on five of the race's most famous winners.
Quinze - 1999
The great Richard Dunwoody was the name on all Galway punters’ lips back in 1999 as he piloted Pat Hughes’ Quinze to a stunning 14-length victory in splendid isolation.
The six-year-old came into the contest with just one triumph in his last eight starts but got back to winning ways in style on the Ballybrit turf, hitting the turbo boosters as they turned for home to leave the rest of the field in the rear view mirror.
Ansar - 2001
Dermot Weld knows all about winning Galway’s showpiece events and Ansar preceded his pair of Tote Galway Plate triumphs - in 2005 and 2006 - with a brilliant victory in the Hurdle four years before.
14-time Cheltenham Festival winner Paul Carberry was the man on board back in 2001, with David Casey remaining in hot pursuit on The Gatherer but having to settle for simply chasing Galway great Ansar home.
Cloone River - 2004
One of Nolan’s hat-trick of victories came with Cloone River 16 years ago, as jockey Paul Cullen partnered the eight-year-old to a pulsating two-length victory.
Jim Culloty kept Gemini Guest in contention but Cloone River’s late charge proved too hot to handle, as he racked up the first of two victories clinched at Galway in that calendar year and sparked emotional scenes in the winners’ enclosure.
Overturn - 2010
Donald McCain Jr’s Overturn delivered an imperious display of his credentials a decade ago, leading the field as they turned for home before jockey Graham Lee hit the accelerator to reign supreme.
And the victory came as part of a thrilling season for the talented six-year-old, who won in five of his nine races that year for jubilant owner Tim Leslie.
Rebel Fitz - 2012
Rebel Fitz proved far from subversive back in 2012, as the great Russell engineered an orderly performance in the saddle to win a Ballybrit thriller.
Gordon Elliott’s Cause of Causes stayed on strongly to narrow the gap on the line, but Michael Winters’ mount held on to add his name to a fine roll call of Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap winners.