Sunday provides a very much appreciated rest day for punters before they head west for seven long days of mixed racing at Ballybrit, celebrating 150 years racing at the Galway track.
On Monday the first day of the Galway Festival starts with the Galwaybayhotel.com and Galmont.com Novice Hurdle over 2m with 24 potential runners at 5.20 pm and the second is the Easyfix Handicap Hurdle over 2m with 66 entered. The third on the card is the Claregalway hotel.ie Irish EBF maiden, 28 runners, followed by the Claytonhotelgalway.ie handicap, 42 runners, both over 7f.
The feature race, Connacht Hotel Handicap, for amateur riders, is at 7.40 pm with 35 entries. The 19-runner 1m 4f Eventus Handicap is the penultimate race on the card which closes with the 2m Monami Construction Bumper for amateur riders and 22 entries.
A horse to note in the opening hurdle is the Willie Mullins’ Punchestown Festival maiden winner, Authorized Art, but could be a very short price and an e/w on Don Patricio Martin Brassil’s Sligo winner might be better value.
The 2nd is a wide-open handicap but locally trained Ashqar, twice 2nd in Roscommon this season for Ger Lynch is an interesting runner.
In the 3rd, Aidan O’Brien has eight of the 28 entries.
The feature again looks wide open and all amateur riders love to put this race on their CV. WP Mullins trains three of the first four in the betting and the pick looks to be Mr Adjudicator who won’t be far away at the death as will Tony Martin’s Newcross. He has dropped in the handicap and on his recent 4th behind Rashaan over an extended 2m at Clonmel he must have reasonable chance and is e/w bet.
In the penultimate, Heavenly Snow, a winner in Roscommon over 1m 2f, could win for Shelia Lavery if she gets a cut in the ground.
Day two opens at 5.20 pm with the Colm Quinn BMW Novice hurdle over 2m. The next is the Latin Quarter Beginners’ Chase over 2m 2f, sponsored by businesses in Galway’s Latin Quarter.
The first flat race is the Colm Quinn BMW Fillies Mdn followed by the Caulfield Industrial Mdn, both sponsored by the Irish EBF and run over the minimum 7f.
The featured Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap over 1m has 36 entries, with six of them from Britain, of which only 18 will get a run is off at 7.40 pm. The market goes 7/1 the field reflecting how open a race it is.
The last two races are sponsored by Caulfield Industrial with the penultimate a 1m race and closing with a 7f race, both handicaps.
Tote Ireland sponsor the entire Wednesday card including the feature of the week, for most race goers, the Tote.com Galway Plate. Note that racing starts at 5.10 pm this year with a maiden hurdle followed by a handicap hurdle both over 2m 5f.
The Irish EBF join the Tote in sponsoring the third, a handicap for mares over 2m. There is a flat maiden for amateur riders before the feature at 7.20 pm.
Racing finishes with two flat races, the penultimate is a 1mile handicap and a 2m handicap brings the evening’s entertainment to a close.
There are 38 entries in the Galway Plate on Wednesday with seven cross channel raiders including top weight Paul Nicholls’ Black Corton, who will be ridden by Byrony Frost, Dan Skelton’s Azzuri and the Nicky Henderson-trained Pacific De Baune. Gordon Elliott has 13, WP Mullins has six, Henry de Bromhead has three. Owner JP McManus has eight and Michael O’Leary, through Gigginstown Stud, has six horses entered.
There will be a maximum of 22 runners permitted on the day and I expect Gordon Elliott’s Ravenhill, who has not run a poor race this season, to make a bold effort, and is e/w value for money at 16/1. Barra, who fell in the Midlands National looking a winner, is also 16/1 and is what you could call a winner without a penalty and worth consideration if travelling the long journey up from Waterford. The British challenge is strong with Azzuri and both the Nicholls’ runners Black Corton and Modus all in with chances. They will all have to beat Elliott’s Gigginstown runner Mengli Khan.
Thursday is Guinness Day with the St. James’s Brewery sponsoring the entire card, including the feature Galway Hurdle with 32 entries. Grade 1 winner Quick Grabim, winner of the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse, Cheltenham Festival hero Band Of Outlaws, Cheltenham Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, and the locally-trained Sole Pretender, winner of his last three races, are notable names among the 32 entries for the €300,000 Guinness Galway Hurdle on Thursday, August 1st.
Last year, Willie Mullins recorded his third success in the race and Quick Grabim is one of nine entries for the champion trainer. Band Of Outlaws is one of two entries made by Joseph O’Brien, who won the race with Tigris River in 2017.
Interestingly, the Lee name in no stranger to racing or the Galway Hurdle, given that, if I recall correctly, Norman’s father Christy was associated with 1973 Galway Hurdle winner Lesabelle. Trained in Gort, County Galway by Norman, the Michael Hogan-owned Sole Pretender completed a hat-trick of wins when taking the McHale Mayo Handicap Hurdle recently.