The Galway Festival gets underway on Monday and while he continues to recover from a broken neck, Grade 1 winning rider Danny Mullins is on hand to guide us through every race on day one in Ballybrit.
16:10 - Claregalwayhotel.ie Irish EBF (C & G) Maiden - 7f
Aidan O’Brien has Anchorage here as favourite. He ran well the first day but I think Michael O’Callaghan’s I Am Magic, who also ran in that race, could be the one to beat. There was only a head between them that day and while Anchorage will probably improve having only had two races, I don’t see why I Am Magic won’t be in the mix and might be a bit of value against him in the first.
16:40 - Claytonhotelgalway.ie Handicap - 7f
This is a typically difficult Galway handicap with a few well fancied ones. Cisco Disco has won a couple of races for Jack Davison and has snuck up a few pounds, so I just wonder if the handicapper has got a hold of him.
Mother Country for Willie McCreery and Billy Lee is top weight here, which is going to be difficult to carry in what is his first run in a handicap.
The one I like is Sheila Lavery’s Dagoda. It was a good run in Killarney the last day where he finished second in a mile handicap down there, and was second the run in Limerick before that. He’s only gone up 2lbs in total, a pound for each of those places, so I think he could still be well-handicapped to win here.
17:15 - Galwaybayhotel.com & Galmont.com Handicap - 7f
I think this is a very tricky race. There are so many of these that you can give a chance to and that is probably reflected in the betting with it looking fairly open. I don’t think I could pin my colours to the mast with any of these with much conviction.
Joe Murphy has Kodi Queen down the bottom of the weights and has taken 10lbs off by putting up Tom Kiely Marshall. While I’m not sure how much experience Tom has, 10lbs is a significant amount of weight, and if Joe is putting him up in a competitive handicap in Galway he believes in him. For an each-way bet in this race, Kodi Queen could be a bit of value with all that weight taken off.
17:45 - Easyfix Handicap - 1m4½f
Mr Coldstone is favourite in this, and I think you have to oppose him. He was fifth in Down Royal the last day and was disappointing over hurdles, and although he fits the profile of one of Willies that can come back and win one of these, I'm just not sure if he’s up to the mark.
I think No Thanks for Matthew Smith has put together a few nice runs on the flat. He’s been second on his last three runs and probably deserves a good chance in a race like this. The last day in Ballinrobe he was just headed late off. Matthew Smith seems to have a good team for Galway this year, and No Thanks might be one to get him off the mark on the first day.
18:15 - Connacht Hotel (Q.R.) Handicap - 2m1f
This is always very competitive. The one I think is most likely to win is one of Willie’s, Exchange Rate. Patrick doesn’t ride him, but I wouldn’t say that he wouldn’t have liked to have ridden it. With the weight of 10-13 Jody Townend takes the mount here. Jody is no stranger to winning this race and Willie would always be keen to give her a good ride in it. Exchange Rate had been off the track an awfully long time before his last run at Listowel. I thought he ran with plenty of credit down there and was always entitled to improve from the run. He has previous winning form around Galway and I think of the shorter priced ones he looks the most likely winner.
Zoffanien for Denis Hogan hasn’t run on the flat since coming to Ireland. He had a few good runs to a fair standard in France, and having been hurdling since arriving over here should have strengthened up and may be able to expose a lenient flat mark.
One at a bigger price I think has a good chance is De Name Escapes Me. He ran very well behind Princess Zoe here last year, and was only beaten two lengths and is off a fairly similar mark. He’s been a horse with plenty of talent, but for me his jumping always let him down in handicap hurdles and chases. I think a good staying flat handicap is well within his reach and off the ones at a double-figure price I think he’s a solid each-way bet.
18:45 - Eventus Handicap - 1m4½f
The one my eye is drawn to here is Port Sunlight for Dermot Weld and Colin Keane. He had a solid run at Ballinrobe the last day, only beaten a half-length behind Merroir of Joseph O'Brien's and they drew well clear of the third that day. Dermot Weld always likes to have winners at Galway, maybe not to the degree he was having them a few years ago, and I think this one looks likely to take all the beating.
Looking down through the rest of the field, I think Bell Ex One for Ray Cody could have a decent chance. He was perhaps a little disappointing the last day at Down Royal, but going back through some of his previous form at Roscommon and Sligo when the ground was a little bit slower, he looks to have a decent chance. With rain forecast, he could be one for an each-way bet in the race if enough of it arrives.
19:15 - Monami Construction (Q.R.) Maiden - 1m4½f
I think Zero Ten for Emmet Mullins could be the banker of the day. Emmet wouldn’t be one to come out with any wild statements, but he said in his Racing Post column on Sunday that this horse could be one of the best horses he’s trained ability-wise. He has always had his issues and has missed plenty of time, but for Emmet to make a statement like that speaks very highly of the horse. The Mee family would always target Galway, so I’m sure this has been a long term target, while he also has an entry in the Galway Hurdle later in the week. The fact that Patrick rides him, rather than riding Beret Rouge for Willie is another positive for him. From the vibes coming from the camp, this looks to be the banker of day one.
Visit the Tote blog every day this week for Danny's thoughts on the action at Ballybrit.