Modem set for tilt at historic Ballybrit double
Modem will attempt a rare double after Jessica Harrington declared that he will be given the chance to add Thursday's Galway Hurdle to last night's narrow feature race victory.
Harrington and her daughter Kate combined to plunder an emotional win in the Connacht Hotel Qualified Riders' Handicap on a massively successful opening night at the Galway Races.
The job might only be half done, though, with the Guinness-sponsored Hurdle now on the agenda. Modem was slashed from as big as 20/1 to as low as 10/1 to conquer the most valuable jumps race in the land and become just the fourth horse to win both races in the same year.
"He's in off bottom weight in the Galway Hurdle and needs one to come out but I presume he'll get in," Harrington said. "He had a good break after Cheltenham and we have been keeping him fresh for this."
However, there was a bittersweet footnote for last night's winning rider, as her exertions in victory prompted the stewards on duty to hit her with a 10-day ban for her use of the whip.
Those who had backed Modem from a morning show of 8/1 into 5/1 had few complaints about Harrington's methods, and it was one of a few results that helped punters just about shade exchanges on the night.
Old reliables Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh got proceedings underway with a win for the market leader Bachasson, while Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen soon lived up to their reputations as Ballybrit's most accomplished practitioners with a double.
Both of their winners were popular, with Harasava in particular justifying strong support at 9/4. Then Aidan O'Brien and his daughter Sarah topped off the festivities when JP McManus' Kalopsia came clear in the bumper to be the third favourite to oblige.
With a fine crowd of 19,214 - up 1.5pc on the corresponding figure last year - in attendance, the bookies won't have been singing too loudly last night.
Despite the ominous black clouds that lingered in the latter part of the day, the rain held off. Afternoon sunshine and a drying wind saw the ground dry out to the point that the going was changed twice after racing began, eventually being given as good to yielding on the jumps course and yielding on the Flat.
One man that wasn't on duty was Bryan Cooper, who remains sidelined after dislocating his thumb at Kilbeggan. Gigginstown House Stud's No 1 rider missed last year's gala with a broken leg, but he had hoped to return in time for the week's showpiece events.
"Gutted to be missing @Galway_Races this year again due to injury," he Tweeted yesterday. "The thumb took longer then I thought, but hopeful to be back in a few weeks."
The bookmakers' turnover came in at €1,208,418, down from €1,242,009 in 2014, with the Tote aggregate €782,346 as opposed to €738,940.