The biggest day of the year bar none is upon us here in Galway, as the finery and splendour of Ladies’ Day collides with the staging of Europe’s richest handicap hurdle.
The €250,000 Guiness Galway Hurdle headlines an eight race card, with five of those races live with us on RTE1.
If Plate day yesterday was big then expect this afternoon’s festivities to be bigger, bolder and brighter, though perhaps not for man of the moment Shane Shortall, for whom a 74/1 double was capped off by the runaway success of Road To Riches in the big race.
Day three saw the attendance once again up, and this time by a long way too, with a total crowd of 18,766 up 4,728 on the same day a year ago.
Happily that lead to increased business for the various betting outlets too, with the betting ring turning over €1,497,455 (up €486,000!) and the Tote desks puling in €830,962 – a very healthy rise of €154,000 compared to the equivalent figures for the Wednesday of 2013 race week.
Onwards and upwards for Ladies’ Day though, and hopefully that applies to my punting too after a dismal effort up until now!
The team to drag me back into positive equity on day four at the Galway races looks like this:
Tony Martin is already among the winners this week and might be able to conjur a miracle in the big race from favourite Thomas Edison, but he’s much better with a bit of give in the ground and has a poor strike rate over hurdles, with just a solitary win from 14 starts under this code – and even that came in only a mere Bellewstown maiden more than two years ago!
These things can bite you on the backside but at 5/1 I’d be a layer seven days a week, but with a false favourite it does mean inflated prices about a stack of talented horses, not least Henry De Bromhead’s extremely useful Darwins Fox.
From the same stable that won here with Beckwith Star on Monday and supplied yesterday’s Plate fifth Lord Ben comes a talented sort who arrives off the back of a Grade 3 second at Tipperary in the Grimes Hurdle.
Proven in the hustle bustle of big field handicap hurdles this lad also boasts all important course form, and strutted his stuff at this meeting 12 months ago when second on the Flat before winning a beginners’ chase.
With that in mind we know the track holds no fears, a mark of 140 equates to a nice racing weight of 10st 11lbs, and pleasingly De Bromhead has acted fast to snap up the services of Davy Russell in the saddle.
Naturally there are dangers in this field wherever you look, but at 12/1 each way Darwins Fox could be the one.
Coral and Skybet are both top price and are offering five places each way.
Elsewhere on the card John ‘Shark’ Hanlon’s Abolitionist looks generously priced at 20/1 in the opening Beginners’ Chase at 1.50pm.
Trip and ground will suit and he positively bolted up at Bellewstown last time out.
Another at big odds who could have a say is Johnny Murtagh’s Dalkova in the seven furlong listed fillies event at 3.40pm.
It’s a race in which Dermot Weld (five winners so far this week) supplies the short priced favourite in Tested, but in stall eight she isn’t nearly as well drawn as prominent racer Dalkova, who will jump from gate two.
An easy handicap winner at Naas two runs back, she ran very well in defeat in a listed race at Killarney a fortnight ago, and dropping back in trip she could spring a surprise.
Last but not least, I have to suggest the brilliant Stuart Crawford’s Ground Invasion in the 2m 4f Novice Hurdle at 4.15pm.
A three-time Point-to-Point winner, this horse has hacked up in both bumpers to date, and benefits from the assistance of Barry Geraghty for this first spin over timber.
A potential class act, the best price of 100/30 is available with BetVictor.
Thursday’s best bets at Galway:
3.40 – Arthur Guinness EBF Corrib Fillies Stakes – 4 Dalkova (each way) @ 12/1 (Paddy Power)
4.15 – Guinness Novice Hurdle – 6 Ground Invasion (win) @ 100/30 (BetVictor)