This fixture is undoubtedly the highlight of the racing year in Ireland and with up to 200,000 patrons expected to pass through the turnstiles over the seven-days, this year’s meeting promises to be as exciting as ever.
Monday’s opening fixture is an evening meeting that kicks off at 5.10pm, where the entire seven-race card is sponsored by local hotels. The feature race is the €75,000 carlton.ie/ galway city Qualified Riders’ Handicap over two miles and this competitive contest has thrown up some pretty useful winners in the past.
Tuesday is also an evening session (5.10pm) where the Topaz Mile Handicap (formerly the McDonagh) will take centre stage. This €120,000 one-mile contest is always keenly contested and finding the winner will be difficult.
Wednesday is www.thetote.com Galway Plate day and this is the very much the highlight of the week. With a value fund of €200,000, the ‘Plate’ is one of the most sought-after prizes of the summer and the historic race will attract all the best chasers in training. Fans should note that the starting time for Wednesday has been moved to 3pm with the Plate now going off at the later time of 5.25pm.
Style is very much the order of the day on Thursday (1.50pm start time) which is Ladies Day, In recent years, record crowds have flocked to the course for Guinness Galway Hurdle day and 40,000 were present last year to witness Bahrain Storm claim the hurdle.
Action of Friday evening kicks off at 5.10pm with the Guinness Handicap the feature race while the Freshways Handicap Hurdle is the highlight on Saturday afternoon’s card that gets underway at 2.25pm.
Sunday will bring the curtain down on yet another festival with the Connacht Tribune Handicap the highlight of a seven-race card that starts at 2.20pm. Sunday is also Mad Hatters day with all racegoers urged to wear their most stylish, creative and outrageous hats to be in with a chance of winning a valuable prize.
Weld the man to follow
As always, there are some very important ‘rules’ to observe when taking on the bookies at Galway and head of that list must be to follow Curragh trainer Dermot Weld. The master of Rosewell House has dominated this meeting over the past two decades and, year after year, he seems to lay out a team of horses that come alive at Ballybrit, be it on the flat or over jumps.
Last year Weld was crowned leading trainer for the 20th time at the meeting with 10 winners and he will be a very short price to do so again. He will have a host of runners throughout the week – in both codes – and it seems a mere formality that he will be a regular visitor to the winners’ enclosure. Pat Smullen will ride the more fancied Weld horses on the flat, while Robbie McNamara and Barry Geraghty will share the more important rides over timber.
One familiar face missing from the National Hunt action at this year’s meeting will be that of champion jockey Ruby Walsh. The Kildare rider, who has been on the sidelines with a broken arm he sustained in a fall from Celestial Halo at Aintree on Grand National day, visited his surgeon in Dublin on Monday where he was advised to delay his return to the saddle for another month. There was better news, however, for Davy Russell, who looks set to return to the action. Russell, who claimed the 2008 Galway Hurdle aboard Farmer Brown, picked up a nasty ankle injury in a fall from Napa Star at Listowel over the June Bank Holiday weekend but has been passed fit to resume and will be one of the most sought after riders next week.
Elsewhere, it will be very much a case of following the men in form. Top flat trainers’ Kevin Prendergast, Jim Bolger and Aidan O’Brien have fierce firepower to call on. Pat Flynn, Ken Condon, Tommy Stack and Eddie Lynam also have their horses in top form at present.
Over jumps, Willie Mullins, Tony Martin, in-form Gordon Elliott and Edward O’Grady are likely to feature in a big way while jockeys Paul Carberry, Barry Geraghty, Andrew McNamara, David Casey and Niall Madden can be expected to feature in a big way throughout the week.
On the local side of things, Noel Glynn, whose Island Myth sprung a 50/1 shock to land the Freshways Handicap Hurdle at the meeting 12 months ago, will have runners as will Donie Hassett, John Brassil, Ronnie O’Leary, Joe and Denis Quinn and John Hassett.
Strong local challenge
in Galway Plate
There are a few locally-owned challengers among the 76 entries for next Wednesday’s Galway Plate including Don’t Be Bitin, Powerstation and Dancing Hero.
Don’t Be Bitin, who carries the silks of Bunratty owner Mark McDonagh, goes into this two-and-three-quarter-mile contest on the back of two wins in the space of six days over fences at Tipperary and Wexford last month. His Wexford-based trainer, Colm Murphy, is sure to have this 141-rated chaser, who is in the form of his life at the moment, primed for a big run and he has a definite chance.
Powerstation, who seems to reserve his best efforts for the Cheltenham Festival, warmed up for this race with a gutsy win over fences at Killarney in May and his Tipperary trainer, Eamon O’Connell, had had this race in mind for a long time for the 10-year-old, who is part-owned by well-known Clarecastle bookmaker Neil Casey.
Popular Ennis hardware merchant, Jimmy Brohan will be hoping his horse, Dancing Hero, will get a chance to strut his stuff in Wednesday’s race. Trained in Carlow by Tom Foley, Dancing Hero has been a great servant and while he was pulled-up last time at Roscommon (where he was reported to have pulled muscles in his back) he had impressed when beating Dooney’s Gate by two-and-a-half lengths over fences at Gowran in March and is not without a chance if getting in to the race.
Michael Hourigan’s Church Island tops the weights for Wednesday’s contest and he is an intended runner. Grand Slam Hero, who won the summer National at Market Rasen on Saturday for Nigel Twiston-Davies, heads a strong UK raiding party that includes Five Dream for the Paul Nicholls yard.
Thursday’s Galway Guinness Hurdle has attracted a star-studded line-up with Shark Hanlon’s Luska Lad heading the weights on 11-10. Last year’s winner, Bahrain Storm – who impressed when winning at Tipperary on Sunday – will bid for back-to-back success in this two-mile event but it is a fair ask for him to shoulder 11-09 and it is probable that Pat Flynn will be on the lookout for a good 7Ib claimer to ease his burden.
Heading the ante-post market at present is Overturn. Donald McCain’s raider won three on the bounce over hurdles during the spring and enjoyed a nice pipe-opener when beating Drunken Sailor on the Flat at Newcastle in June.
Looking further down the handicap, New Phase (trained by DK Weld) looks well-in off a mark of 10-5 while Fisher Bridge (Noel Meade) and Edward O’Grady’s Slieveardagh catch the eye in what may prove to be the race of the week.
We had a huge response to our Galway Races Tickets Competition
The correct answer was: Bahrain Storm
The following are the lucky winners: Aidan Galvin, Kilrush; Joan Tierney, Ennis; Martin Deeley, Gort; Tommy Guilfoyle, Feakle; PJ Donnellan, Miltown Malbay; David O’Dell, Corofin and Martin Browne, Ennis.