It may seem that four seasons as we know them have decided to rotate on a daily rather than three monthly basis, but the Galway Racing Festival, no matter what the overhead conditions are, is always guaranteed to deliver a week long episode of that west of Ireland feel good factor that is synonymous with the City Of The Tribes.
Once again all 51 races have a sponsor’s name attached to the title which is of great credit to the tremendous work done on an annual basis by the hard working race committee, with thetote.com Galway Plate and Guinness Galway Handicap Hurdle the twin feature of the week. Since the publication of the weights for the two contests by Senior National Hunt handicapper Noel O'Brien on Monday week last, punters have been attempting to unravel the various form lines to somehow come up with the 2012 successors to last year’s victors, the Willie Mullins trained Blazing Tempo in the Plate and the Paul Flynn handled Moon Dice in the Hurdle. Both are again among the entries in a bid to defend their crowns with Blazing Tempo also holding an entry in the Galway Hurdle, needless to say both will have a lot more weight to hump round the picturesque and undulating Ballybrit terrain.
This year the Tote sponsored Wednesday feature attracted an initial entry of 49 with Oliver McKiernan's Aintree Bowl winner Follow The Plan heading the list on 11st 10lbs, seven pounds above last year’s winner Blazing Tempo which attempts to emulate recent dual winners the brilliant Dermot Weld trained course specialist Ansar and the Aidan O'Brien trained Life Of A Lord.
Last year’s well backed winner was successful three times during the winter, including the Normans Grove Chase at Naas before being pulled up in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham festival which was won by Riverside Theatre. Having won last year’s event off a rating of 139, this year the Willie Mullins trained runner runs off a rating of 153, a full stone above last year’s winning mark, but it has to be said that the Mrs Rich Ricci owned Daughter of Accordian showed a fine turn of foot to reel in the John Kiely trained Wise Old Owl (4lbs better off this year ) which had shot clear in the dip, leaving all bar the eventual winner toiling. She is though one of three entered by the champion trainer with early ante-post market leader Blackstairmountain on 10st 11lbs and Raptor on 10st 2lbs, the other pair.
Blackstairmountain in the same ownership was successful on the level recently in deep ground that would not have kept a high grade of company over the larger obstacles during the regular national hunt season, including when tailed off behind the brilliant Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle at Cheltenham and Peter Casey's Flemstar at Leopardstown, but he did run down Notus De La Tour close to home at the Foxrock venue over Christmas, giving the impression that he has one sustained run in him at the end of a truly run contest. I think that the famous climb to the post could be a bridge too far for him but he has been heavily supported in the early ante post exchanges.
Raptor on the other hand is most definitely on an upward curve over fences, and owner Aiden Devaney would love nothing more than seeing his colours carried to Plate glory. His recent wins at Wexford and Punchestown were both in contests with single figure fields and we would have to wonder if the hustle and bustle of the Plate was his cup of tea.
Wise Old Owl not seen much action
Last year’s runner up Wise Old Owl has not seen action since, he ran well fresh in the past, but when you look back at last year’s contest he was tuned for the day and I personally think that was to be his day, so he is passed over this time.
The Tom Taaffe yard seem to finally have shaken off the dreaded virus that laid the stable low since the thrilling success of the JP McManus owned Finger On The Pulse (10-5 ) in 2010, but he has seemed a light of former days in all runs lately, as has Noel Meade’s Muirhead (10-7 ), Edward O'Grady's Torpichen (10-4 ), and Osana (9-12 ).
It is a long time since Edward O'Grady won three runnings of the Plate in five years with Shining Flame, Hindhope, and Rugged Lucy, but his Irish Grand National runner up Out Now (10-2 ) deserves a big pot, having previously finished second in the Leopardstown Chase to the much improved Seabass. The Dermot Cox owned runner looked to have the National at his mercy when delivered to challenge late by Paddy Mangan, only for Lion Na Bearnai to get back up close to home. He is another which arrives late on the scene and I think he could very well take a hand in proceedings given luck in running. For me the six strong cross channel challenge lacks strength quality wise, while Noel Meade’s Cross Appeal is another to consider on 9st 12lbs, but outside my selection the Gigginstown House Stud owned Carlito Brigante on 10-5 is of keen interest. A former high class hurdler he has only two runs to his name over fences, but if he is within shouting distance on landing over the final fence his finishing burst will be a danger to all. He is after all a former Coral Cup winner and some of his hurdles’ form is of the highest quality, including some rear views of both Big Bucks and Quevega, but there is little doubt that if Davy Russell can nurse him round for the first circuit he could give Gordon Eliott another big race winner.
The second Gigginstown entry His Excellency received a seven pound penalty for a game neck success over Banna Man at Killarney, where once again he was up to his usual tail swishing tendency all the way up the straight. He certainly is genuine but I think he may find the step up in class too much.
Devil’s Elbow will
have his fanciers
Devil’s Elbow from the Ted Walsh yard will have his supporters, having been successful at both Down Royal and Limerick this season, and one that might cause a shock could be the Tom Mullins trained Bob Lingo which ran with promise over hurdles at Killarney. For me though I have to admit that since he demolished a big field of novices on the Thursday of last year’s festival Daffern Seal had been my idea of another DKW master plan. Yes you may say, here I go again with another band wagon selection because of who trains him, but when Dermot Weld sets one out for Ballybrit you will at least get a run for your money. When the son of Fruits Of Love sauntered home ahead of Traffic Article last year a good friend of mine whispered to me "Will he be back a day earlier next year?" meaning Plate Day 2012. I said to him “Well he fairly flew the two in the dip each time so it may be on the cards.” Well the more I looked back on that contest the more confident I became that Dr Ronan Lambe's charge would be back. Following on from that victory Daffern Seal was slightly disappointing fourth behind Eagles Pass at Killarney where the track may not have suited his style of running. Following a winter break to avoid the deep winter ground he was next in action at the Cheltenham festival, where he was always towards the rear of mid division. In the four mile National Hunt Chase for Amateur Riders he jumped well until lack of extreme stamina told approaching three out as Teaforthree went on to outpoint Four Commanders on the climb to the line. On the face of it a mark of 134 would seem slightly harsh and with only three runs over fences he may look somewhat inexperienced, but it is my honest opinion that Wednesday next has been the target for almost a year . Off 9st 12lbs Daffern Seal will take a lot of beating and if he can get a prominent position early on his economical style of jumping will see him in good stead. He has been off the course since that run in the Cotswolds but that is of no concern as that lack of ideal underfoot conditions would have counted against him giving of his best anyway. So the selection is Daffern Seal with Carlito Brigante and Bob Lingo others to note.
John Mulholland Bets
on The Plate
11/1 Daffern Seal
12/1 Wise Old Owl
12/1 Carlito Brigante
12/1 Devils Elbow
14/1 Blazing Tempo
14/1 Definite Class
14/1 Follow The Plan
E/Way 1, 2, 3, 4 others on request