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PHOTOS: Irishman captures incredible images of famous Palio di Siena horse race

The event has been around for centuries and is very popular among locals and tourists alike.

Palio di Siena A man enjoying the race Source: Donal Moloney

THE PALIO DI Siena is one of Italy’s most famous sporting events.

The horse race, held in honour of the Virgin Mary, takes place in Siena – located in the Tuscany region – twice each year, on 2 July and 16 August.

Jockeys representing 10 of the city’s 17 districts (contrade) compete in the race around a course built in the Piazza del Campo, the central square.

Originally, there were about 59 districts but only 17 remain, 10 of which take part in the historical pageant – seven by right and three drawn by lots.

The bareback horse race has been around for centuries and is very popular among locals and tourists alike, with thousands of people attending the event.

Irish photographer Donal Moloney was at the race last month, capturing some great images of the action.

PHOTOS: Irishman captures incredible images of famous Palio di Siena horse race
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All images: Donal Moloney

Speaking to TheJournal.ie about his experience, Moloney says the race is extremely important to locals, with one person telling him: ”Palio is life.”

“Palio has been on my bucket list for many years, but I’ve always feared arriving and not being able to get the camera angles I want. The spectacle lasts just 90 seconds but the square in Siena is used for trials and ceremony the entire week leading up to the event.”

Moloney says a lottery system is used to match the jockeys (fantini) with the horses they will ride.

Horses are only assigned by the mayor three days prior by lottery … Thirty horses are used in trials on the Thursday, of which 10 are chosen. They then gallop around the square twice a day in preparation. Only then do the jockeys don the colour of the contrada they represent.

Recalling the atmosphere of race day, Moloney says he was “pumping with adrenaline”.

“Three laps of the square and it’s over. I jump the barrier with my gear on my back and run down the track into the oncoming horses to get a shot of the victorious jockey before the Italian press photographers get there.

“It’s mayhem as I beat my way as close as I can to him. Men are shouting and crying with joy as they greet their hero. I’m suddenly part of their contrada and I end up leaving the scene with them to the church where both jockey and horse will be given benediction by the parish priest … You couldn’t make it up,” he notes.

More of Moloney’s work can be viewed on his website or Facebook page

Read: Pictures: An Irishman on shift work in New York takes these stunning images of the city at night

Read: This stunning moment won the top prize for the National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year

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Órla Ryan

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