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A Day at the Races in Doolough

It was the perfect day for the annual horse racing on Doolough strand – blue skies, warm sunshine and a big crowd to ensure a carnival atmosphere – and to top it all a win for the grandson of one of Ireland’s most famous jockeys.

By 3 pm the rolling sand dunes overlooking the majestic Doolough Strand near the village of Geesala in Co Mayo was a colourful throng of people moving to and fro between the elevated viewing area overlooking the sandy race course and the busy parade ring.

Images of Doolough Horse Races near Geesala in Co Mayo on August 16th 2015. Photo: Anthony Hickey
Images of Doolough Horse Races near Geesala in Co Mayo on August 16th, 2015. Photo: Anthony Hickey

The sights and sounds of race day in Doolough were all heightened by the warm sunshine – a welcome treat from the otherwise dismal summer weather of 2015.

Fashion, Fun, and Food

The on-course bookmakers, wedged between a sea of hawkers, shouted the odds as they served the queues lining up to place bets. And the public address interviews with some well-known personalities and emigrants kept everyone entertained between the exciting races.

The usual games of chance had a local twist such as dart throwing at a board spun by a cement mixer  – and guess the weight of a sheep fundraiser for Geesala Boxing Club.

The kids enjoyed the carnival rides and amusements during what was, as always, a lovely family day out.

Food stalls were everywhere and the mackerel, fried spuds, and mussels was the tastiest dish of the day and Munnelly’s busy beer tent was the place to quench your thirst in the shade.

Old friendships were renewed by the many exiles who return every August for the races which are the highlight of the week-long Geesala Community Festival.

Racing for the finish line in the Doolough Horse Races near Geesala in Co Mayo on August 16th 2015. Photo: Anthony Hickey
Racing for the finish line in the Doolough Horse Races near Geesala in Co Mayo on August 16th, 2015. Photo: Anthony Hickey

The Best Dressed Lady competition ensured there was lots of style on show with all the competitors looking very elegant in the bright sunshine.

A win for Pat Taaffe

There was an unexpected treat for horse racing followers who were delighted to discover that Tom Taaffe, one of Ireland’s leading National Hunt trainers, was in Doolough with his son, Pat, who rode the winner, “Fully Loaded” in the mile and a half race.

Horse racing on Doolough beach near Geesala in Co Mayo on August 16th 2015 against the majestic backdrop of Slievemore, Achill. Photo: Anthony Hickey
Horse racing on Doolough beach near Geesala in Co Mayo on August 16th, 2015 against the majestic
backdrop of Slievemore, Achill. Photo: Anthony Hickey

Tom Taaffe is a son of the late Pat Taffe, one of Ireland’s greatest jockeys, who won three Gold Cups at Cheltenham on the best National Hunt horse of all time, Arkle, between 1964 and 1966.

Tom Taaffe said it was his first visit to the Doolough Races and he was most impressed with the entire setup, including the course layout, and thought Doolough was a fantastic beach for horse racing.

He said that he was also impressed with the very friendly atmosphere and was delighted to see so many emigrants returning to the area for the racing.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.

One reply on “A Day at the Races in Doolough”

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