Galway Festival is well and truly underway. The social event of the summer if the stories I hear are correct. Some safe to repeat, some not so!
While its safe to say that Galway and the surrounding area transcend into a nonstop party for 7 days, the racing on offer simply cannot be overlooked. Every year the top races get stronger as trainers eye the big prizes and the opportunity to win some prestigious events.
For me, the two highlights are the Galway Plate and the Galway Hurdle. Like I said before, the quality improves every year, and you only have to look at the last 5 years results to see the standard of horse that comes out on top.
Starting of with Wednesdays Galway Plate. A chase over 2 miles and 6 furlongs.
2021- Royal Rendezvous
2020- Early Doors
2017- Balko Des Flos
No surprise to see Willie Mullins and Paul Townend take the race last season. Willie tends to dominate wherever he goes these days. He needs a lorry booked just for his silverware at racings festivals.
Royal Rendezvous bucked many trends by winning. He won as 5-1 favourite. Only 4 have won in the last 20 years. However, 5 from the last 6 favourites have placed at least to give fave backers some comfort to cling onto. Also, he carried 11:05. In doing so he became the first horse to win carrying 11 stone plus since 2005.
Onto this year’s field, which again looks stacked with quality and class. It also gives us punters a proper puzzle. We wouldn’t have it any other way would we???
The Shunter is market leader. Cheltenham festival winner in 2021 but hasn’t looked the same horse since. 4th in the race last year off same mark.
Cape Gentleman has a long layoff to come back from. A big ask.
Gabynako is talented, Arkle second but has stamina to prove.
El Barra was superb at Punchestown, raised 10lb as a result, very lightly raced so shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Hewick is a Bet 365 Gold cup winner. A dominant one at that. 2nd in May over hurdles which was a lovely prep. Recent form on decent ground is way to good to overlook. Trainer confidence seems to be sky high. Career high mark but unexposed as a chaser.
Then you have horses on winning sequences like Easy Game, Hurricane Georgie and Ash Tree Meadow. They possibly look weighted to best.
You then come down to the flashback horses of Battleoverdoyen, Notebook, Castlegrace Paddy and Samcro. Fair to say it would be a massive shock if any of these were to roll back the years. Especially Samcro (Sorry Dawn)
The way I see the race going comes the way of the 7-year-old Fire Attack. Gigginstown have a fantastic record in the race. He comes here fit and firing from a run in May. A victory at Punchestown. Will enjoy the forecast ground, possible he is well handicapped with a nice 3lb claim from Shane Fitzgerald.
In my opinion there looks to be no excuses and I’m sure trainer Joseph O’ Brien will agree. Must have a major chance.
The other angle, each way angle so to speak comes in the form of another Joseph O’Brien horse. That is Darasso. He was 5th in the race last year. Since then, he’s been a very busy boy.
9 runs, 8 over hurdles. Some smart form as well. While he may not scream the ideal candidate, I can see him running a big race. This is about his level, he’s tough, battle hardened and if he can get a rhythm jumping, he will clearly have the tactical pace to compete as shown in his hurdles runs.
1. FIRE ATTACK
4. EL BARRA
Thursdays Galway Hurdle now comes into view. While the Plate seems to provide a minefield every year that leaves us looking for those well handicapped individuals. The Galway Hurdle in recent years has seen the cream rise to the top.
2019- Tudor City
2017- Tigris River
Willie Mullins taking 3 of the last 4 victories. So, it pays to take serious attention to the yard’s main hopes in the race. Well, you all knew that anyway. Its Willie Mullins for heaven’s sake.
Notably the last 5 winner’s all ran in June – July so it can be a major advantage arriving here with a recent prep. At the time of writing this, I don’t have the confirmed declarations, so a bit of guesswork is needed here.
The current market leader is no surprise. Adamantly Chosen. 5-year-old which is same age Sharjah was when he won here in 2018. Hasn’t quite hit the heights just yet and hasn’t been seen since April. I think he’s worth taking on personally. Probably only favourite because of who trains him.
Surprisingly Gordon Elliot has never won this race. He has Party Central potentially lining up here. Another who lacks a recent run but her form on decent ground is foot perfect. She’s a danger to all if a confirmed runner.
Its very hard to predict the best hope from Closutton.. Tax For Max is declared for Tuesday and is number 20 here so you must think if he was to try a Galway double, there is a good chance he will go close. A bit of a sandwich short of a picnic but talented none the less.
Felix Desjy is another head case who has been nothing but a pain in the butt for me punting wise. I abandoned ship at Punchestown so of course he went and won. His recent run in June at Tipperary was promising. He has unfinished business here. In 2020 he was a faller when he would have won. (I’m not bitter).
Top Bandit hasn’t been seen since a disappointing run at the Cheltenham Festival. Before this his record was ultra-consistent. He would warrant respect. The one horse I would love to see declared is Santa Rossa. She is a brilliant mare. Winner of the Grimes hurdle In June. She’s genuine, tough and has been campaigned superbly by the yard. Annoyingly I think weight makes things hard for her, but she shouldn’t be written off. Only one horse is rated higher than her in the field. Others have the same mark as her, but she will run to the mark. Will the others?
Many others are very much so so. This comes down to the mares for me. Party Central and Santa Rossa. Hard to split them but slight preference would be for Santa Rossa. Willie could be mob handed but I’m going to brave and pass on his platoon.
1. SANTA ROSSA
2. PARTY CENTRAL
3. TOP BANDIT
4. TAX FOR MAX
5. FELIX DESJY Top 5 here because I don’t think all will be declared.