Officials at Galway are counting down the hours to the start of this year's Festival.

The popular seven-day meeting gets under way on Monday evening and the track's general manager Michael Moloney cannot wait to get the show on the road.

He said: "The eve of the Galway Festival is always one of the most exciting days of the year for us. The meeting is nearly upon us and we already have a fair few people here putting the finishing touches to the place.

"Hopefully we'll have some good crowds and some competitive racing over the course of the week."

The two showpiece events at Ballybrit are Galway Plate and the Guinness Galway Hurdle, which are staged on Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon respectively.

Moloney added: "Moving the Galway Plate card to an evening meeting for the first time seems to have been well received. Advanced ticket sales are well up on last year.

"It's a race that has been going since 1869, it's one of our big races and it's worth €250,000 this year, which is great.

"The Guinness Galway Hurdle is worth €300,000, making it the most valuable hurdle race run in Ireland this year.

"It's great to see so many runners entered. We have a couple of maximum fields on Monday and the two big races in particular look very strong."

Despite the prolonged dry spell, ground conditions are reported to be on the soft side of good ahead of the opening card after significant rainfall over the past couple of days.

Speaking on Sunday morning, Moloney said: "We had no rain overnight, but in the previous two days we had a total of around 35 millimetres.

"It looks like we could get somewhere between five and seven millimetres before racing and the rain is just starting to get into the ground.

"It looks like things will brighten up later in the week and we might get a couple of sunny days.

"At the moment the ground on the National Hunt course is yielding and the Flat course is soft.

"We have a good covering of grass and the course is in good condition. I'd say it will be lovely jumping ground and it might be a bit slow for some of the Flat horses, but that's where we are."