Galway Festival 2017 has slowly and steadily improved for us through the week and whilst Haymount was brought to juddering halt, Balko Des Flos rewarded my confidence by storming home in the Plate to deliver a big winner for Henry De Bromhead and JPFestival.com Members. Shaneshill, punted into favouritism, was a god second although a big mistake at the second last didn’t help him, whilst Slowmotion was a creditable third ahead of A Toil Phil, who shaped as if he had another handicap in him when catching the eye in fourth.
We move onto the Galway Hurdle (4.35) today, which is just as fiercely contested. Where Gigginstown went mob handed yesterday, JP McManus is today, with seven runners and the first reserve too, and the odds of all his contenders combined give him an evens shot of taking the race.
Whilst it will take some winning, he may well have the answer and two of his make the most appeal, with Western Boy the first selection. A fine flat handicapper, he has had some troubles that have kept him off the track but he showed that he retains a huge amount of ability when he won the Grade B Killashee Handicap Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, always travelling best before finding plenty to win fairly snugly. Before that he was an excellent fourth in the Irish Cesarewitch in October 2015, and a year later he was going very well when slipping up at the Punchestown Festival in the Killashee Hurdle before that.
This presumably has been the aim and whilst he’s gone up 8lbs for that it appears that he retains a lot of his old ability, if not the level that saw him push Vautour to half a length in his novice days and he holds a major chance if he backs up his fine win.
The British have won this only once in the last 10 years but that’s not for a lack of trying and there’s nothing not to like about the challenge of Project Bluebook. A progressive juvenile hurdler, he was well fancied to run well in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival and ran a very creditable race when finishing fourth there.
His improvement was not done there, however, as he got the better of the subsequent Grade 1 third Dandy Mag and the Triumph fourth Ex Patriot in the Dunboyne Juvenile Hurdle soon afterwards. That form makes him look well treated off a mark of 141 – which gives him a handy weight of 10-5, and his second at Catterick should have put him spot on for this assignment.
Max Dynamite went onto be a Group 1 horse after finishing second to Quick Jack in the 2015 renewal, finishing second in the Melbourne Cup after trashing his rivals in the Yorkshire Cup. If he’s over the physical issues which saw him disappoint so much on the flat two seasons ago then he’s chucked in but there’s a great deal to be taken on trust.
That can’t be said for Swamp Fox, who took two handicap hurdles before running a fine race when second in the big flat handicap on the first day of the Festival. He’s a rock solid each/way chance whilst Joseph O’Brien and Barry Geraghty already have two winners on the board, so Tigris River, fifth in this last year, will have his backers. He won well at Bellewstown and looks well treated off 140.
Timiyan has impressed in winning both handicap hurdle starts since joining Gordon Elliott and should be seriously involved.
One who made the longlist but not quite the final cut was Airlie Beach, who was fancied to do big things after a fine romp in the Royal Bond before a disappointing spring. This is her first handicap and she’d be hugely well in off 140 if back to her best, and she was an encouraging third on her flat return at Killarney 15 days ago.
Best of the bigger prices might be Plinth, a good winner of a Grade 3 who carries a handy weight of 10-11.
The Guinness Open Gate Brewery Novice Chase (2.15) is a decent renewal in its own right and Don’t Touch It can give Jessica Harrington a decent prize. Chasing hasn’t always been easy for her seven-year-old but things dropped right at the Punchestown Festival when he took a decent handicap prize (Potters Point fifth, getting a stone). That represented a greatly improved effort for the Grade 1 winner over hurdles and he also gets 3lbs off Townshend, the other form horse in this field.
Townshend was an impressive winner over Potters Point at Punchestown before then beating Peregrine Run at Roscommon, both in impressive style, and he gets to meet Peregrine Run on much better terms here. He can also confirm the form with Landofhopeandglory, who learned a lot from his debut when fourth behind Townshend, whilst Rathvinden is interesting as he appears to retain a good amount of the ability that saw him finish third to Faugheen in the 2015 Neptune.
The opening Guinness Galway Gold Beginners Chase (1.40) looks to be rather trappy and the hopeful suggestion would be Fly Rory Fly, who was about 20 lengths ahead of Ballella Boy when he flew into a smart horse in the shape of Rathvinden (running in the race just mentioned) on his second chasing start. He was set to take a hand in the finish on his chasing debut at Clonmel and his jumping, whilst a question, can be trusted more than the O’Brien pairing of Oathkeeper or Tesseract.
Don’t Tell No One was third in this race last year and hasn’t been seen since, but the form of that contest has not worked out so well and he can be taken on with Just Cause interesting based on his recent return to form when second at Limerick nearly a fortnight ago.
The Guinness Novice Hurdle (4.00) looks to be one of the races of the day and the market has this as an exciting clash between Willie Mullins’ Lac Kivu and Joseph O’Brien’s Bhutan. A deeply impressive winner on his Irish debut at Punchestown, Lac Kivu looked a natural and was never in danger of being beaten when cantering home by 13 lengths at the end of May. That form has real substance to it too, with the runner up having bolted in by 17 lengths next time whilst Immortal Bridge has since won twice.
Bhutan was a deeply taking winner of his only flat start before finding a huge task on his hurdling debut in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle too much for him. It’s interesting to note that on his debut he left the useful Housesofparliament (a winner for us earlier this week) in his wake. He was a taking winner when last seen and he should also have brushed up on his jumping since then.
Robin Des Foret has three wins from four over hurdles and should prove a decent level to the form whilst Its All Guesswork is stepping down in trip and up in grade, foe all he did get off the mark at Punchestown last time. Dorans River got the better of him in June at Roscommon and wasn’t right when behind him at Punchestown whilst Oakly is held on those formlines.
The Corrib Stakes (3.25) ought to be wild with 16 runners over seven furlongs so it’s not a surprise that Raymonda, top rated by a good distance, is favourite given that she has the plum draw In stall 2. She was ahead of second favourite Music Box in the Brownstown Stakes there and should go well although her yard has struggled this season. Drumfad Bay won the Rouge Stakes at Killarney and did it well but has stall 12 whilst Alphabet, returned to a more suitable trip following her last placed finish in the Sapphire Stakes, has a nightmare draw in stall 14.
The Guinness West Indies Porter Flat Race (6.00) is a tricky contest. Dayna Moss was well backed before a fair fourth on Monday and will like the extra distance whilst Peacocks Secret should fine a race like this sooner rather than later and All Good Things was the most eye-catching of the field when third at Punchestown on debut at 33/1. It could be a race for well, drinking the porter.
Galway Festival 2017 tips
1 pt each/way Western Boy, Galway Hurdle (4.35) (14/1 general)
1 pt each/way Project Bluebook, (4.35) (16/1 general)
2 pts win Don’t Touch It, 2.15 Galway (2/1 general)