'Catcher' can land competitive Plate
The truly awful news of amateur jockey JT McNamara's death at the age of 41 makes those of us involved in racing in any capacity take stock.
It might sound a little clichéd to say these men put their lives on the line every day but it happens to be true and, sadly, sometimes sport can actually be a matter of life and death. That's certainly true in National Hunt racing at least.
As we read about soccer stars supposedly worth tens of millions for kicking a ball around a field, I feel proud that the sport I love remains humble and McNamara's fighting spirit in spite of his paralysis after a fall on Galaxy Rock at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival was truly inspirational.
McNamara leaves behind a wife and young family and it makes me realise how easy those of us who simply write, bet or comment upon the sport actually have it.
There were, of course, the famous wins on horses such as Teaforthree, Rith Dubh and Spot Thedifference but one of my favourite McNamara rides was actually on Enda Bolger's Love Rory, partly because I'd backed him at 25/1 in a minor event at Limerick at Christmas 2012. Davy Russell was on the even-money favourite Umpact but was tracked all the way by McNamara and Love Rory. After the second-last, Love Rory appeared to be struggling - and when I checked the betting in-running and saw a price of over 700/1, I thought my goose was truly cooked.
But McNamara remained cool, gave a crack of the whip and somehow cajoled the four-year-old back into it. By the time they got to the last, McNamara overtook his rival and kicked on with plenty in hand to my astonishment. Most jockeys would have given up when the horse appeared to empty the tank in heavy ground - but McNamara knew how much he had in reserve and showed great perseverance, a word that summed up his spirit on and off the course.
As dreadful as the situation is, I'm sure McNamara would want the show to go on and that's exactly what happens at Galway as we reach day three, a busy card with eight races.
We kick off with The Tote Maiden Hurdle (3.0) and if Dermot Weld's Silver Concorde lines up, he should take all the beating around 10/11. He also has an entry in tomorrow's Galway Hurdle but there are indications that he may well race twice this week. The 2014 Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner found the Ascot Stakes a little testing last time but previously ran a big one to finish third in the Chester Cup.
It's a little surprising that he's not had a victory over sticks to date although this definitely looks winnable and I'm sure the layers will be left feeling the pain if he gets his head in front today.
If you can figure out the big-field mares' handicap hurdle at 3.35, let me know as I'm finding this extremely tricky although I do feel that Give Her Bach could run a little better than early odds of 14/1 suggest. She's a useful chaser too and Pierce Gallagher's 5lb claim will be handy.
Comehere Hi is another one to watch and will probably go off as favourite with Ruby Walsh on her back. She was untidy at the last in a handicap Hurdle at Kilbeggan earlier this month but she's an improving sort and should go close. In the TheTote.com Handicap Hurdle (4.10), Call Me Pj gets a tentative vote each-way and any price above 20/1 would be fair. Another dual Flat and hurdle horse, Oliver McKiernan's gelding might have won a handicap hurdle at Kilbeggan in May but was hampered badly at the home turn.
Finny Maguire, who won Monday's bumper on board Electric Concord, teams up with Dermot Weld for the Tote (Q.R.) Maiden and A Shin Kildare is my nap of the day at 7/4 or thereabouts. She was beaten into third on her debut at the Curragh recently but she looks the sort to build on the experience.
Gordon Elliott has yet to win the Galway Plate (5.30) and throws a number of darts at the board today. The market suggests Clarcam is his strongest chance under Jack Kennedy but I'm quite keen on Shadow Catcher under Danny Mullins as an each-way option around 16/1.
He shook off the cobwebs in a hurdle at Cork in June and a mark of 135 seems fair. It's great to see 2014 winner Road To Riches line up although with a hefty 11st 10lbs top-weight burden, 9/2 in the early betting seems a little short.
Willie Mullins' Alelchi Inois sits behind Road To Riches in the weights and has strong place claims around 10/1. He was sixth in this race last year at 7/2 off 147 so it will be interesting to see how well he runs now rated 153.
The following TheTote.com Handicap (6.05) is not a race for heavy punting but I'll give Denis Hogan's My Painter the nod here at 16/1 under Gary Halpin. She put in one of her best races in some time when second in claimer at Fairyhouse and could have room to improve.
I'm sticking with Halpin in the following Tote Handicap (6.40) provided Spruce Meadows takes his place. He makes a quick return to racing following a win here on Monday and could be a couple of pounds ahead of the handicapper.
In the closing maiden, Michael Halford's Katiymann can send punters home on a winning note although the four-year-old will possibly be a shade odds-on. He hit 1/10 in-running on the exchanges when a neck-second to Not A Whisper on his debut earlier this month but can go one better for Shane Foley.
3.0: Silver Concorde
3.35: Give Her Bach
4.10: Call Me Pj (e/w)
4.45: A Shin Kildare (Nap)
5.30: Shadow Catcher (e/w)
6.05: My Painter
6.40: Spruce Meadows