Balbriggan can hold own in tough test but Rivage looks class apart
BALBRIGGAN is probably the pick of my two rides at Galway this evening. He hasn't been with Gordon Elliott long so he might need the run a little, but he is a grand horse that will pay his way yet.
If the drop of rain that is forecast materialises, it will help him, as he doesn't mind a cut and he stays well.
Off a light weight, he might at least run into a place in the Galway Blazers Handicap Chase, but it's hard to fancy him too much in such a competitive race. Rivage D'Or is probably the one we all have to beat following his second in the Midlands National at Kilbeggan.
That was a fine effort ahead of this. Dessie Hughes' horse jumps and stays well and, with Kevin Sexton taking 5lbs off his back, he ought to go very close.
Noel Meade runs Tom Horn and Cross Appeal in this. Tom Horn wouldn't be without an each-way chance if he recaptures his best form for Mark Walsh.
I was placed on him in a beginners' chase at Kilbeggan last year, and he is another that stays and jumps really well, two attributes that are always to the fore in this race.
In the Guinness Handicap Hurdle, I ride Goal for Gordon (Elliott). He is a real fast-ground horse, so if the rain comes he could be in trouble. John McConnell's Orgilgo Bay is hard to oppose here.
Johnny Burke, who is great value for his claim, takes 5lbs off his back, and this fellow is a progressive horse.
He was placed in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham in March, while his latest outing at Downpatrick resulted in a runaway win. He was fully entitled to collect that day, but the manner in which he did it was really impressive.
Redera and Diplomat are two others that could get involved if they run to the level that they are capable of.
Still, I think Orgilgo Bay could take a bit of stopping.
Dark Crusader is my idea of the winner in the featured Guinness Handicap.
He won over course and distance last year for Tony Martin and Fran Berry and, although he is 11lbs higher now at 94, he has fallen in the ratings from a high of 97.
This is obviously a good race, but he ran in the Northumberland Plate last time, so it is a slight drop in class compared to that.
Two miles might have stretched his stamina at Newcastle, so I'd expect him to run a lot better tonight in his first-time hood.
Dermot Weld's Massinga is my nap selection in the three-year-old maiden.
Awesome Star and Falkirk have definite potential as well based on their placed efforts, but you'd imagine that Massinga will come on plenty for her promising run over 10 furlongs at Roscommon.
She steps up to 12 furlongs now, so it wouldn't surprise me to see her serve it up to her male rivals under Pat Smullen.