The white flag is raised . . . and they’re off! The Galway Races are here, which means our politicians have only a few weeks of holidaying left before they start turning their attentions to the new Dáil term, where they’ll need to make an impression just a couple of years out from the General Election. In a Galway Races special, Dara Bradley has a look at the runners and riders in the paddock, checks their ‘form’, sorts the NAPs from the no-hopers and tries to pick the winners in Galway’s two re-drawn Dáil constituencies.
The Guinness Galway West Hurdle
Always a competitive renewal, that turned into the longest marathon of a race in the country last time out with two from the Enda Kenny stable in a dead heat, and so it went to a re-run – twice.
The race now includes a chunk of South Mayo, which could attract a few ‘foreign’ entries this year but it still pays out on the first five places.
Prizemoney: Annual salary of €87,000 plus generous expenses, with possibility of Ministerial Mercs.
1) Gaeltacht Grants ridden by Éamon Ó Cuív
A consistent sort that rewards Irish-speaking punters. Jockey has ministerial experience but is considered contrary by his owner Micheál Martin, who struggled to keep him reined in during the European Breeders Cup referendum. Failed to make the starting line in The Presidential Bumper, previous winners of which include his grandfather, Éamon De Valera. One for the short-list, and sure to start favourite but can he bring a stablemate with him as the Fianna Fáil syndicate’s stock begins to rise again?
2) Crack a Smile ridden by Seán Kyne
Clinched fifth place last time out only after the stewards’ inquiry deliberated for five days over the three-way photo-finish where he battled it out with Shocked and Appalled, ridden by Catherine Connolly, and stable-mate Really Screams, ridden by Fidelma Healy Eames, with whom there is no love lost since. Is now the Blueshirt syndicate’s front-runner in this renewal after jumping the abortion hurdle exactly the way his trainer Enda Kenny told him to after being fitted with blinkers. Could still be vulnerable and carries a few extra pounds due to the backlash against the Government.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Ten of the best for trainer Mullins at summer festival
IT may have been a Galway Summer Racing Festival like no other at Ballybrit last week, but it made no difference to trainer Willie Mullins.
The champion National Hunt handler has taken over the ‘King of Ballybrit’ mantle from Dermot Weld over the past four years and Mullins’ monopoly of the Galway trainers’ title was again rarely in doubt behind the closed-doors meeting.
His ten-winner haul was highlighted by the impressive weight-carrying performance of the highest rated contender in the Guinness Galway Hurdle. Aramon’s success was the second time in three years that Mullins has snared the Thursday festival highlight with the ‘class horse’ of the race.
And similar to Sharjah’s triumph in 2018, leading amateur Patrick Mullins – son of the trainer – was again in the plate as Aramon’s turn of foot from the last saw off Hearts Are Trumps and that reliable yardstick, Petit Mouchoir.
It was only fitting in the circumstances that Mullins completed his ten-winner haul at Ballybrit with Eight And Bob in the concluding Fr Breen Memorial Handicap on Sunday.
The meeting’s other flagship race, the Tote sponsored Galway Plate, went to the Joseph O’Brien handicap debutant Early Doors which got the better of Mullins pair, Royal Rendezous and Cabaret Queen, in the teeming rain.
Course form has always been an asset around Galway’s undulations and Great White Shark, successful in the two-mile Connacht Hotel Amateur Handicap at the 2019 festival, again showed his liking for Ballybrit by landing Friday’s feature, the Guinness Handicap Hurdle, over two-mile and six-furlongs.
Flat action dominated Galway’s weekend programme and the Tony Mullins trained Princess Zoe augmented her winnings from the previous Monday’s Connacht Hotel Handicap, with a snug success from Emperor Of The Sun in the Galway Shopping Centre Handicap.
The final-day feature, The Irish Stallions Premier Handicap, saw the luckless Njord again having to settle for the runners-up prize for the second time at the festival when just failing to catch the Ado McGuinness trained Current Option (15/2). It was a third winner of the week for the Lusk-based handler.
