Bowe's 'Flyer' primed to soar to Plate heights
Two years after a barnstorming triumph that announced his true potential to the world, Road To Riches returns for a second tilt at thetote.com Galway Plate.
In the context of quality at the Ballybrit carnival, he has achieved something akin to rock star status in the interim. A dual Grade One winner, Noel Meade's nine-year-old was carried out on his shield when third in a memorable Gold Cup at Cheltenham behind Coneygree.
Bryan Cooper's mount returned there this year to fill the same berth behind the mighty Vautour in the Ryanair, and could well have claimed Grade One number three had he not crashed at Punchestown in April.
Instead, fellow former Plate hero Carlingford Lough prevailed at the highest level for a fifth time. Remember when we used to say that good horses didn't run at Galway? They do now.
There isn't a springer with that sort of potential in today's edition of the famous €220,000 contest, but there is plenty quality, as the presence of the highest rated runner in the history of the race has lured others to have a go off unusually favourable terms.
Road To Riches will sport the first colours of Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud firm, but he has eight in total, with rising star Jack Kennedy partnering Clarcam, whose trainer Gordon Elliott will saddle five in his quest for a breakthrough victory.
Willie Mullins has three chances, though Ruby Walsh surprised a few observers by choosing Ballycasey over Alelchi Inois. He doesn't get it wrong often, and Jonathan Burke was another who had a choice to make.
However, sticking with the returning champion Shanahan's Turn over Sizing Platinum was probably a straightforward call, whilst their trainer Henry de Bromhead has four on duty in total.
The Plate has been dominated by the major owners and stables in recent times. It could be a similar story this time, but the likes of Colin Bowe's Shantou Flyer and Stuart Crawford's Yes Tom fly the flag for the less well-heeled.
In a numerical sense, though, they are up against it.
3.00 Tote Maiden Hurdle 2m
If Silver Concorde is on his game, they won't touch him in this. He is a Grade One bumper winner that was third in the Chester Cup off a mark of 97 in May, and has run well behind good horses on his three Irish hurdle starts.
The likes of All The Answers, Benny In Milan, Gone Platinum and Mr Antolini have all shown ability, but would need some misfortune to befall the favourite to prevail.
Verdict: Davy Russell will surely guide Silver Concorde to victory.
3.35 Tote EBF Mares' Handicap Hurdle 2m
Loads of depth to this, with Elusive Ivy, Rathmuck Native, Conduct Yourself, Tellthemnuttin, Popboru and Our Kylie all bringing decent recent form to the table.
The Brock Inn, Wate And Sea, Comehere Hi, Give Her Bach, Floral Fantasy and Mysticaltou have also been running well without the same degree of success, so it is a cracking line-up.
The claims of Crystal Pearl are maybe less obvious.
A Limerick hurdle winner before finishing second here on the Flat last year, she has come down a couple of pounds in the ratings and is better than she has been running lately.
Verdict: Crystal Pearl looks a bit of a dark horse for the Charles Byrnes-Russell axis.
4.10 Thetote.com Handicap Hurdle 2m 5f
Star Counsel got her head in front again at Tipperary and remains quite unexposed, although this will be tough off a seven-pound higher mark.
Likewise, The Mad Well is on a hat-trick, but the facile manner of his second Sligo victory has cost him another 10lbs in the ratings.
Kennedys Mor is only up five for his Killarney success, but the runner-up did help him that day.
Sea Light is another for the Byrnes and Russell combination, and he is a horse that must soon be of interest off a falling rating.
Plain Talking battled well to get up at Roscommon last time. She is up six pounds, but has been in tremendous heart.
Verdict: If Plain Talking keeps improving, she should go close again.
4.45 Tote Qualified Riders' Maiden 1m 4f
A Shin Kildare made an encouraging debut when third at the Curragh. He is up in trip now and is probably the one to beat, although Easy Pass and Three Star General have also shown ability.
Their stamina is established, which is always a bonus.
Verdict: A Shin Kildare (Nap) catches the eye under Finny Maguire.
5.30 Thetote.com Galway Plate 2m 6f
Road To Riches sets the bar very high. He won this off a 13lb lower mark in 2014 and he has since distinguished himself in the most elite of echelons.
If he gets into a rhythm out in front, he could prove very hard to peg back, and it would be no surprise if he were to prove up to conceding the weight that he has to his rivals.
Alelchi Inois gave three pounds and a six-length beating to First Lieutenant when getting back to winning ways at Punchestown. Sixth off a six-pound lower mark last year, it's debatable whether he is a better horse now.
Ruby Walsh prefers Ballycasey. He fell in the Punchestown race and has generally been disappointing, but, like many of these, his prospects are enhanced by racing off such a low weight.
Jack Kennedy falls in for the plum mount on Clarcam. A Grade One winner that has been in fine heart, he should have conditions to suit.
Last year's winner Shanahan's Turn has struggled in the interim. He is nine pounds higher but carries just three pounds more, and first-time cheek-pieces might perk him up.
Horses like Bright New Dawn, Junction Fourteen, Lord Scoundrel and Sizing Platinum all have obvious chances at the weights, while Three Kingdoms is an interesting returnee for Dermot Weld.
He lost his way a little in England but is a graded winner over fences, and showed signs of encouragement on a recent Flat outing.
Shantou Flyer is another to consider. A course and distance last year, he has performed with credit at a decent level, including when winning a Grade Two at Punchestown in the autumn.
He just got chinned by Elegant Statesman on his Down Royal comeback and will strip fitter now.
Verdict: Worth taking a chance on Shantou Flyer and Adrian Heskin at the weights.
6.05 Thetote.com Handicap 1m
When second at Gowran Park last week, Serefeli finally found a return to the sort of form he showed when he won on his debut there last year. He is potentially well treated if he can build on that. Fairy Foxglove is five pounds higher than for winning at Naas, while Sister Slew is up eight for her more comprehensive win at Roscommon. She has run well here before but is drawn poorly.
Cairdiuil loves it here. He is in off the same mark that he won this off in 2014 and could figure again.
Verdict: This could be an opportunity for a rejuvenated Serefeli.
6.40 Tote Handicap 1m
Spruce Meadows is five pounds higher than when winning here on Monday and must be respected.
The Moore Factor will relish a cut in the ground but has plenty weight, while Tony The Gent emerged with credit when just denied at Naas. He is three pounds higher now. Mr Ormsby is tried in cheek-pieces after scoring at Killarney and is progressive, likewise Palmones. She is going for three-in-a-row but is up nine pounds.
Verdict: Tony The Gent has plenty appeal in this one.
7.10 Thetote.com Maiden 1m
As a brother to Fascinating Rock, Weld's Newcross is bred to be smart. He never threatened behind Coffee on his Navan bow, but he kept on and should be a lot sharper for that.
Bromance finished a few lengths in front of Newcross. As one of Ger Lyons's, he will also come on plenty, so he is another contender. Katiymann is also of note. He was an honest second to Not A Whisper at Fairyhouse and ought to be thereabouts.
Verdict: Newcross needs to improve for Pat Smullen, but he should.