Galway punters are gearing up to do battle with bookies again this year with the Cheltenham festival getting under way next week, March 12.
Local interest for Galway owners could include Russian War, owned by Tom Howley, who may run in either the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase on Tuesday or the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle on Friday. John Earl’s Chicago Grey may have a prep run in the cross country race before his big engagement in the Aintree Grand National next month.
Galway jockeys to look out for include Paddy Brennan, who will resume his partnership with Imperial Commander on which he famously won the Gold Cup in 2010. He is currently 20/1. His best chance of a winner will be Module in the Jewson Chase on Thursday. Derek O’Connor, two wins in 2011, missed the 2012 festival with a broken leg, and his status as one of Ireland’s best amateur jockeys will see him aboard good animals in the Kim Muir, Foxhunters and National Hunt Chase.
And not to be forgotten, local bookmaker and former Galway mayor, John Mulholland, will be represented on track and is looking forward to taking on the punters once again at the home of jumps racing.
“I purchased a pitch in Cheltenham about seven years ago which I work with my son Eddie. I absolutely love the festival and to be right in the heart of the action doing ‘battle’ with the punters makes it all the more enjoyable, a busman’s holiday if you like,” he says.
With tentative green shoots appearing in the economy, John Mulholland expects his shops to be busy for the week and is prepared to take on punters favourite Ruby Walsh for the festival. If a punter backs a horse that finishes second to a Ruby Walsh ridden mount, John Mulholland is offering a free bet to the same value on another race at the festival that day. Walsh will have fancied horses like Hurricane Fly, Quevaga and Pont Alexander at his disposal, so it could be a costly offer for the Galway firm.