Extended report in this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Jack’s the Lad for the Ladies
Dermot Weld may be the King of Ballybrit but Meath trainer Tony Martin could soon be knighted as the champion of the Galway Summer Festival after he claimed his second consecutive Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap with Quick Jack in the feature event yesterday afternoon.
Having claimed the top prize with Thomas Edison – the defending champion was unfortunately a faller at the last this time around – Martin saw his other charge Quick Jack (9/2) romp home under the expert direction of jockey Denis O’Regan.
O’Regan had travelled home from England to ride this one for Martin, who was understandably ecstatic at winning back-to-back Galway Hurdles.
“Magic, wonderful feeling,” beamed the winning trainer.
“It couldn’t have been better going to the last. Unfortunately poor auld Thomas [Edison], a good friend of mine, came a cropper. It is the first time he has fallen and I hope he is okay.”
With money pouring onto Quick Jack in the betting ring, there was a lot of confidence in him running a big race. Martin again had little doubt. “The horse has run well all year and he came here with the right backing behind him.
“He had a great run the last day at Chester and we felt he was in as good a form as he has been at any time of the year. The ground was probably in his favour today. It is the first time he got really nice ground. So, he was in great form and everything went right in the lead-up to the race.
“As I said, we couldn’t have been happier with him coming here. All we wanted was luck in running and Denis was very good on him and we got that.”
Quick Jack was the nap of the meeting of Tribune tipster George McDonagh who told readers of our Galway Races Special last week to ‘get on Quick Jack’.
It was double delight for Martin who also saw Ted Veale (16/1) arrive home in third, with 10/1 shot Max Dynamite finishing in second. However, this was Quick Jack’s day and having looked comfortable throughout, it was no surprise to see him coast up the straight to claim the €180,000 first prize.
Afterwards, owner John Breslin described the victory as “unbelievable” – exclaiming “The Galway Hurdle! I never thought I would win this one” – while delighted jockey O’Regan beamed: “I always wanted to win that race in Galway”.
For a complete report on the week’s racing so far week this week’s City Tribune here
Lee makes turf history in taking Ascot Gold Cup
GALWAY jockey Graham Lee rewrote the racing record books at Royal Ascot last Thursday when steering the supplemented Trip To Paris to a surprise success in the meeting’s most prestigious race.
Though much of the pre-race spotlight was on Dermot Weld’s unbeaten favourite, Forgotten Rules, the Mervue native upset the odds in becoming the first jockey to ride the winners of both the Aintree Grand National (Amberleigh House in 2004) and the Ascot Gold Cup.
Having switched codes from the National Hunt to the flat three years ago, Lee experienced his first Group One triumph on the 12/1 chance Trip to Paris after getting a dream run along the rail inside the final furlong for the Ed Dunlop stable.
Top jockey at the Cheltenham festival in 2005, Lee has made a successful transition to the level, having finished third in the jockeys’ championship behind Richard Hughes and Ryan Moore last season.
“That’s an awful question,” Lee said when asked if winning an Ascot Gold Cup ranked above the Grand National triumph.
“I’ve had a great day in the office. It’s lovely to ride a winner here, and a Group One as well.
“The second I got legged up on him in the parade ring I knew he was going to run well. He was asleep, he was relaxed all the time and conserving energy. The race went well and happy days. Thank the man above, everything went good.”
Trip To Paris’s success under Lee in the Chester Cup in May paid for a £35,000 supplementary entry fee into last Thursday’s feature.
“Credit must go to the owners for stumping up,” said trainer Dunlop.
“Graham Lee has been a big part of this. I thought it was a great ride. Trip To Paris has made phenomenal progress this season, he’s won four of six and is one of the most improved horses in training.”
Some of the money from Trip To Paris’s latest success may now be reinvested in a ticket to Australia in November for the Melbourne Cup, a race that Dunlop has gone close to winning several times with Red Cadeaux