It is the most competitive seven days of the summer racing season and a number of local trainers will head to Ballybrit with some realistic chances next week.
Paul Gilligan, who trains ouside Craughwell, has been no stranger to the winners’ enclosure in Galway over the years. Having launched his career in Ballybrit with a bumper winner back in 1998, his breakthrough moment came in 2007 when he saddled three winners despite only running four horses in total. Gilligan is also one of the only trainers in the west of Ireland to hold the distinction of saddling a Cheltenham winner, which he did in 2008 with Bertie’s Dream in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
He will only run two horses next week due to a number of his string being struck down with injuries. He sees his best chance of making the prize money as being Harangue, which is due to run in the Blazers Chase on Friday. “His last couple of runs have been good, he was second in Tipperary and fourth in Uttoxeter in a good handicap chase. He is in good form and we are hoping that on his rating he will get in. He may also have a run in a two mile flat handicap on Tuesday. In addition to him, we have a nice three-year-old filly called Ulanda, we will try and get her into one of the maidens. It will be her first run and she is a big backward filly, we think a bit of her but it is always hard for a first timer around Galway.’’
Tubber native Norman Lee trains just outside the town of Gort and has been carving out a name for himself in recent times. While point-to-pointing was his main focus in the past, he has now trained about 12 winners on the track, the most recent being the Paul Mullins owned mare Supreme Vic at Ballinrobe on Tuesday. “We are having a good run of it, we have a grand bunch of horses and they are thankfully staying right. I have not had a winner in Galway yet so it would be lovely to get one on board.”
Supreme Vic will most likely run again at Galway but at the time of print, Lee was unsure as to what particular race. “It will be later in the week, she seems to be a bit of a Ballinrobe specialist, but if she is in good form, she will go in. BlackandAmber Vic which was second to her on Tuesday night will also take her chance in a handicap hurdle. Tribes and Banner [formerly in training with Charlie Swan], is another which will run later in the week, he is locally owned also and would want good ground but is a good horse.’’
Kilcolgan based Steve Mahon had two winners at the festival last year and will undoubtedly be hoping to add to his tally next week. He could run up to ten horses in total but pinpoints his best chances lying with Rocky Court, Lost Book, and last year’s double victor Aranhill Chief. ‘’Rocky Court was second twice in Galway last year, he was off for eight months to let him fill out. He ran well to be second recently in Limerick. He is in a handicap hurdle on Monday and will definitely have a chance as long as the ground would not be too heavy. If the ground is good on the Monday he will run, and may re-appear again on the Saturday.”
Aranhill Chief was fancied in many quarters for the Midlands National in Kilbeggan but lost a shoe which scuppered his chances. “I don’t like making excuses for them but he was very sore after it. However after plenty of swimming in the salt water, he is thankfully back to himself. He will definitely go back for the Blazers on Friday [which he won last year] and could run twice in the week. The better the ground, the better he will be. He has showed us that he is well able to handle the track.’’
Lost Book was a near winner in the Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle on the Sunday, last year only to unfortunately tip up and unseat her rider at the last. The trainer issues a positive report about her chances in the same event this year. “She ran third in Ballinrobe earlier this week and possibly should have won, but it could all be for the best as the handicapper could have raised her 10 pounds. She will return for that race on the Sunday but will possibly run again earlier in the week. She comes to herself this time of the year and showed a bit of spark in Ballinrobe.’’
Athenry man Val O’Brien is another local trainer who can usually be relied on to have one ready for Galway. He says he will most likely only have a sole runner - also in the Blazers Chase. This is a handicap chase that is extremely competitive and always attracts much local interest. “Valours Minion will run - if he gets in I would be very hopeful he would be in the first three. He won at Killarney recently and has won twice in Galway, last September and October, so that is a good omen as he is obviously well able to handle the track.”
The O’Brien trained Abarta, which won last week in Downpatrick, will also be entered to run on the Saturday but he is not confident he will get into the race. The trainer certainly has his string in fine form, Ballinrobe second places Its on the list, runs in Cork on the Bank Holiday Monday due to there being no suitable race in Galway and O’Brien divulges that he is confident of a good show.