KEEPING a close eye on the horses as they make their way around the parade ring is all part of the fun of Race Week for Craughwell trainer Pauline Gavin. For the entire week, Pauline absolutely loves her job.
She gets to judge the Best Turned Out Horse on five of the seven days of the festival and loves being at the centre of the action as she gives the competitors a thorough going over before they head out onto the track.
Pauline will have to stand down from her duties when her own horse, The Lady Granuaile, takes part in a race over hurdles next Wednesday but, otherwise, she would be delighted to spend the entire week in the vicinity of the parade ring.
She shares her judging duties with festival veteran Lady Hemphill, who taught her the criteria involved and takes over on the other two days of the festival.
The winning groom gets €100 each day and the winning yard with the most best turned out horses in the week is presented with a cheque for €2,000, so the stables take the competition seriously as Pauline tracks their progress around the ring.
“Before the race I would never look at the race card, because I don’t want to know which stables they come from,” she told Tribune Sport this week. “But once they leave the ring I would take out the card and have a peek before the race starts.
“I love judging, because I get to see all the work that goes into presenting the horses and the efforts the stables go to in order to make sure they’re looking great. They put a huge effort into presentation. You look at the grooming, the lovely mane and tails, and the perfect tack. There’s always a high standard every year.”
Like many people, the Craughwell-based trainer confesses to having an addiction to the Galway festival since the first time she visited the course. She was introduced to the joys of Ballybrit by her late husband, Colm, a well-known solicitor who passed away four years ago.
They met during their university days and, from the outset, Wexford native Pauline was blown away by the energy and enthusiasm that surrounds Ireland’s biggest racing festival.
“The first time I came I could not get over the crowds and the atmosphere,” she said. “From Monday evening onwards there seems to be terrific energy and optimism around the course. That energy seems to last the entire week and people don’t seem to get tired. By Friday, there is a whole new momentum when more locals come to the festival.”
Pauline grew up with a love of hunting and point-to-point racing in Co Wexford, but was only converted to the joys of the Galway Races by Colm, who was a full member of the Galway Race Committee for some years.
Her four children grew up with a huge love of horses and the Galway Festival and she’s particularly delighted that her daughter, Sarah, has found a career in the industry thanks to her job with Irish Thoroughbred Marketing.
From the outset, the children would help out at her stables. She currently has half-a-dozen horses in Craughwell and admits that her string is more suited to the softer ground at Ballybrit for the September and October meetings.
“All of us seem to have a love of horses and Sarah helps out at the stables whenever she’s home,” said Pauline, who is also helped out by Liam Hennessy in the yard. “I only have a half a dozen horses, particularly since Sarah left to work in County Kildare, but it’s the most I ever wanted.
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