Butler plots England Plate raid with Minella For Value
There should be at least one English raider lining up in the tote.com Galway Plate after John Butler gave Minella For Value the green light for the Ballybrit feature.
Formerly in the care of JJ Nallen, the gelding is now trained in Newmarket by Kilkenny native Butler, who has had his eyes on the €120,000 Galway prize for some time as the son of Old Vic likes decent ground.
The eight-year-old – fives times a winner in this country before being sold – won a competitive handicap chase at Stratford at the end of May before running out when in contention in Uttoxeter's Summer Cup.
Were the going at Galway to soften considerably, Butler might have second thoughts as regards Minella For Value's participation, but with a mark of 11st in the initial weights for the €120,000 steeplechase, he feels his charge has earned his place in the line-up.
"It would be fantastic just to finish in the places, but it's the stuff of dreams to think he can go and win it," said Butler.
"I think 11st is a nice racing weight – he'll also get an entry for a race on the Tuesday of the Festival just in case they are forecast rain for Wednesday.
"We would prefer the ground coming up on the quicker side of good, but we're excited about the prospect of travelling over for such a big race and, although it will be hellish competitive, it will be a great experience for him."
At the head of the weights is the JP McManus-owned Kid Cassidy (11st 10lb), second in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham in 2013 and the only horse to have lowered the colours of Sire De Grugy last season.
McManus is likely to be typically well represented with It's A Gimme (10st 6lb), the impressive winner of the Summer Plate at Market Rasen on Saturday, a 10/1 chance for the owner at present.
The leading owner also has Alderwood (11st 4lb), Vulcanite (11st 2lb) and Competitive Edge (10st 12lb) among a strong attack on this year's prize. Other contenders include the Rebecca Curtis-trained The Romford Pele (11st 5lb), which was an impressive winner of the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter, Jim Culloty's Cheltenham Festival winner Spring Heeled (11st 4lb) and Donald McCain's Kie (10st 12lb).
Meanwhile, Royal Ascot hero Pique Sous is being lined up for an audacious double after connections confirmed the grey is set to line up in both next week's Galway Hurdle and the Betfred Ebor at York next month.
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old landed the Queen Alexandra Stakes under Ryan Moore last month and is set to revert to the jumping game at Ballybrit before a trip to the Knavesmire on August 23.
Steve Massey, racing manager for owners the Supreme Horse Racing Club, said: "I've spoken to Willie this morning and the plan is to go for the Galway Hurdle and then run in the Ebor, as long as the ground is right.
"It's very exciting to have a horse who is favourite for the richest handicap hurdle in Europe and the richest Flat handicap in Europe. We're aiming to pick up around £400,000 in prize-money in a little over three weeks.
"We wouldn't even be considering running over hurdles if it wasn't for the prize money, but we think he's well treated over hurdles and he's in great form at the moment, so we're keen to give it a go.
"Paul Townend schooled him over hurdles this morning and everything went well, so we're just hoping this dry spell continues and he stays sound."
With a hurdle rating of 137, Pique Sous is currently set to carry 10st 8lb in the €150,000 contest on Thursday week following the publication of the weights.
The top of the weights are dominated by English raiders with John Ferguson's Purple Bay, a runaway winner of Saturday's Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen, heading the field on 11st 10lb.
Ferguson also has Parlour Games (10st 12lb), Bordoni (10st 8lb) and Dubai Prince (10st 5lb) among a numerically strong team. Charlie Longsdon's Vulcanite is second on the list with a burden of 11st 6lb, with Alan King's Montbazon (11st 2lb) and the Seamus Mullins-trained Fergal (11st) all on 11st or above.
Other contenders include Gordon Elliott's Bayan (10st 12lb), Tony Martin's Quick Jack (9st 10lb) and the Aidan O'Brien-trained Plinth (10st 5lb).