Moloney looking to build on Galway glory
Incoming Galway racecourse manager Michael Moloney is optimistic that a bumper crowd will descend on Ballybrit over the next seven days.
Moloney, who is succeeding his long-serving father John, will be banking on capitalising on the good vibrations generated by the county hurlers' triumph over Clare yesterday.
With the weather forecast quite favourable, the stage could be set for a large turnout and Moloney has expressed a hope that the festival can hit the 160,000 mark.
That hasn't been done since 2011 and a more strapped economy has also rendered 150,000 a stretch too far - but Moloney is upbeat.
"It's all systems go for the 2016 Galway Races Summer Festival," he said ahead of this evening's curtain-raising card. "We have lots of great racing, fashion events and entertainment planned and look forward to welcoming more than 160,000 Irish and overseas visitors to Ballybrit this week, and building on our impressive 2015 numbers."
Once the carnival gets underway, punters will gamble up to €15m at the suburban venue. It is an incredible figure and much of it will be wagered on those representing Dermot Weld, who will be looking to be crowned the leading trainer at the festival for a 30th time.
The King of Ballybrit begins with the long odds-on Right Honourable in the juveniles' maiden, a race that he has won on 23 previous occasions.
Weld is himself a 1/5 shot to see off the title challenges of the likes of Willie Mullins and Tony Martin, both of whom departed the scene 12 months ago having saddled more winners than him. Anyone thinking that there might be value to be had about one of them ending the Curragh colossus's reign would do well to remember just how competitive the 68-year-old remains.
He will be driven to right that perceived wrong of 2015, so beware the wounded lion.
Later in the week, in excess of €500,000 will be up for grabs in the featured Tote.com Galway Plate and Guinness Galway Hurdle. They are enormous pots at a time of year that traditionally wasn't associated with quality jumps fare, but that is how this behemoth has slowly evolved since its origins in 1869.
Of course, it is a mixed programme and proceedings get underway tonight with a wildly competitive edition of the Connacht Hotel Qualified Riders' race, an €80,000 contest that remains the most sought after Flat trophy in the unpaid ranks.Among the leading contenders is Chadic, whose trainer Robbie McNamara twice won the race as a jockey, prior to suffering a horrendous fall at Wexford last year that left him paralysed from the waist down.
McNamara tasted success when Chadic initiated a brace for him at Cork earlier in the month. "I've got four runners through the week and I'm looking forward to it," he said yesterday.
"Chadic was rated 100 once and wasn't beaten far by Highland Reel. He's in off a good mark on 81 and I hope running him over hurdles will have woken him up.
"We had him through the stalls the other day and he should be fitter. I've booked Steven Crawford but he retired two months ago until I badgered him to ride, but this is definitely his last ride. I won it twice as a jockey and I'd love to win it again."