In the last five years, Willie Mullins has trained 17 winners from 43 runners on the Flat at Galway, a 40% hit rate you can be sure the top Irish jumps trainer will be hoping to build upon this week.
The Galway Festival kicks off on Monday night and one Mrs Susannah Ricci owned star in particular stands out among the declarations for the feature race at 6:45pm. We spoke to the Ricci’s racing manager, Joe Chambers, who expects the horse to have a good chance after a recent tune-up run.
"Patrick (Mullins) and Sharjah have struck up a great relationship and had a wonderful day here in the rain a couple of years ago in the Galway Hurdle. Obviously, they have gone on together over hurdles and were second in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham this year.
“Sharjah ran well at the Curragh recently having had a break due to the pandemic. Around a track he has won at, with a jockey on board who adores him, he must have a favourite’s chance from a decent draw.”
Willie Mullins has won the last three renewals of this valuable handicap, but son Patrick is yet to and you can be sure he’ll be keen to do so with his favourite horse.
Tiger Tap Tap also takes his chance for the Ricci’s. A talented juvenile over hurdles, he hasn’t developed as expected in that sphere of late, but remains a youngster with plenty of options.
Chambers said of the Jukebox Jury gelding: “We had high hopes for Tiger after his taking debut second to Sir Erec at Leopardstown on his first try over hurdles 18 months ago, but for a variety of reasons things haven't gone entirely to plan since. He did win twice last season over intermediate trips and I have it half in my mind he may end up a better flat horse than hurdler. Given he is drawn closer to Oughterard (a town quite a distance from the track!) than the rail, Declan (Lavery, claiming 3lb from the horse) may find it difficult to get a position early. He also holds an entry in the Galway Hurdle on Thursday."
Sharjah is a real class act and it will be a treat for racing fans to see him out at this time of the year once again. Fingers crossed he can make use of a handy draw and go very well here. Mr & Mrs Ricci are represented with various entries throughout the Galway Festival and Joe Chambers was kind enough to give us some insights into their plans and chances as the week goes on.
"Later in the week we have a few horses with multiple entries, Jon Snow is threatening to be a decent horse, but has yet to prove so. He may take his chance in the longer novice hurdle (7:15pm on Thursday), or the Galway Guinness Hurdle (half an hour earlier the same evening) if it looked like he would get in.”
One newcomer to note, entered to run in the 5:45pm maiden hurdle on Wednesday, is a grey Galileo gelding called N’Golo, purchased for €100,000 at the Arqana sales in 2018.
“N'Golo is a fine size of a horse who is yet to run for us. He should take his chance in a maiden hurdle, which hopefully will give us something to build from.”
Lastly, a far more familiar name looks set to take his chance in the feature handicap chase of the week: “Livelovelaugh will take his chance in the Tote Galway Plate on Wednesday. He was running a blinder at Cheltenham until badly hampered and losing all chance, he does tend to be better for a run, however."