Vastonea created a slice of Galway history in Tuesday’s feature Topaz Mile, powering home under apprentice Gary Halpin to add to his 2012 victory in the same race, in the process becoming just the second dual winner of the second day feature in history after Pinch Hitter in 1981 & ’82.
The crowd was again in boisterous mood, with an extra 908 patrons compared with the same day 12 months ago contributing to a healthy figure of 19,156.
They’ll be expecting far more this afternoon though, with thetote.com Galway Plate the 22 runner feature prize scheduled to go to post at 5.30pm.
Freely available at 20/1 this time last week the Tom Mullins-trained Alderwood tops the betting for the big one, and owner JP McManus admitted on RTE yesterday that he’d had a few shillings on the market leader before the price unsurprisingly contracted.
Will he collect?
The choice of AP McCoy, Alderwood has been saved for this race but there is a danger that his absence since October will count against him, while you can also argue that the 10-year-old is a better horse racing left handed, is possibly is a more effective campaigner nowadays on Soft ground, and has only won two of his eight starts over fences.
For those reasons in a wide open race it may pay to look elsewhere.
It’s also a race within a race because the McManus silks will be carried by a staggering seven of the field – split between six trainers!
Prepared by the ultra shrewd Dungarvan man John Kiely JP also has the strongly fancied Wise Old Owl, second in this race in 2011 but only twice raced in the intervening three years.
He creeps in as bottom weight.
Among his contingent McManus also boats hat-trick chaser It’s A Gimme – one of two runners in the field sent over from Jackdaws Castle by Jonjo O’Neill – but he finished distressed after his win at Market Raspberry last time out and that would have to be a concern.
Moving away from the JP team for a while another trainer who is double handed is Dessie Hughes, who took this prize way back in 1985 with Chow Mein.
The fit again Mark Enright takes the mount on Art Of Logistics, who is chasing a hat-trick after consecutive wins at Punchestown, where he also ran a blinder at the Festival.
However, my worry for him is whether he can deliver in a big field – his four chase wins have come in field sizes of 10, 5, 8 & 4.
Also representing Dessie Hughes is Golden Wonder, who displayed his suitability for the Galway circuit by taking a course and distance beginners’ chase at this meeting a year ago.
He was second in the Irish National last time out off a six pounds lower mark, but one thing he isn’t is quick, and in a true run 2m 6f around Galway on fast ground he could well find himself getting left behind.
Paul Nicholls won this race with the heavily backed favourite Oslot back in 2008 and is represented by the five-year-old Caid Du Berlais, about whom I had a lengthy but good natured argument with the Racing Post’s ace reporter David Jennings last night.
DJ insists he’s here to win and the five-year-old is cracking value based on his second to Jezki (over hurdles) at Down Royal last November, I think otherwise in that he lacks experience after only two small field chase outings, especially as in the second of those he finished plum last, albeit in a Grade 2.
Jessie Harrington has the mare Burn And Turn, but she’s normally more effective in mares only races, plus there’s not much to suggest she’ll see out a fast run two and three quarter miles when she was all out to win her warm up over shorter at Punchestown.
Willie Mullins puts up five pound claimer JJ Burke on Balnslow, but the Thyestes and Kim Muir fourth ran a stinker at Punchestown last time, and even by the standards of WP Mullins it would be an impressive training feat to bring him back to win this.
He also fields the 2013 Irish Grand National runner up Away We Go, the mount of the brilliant Paul Townend, and the pair certainly have an each way squeak, while the same comment applies to one of the Henry De Bromhead pair Lord Ben.
I mentioned though that JP McManus has a third of the field representing him, and perhaps the most intriguing of all to me is the 20/1 shot Vulcanite.
Absolutely transformed since a wind operation early in the year, this talented seven year old son of Dubawi – rated as high as 103 when with Ralph Beckett on the Flat – is finally displaying the sort of consistent and excellent form he has long been suspected of being capable of.
Right at home on quick summer ground and with the sun on his back, we interviewed his trainer Charlie Longsdon on RTE yesterday, and he revealed this is very much the type of race that they’ve been looking forward to targetting.
Vulcanite is on a roll after wins Stratford, Market Rasen and Worcester, and with Noel Fehily over to ride him he looks well worth an interest each way.
A revised mark of 147 puts him in here with a racing weight of 11st 2lbs, while the step up in trip could see him in an even better light.
Grab the 20’s with any of Coral, Ladbrokes or Skybet, all of whom are offering five places each way!
Elsewhere on the card one thing the great man David Jennings and I do firmly agree on is the chance of the Mags Mullins-trained Ballychorus in the Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at 3.35pm.
She likes to bowl on and force the pace which will suit her here, and her opening rating of 116 looks extremely lenient based on her bumper win at Killarney and her maiden hurdle strike at Roscommon.
Available at 6’s last night she still looks fair value at the generally available 9/2.
Finally, a massive thank you to the 200 or so punters who came to support last night’s Injured Jockeys fund big race preview night at McHughs Pub in Castlegar near the racecourse, and thanks also to guests Niall McCullagh, Marietta Doran, Shark Hanlon and Hayley O’Connor for giving up their time to support a great cause.
Today’s best bets at Galway:
3.35 – Downlaod The Tote Mobile App EBF Mares Handicap Hurdle – 3 Ballychorus (win) @ 9/2 (general)