Next week is Galway Races but not Galway as we know it. The unique track is part of the appeal of the place but the crowd is 90% of what makes Galway week so special.
It’s good for the trainers, jockeys and owners that the races will be run and the prize money is obviously important but without the annual pilgrimage it just won’t be the same.
There is a great flow to a day at the races at Galway – the atmosphere, the betting, the few beers and then the party carries on into the city. All that will be missing this time but hopefully next year we will be back to normal.
It is going to be a very different experience for everyone. I’d imagine that most of the jockeys won’t bother staying down this year and will instead drive up and down each day they are riding. Changing the order of the races to make all Flat cards and All National Hunt cards will facilitate that.
From a riding point of view you get a real buzz when you come out of the weigh-room at Galway with the crowd ten deep around the parade ring and there are few better places to ride a winner. The atmosphere is unreal.
It was a big blow for owners to find out last week that they couldn’t attend. Owners in general have been terrific during this whole period but for many missing Galway will be a hard pill to swallow. For most owners a runner in Galway is a big deal. They bring their families and friends along with them and it is a terrific day out whether or not the horse wins.
I’m not sure the authorities needed to run all seven days this year. I’d have thought they might have done four or five days with eight or nine races a day but that’s not to say I won’t still watch it all on TV.
When I was riding I loved Galway. I had a lot of luck there down the years, particularly over Hurdles. It’s a unique track to ride and I think it suited my style which was to sit close to the pace in third or fourth. You need to be front to middle in the races there and you need a brave horse. You don’t want any second guessing.
I used to love riding horses with previous Galway form. It makes a huge difference when you are riding a horse that acts around the track. It is similar in that way to Cheltenham. You see the same horses return year after year and perform there.
If you are having a bet during the week look out for horses with previous winning form at the course. Also, many trainers and owners target the meeting year after year. The Mee family is a case in point. They had a great week last year with four winners and will no doubt have a few lined up again this time.
Willie Mullins trained two of their winners among a host of winners he had across the week last year. The Champion trainer has run some of his best horses at Galway in recent years and is sure to be among the winners again this time. I think Dermot Weld might do better this year than he has in recent times. I have a feeling that his horses are just coming right and Galway has always been a happy hunt ground for him.
Looking ahead to the two big jumping races of the week, The Tote Galway Plate on Wednesday and The Guinness Galway Hurdle on Thursday, I think a couple of previous course winners could give you a good run for your money.
I like Easy Game trained by Willie Mullins in the Plate. He is just out of his Novice season over fences and this will be his first try in a handicap chase. He kept the best of company during the winter on his three starts over the larger obstacles. Having won his beginners chase by beating Allaho at Leopardstown over Christmas he ran Faugheen to half a length in the Grade 1 Flogas Chase in February before disappointing behind Champ in the RSA at Cheltenham.
He is down as falling in the RSA but in truth he was just tired coming to the last and he tripped up shortly after landing.
Easy Game won a novice hurdle over the course at Galway at the 2018 Festival which is a definite plus and while he won’t be any fancy odds (currently around 8/1 with the bookies) I can see him running a big race.
Snugsborough Benny and Peregrine Run made the frame in the Plate last year and should both run well again. They would be the types to include in Exacta and Trifecta combinations.
Thursday’s Galway Hurdle looks very tricky. It is interesting to see Felix Desjy towards the head of the betting market as I had expected him to be sent over fences by now. He is a classy individual and comes here off an easy win in a Flat maiden and also won his maiden hurdle over the course.
I can see Tudor City running a big race again as he loves it around Galway. When he won this race last year he was one of three winners during the week for Trainer Tony Martin and owner John Breslin and no doubt they have been planning this return for quite a while.
He hasn’t run over hurdles since last year’s victory but that wouldn’t worry me with one of Tony’s. He is eight pounds higher in the handicap this time which is more of a concern but at odds of around 14/1 he should give punters a good run for their money.
The Tony Mullins trained Princess Zoe dotted up in the Ladies Derby at the Curragh last weekend and it will take a fair one to beat her in Monday’s big amateur race despite a thirteen pounds hike by the handicapper.
The best of luck to everyone for the week and hopefully we will be back at the Galway Races in 2021.