Rachel Wyse: Glorious week in store at Galway and Goodwood
When Galway and Goodwood are spoken about in the one breath, you know it's high summer. It is Festival time.
Next week, they take centre stage in the horse racing world. Both have many attractions and many different charms, but they have little in common.
Truthfully, the only tangible trait these Festivals share is their timing. Ireland's westerly landscape, divided so neatly with its stone walls, bears little resemblance to the rolling Sussex downs.
In Goodwood, many gentlemen will don a Panama hat – an accessory unlikely to be in demand in Ballybrit. As a source of refreshment, Veuve Clicquot will be the order of the day rather than pints of the black stuff, and the fare on track will definitely be of a higher class in Goodwood.
But, for all their differences, the two venues have one crucial similarity – those who pass through the gates of both venues will enjoy a great day's racing. Win or lose, a day's racing has a unique capacity to remove people from the routine of everyday living.
Next week thousands will dress up, have a bet, eat a little, perhaps drink a little more and enjoy spending their day in the company of like-minded people.
This is especially true of the week in Galway. For years, annual holidays have been taken to coincide with the Festival. It's an institution.
Considering the quality of the racing, it says much about the outlook and persona of the Irish. Once the craic is good, very little tends to bother us. On the track, Galway is a place that accommodates everyone. The lower quality of racing affords those with animals of lesser ability an opportunity to have a winner on a big stage and maybe claim a big pot.
While competition is always very stiff, and winning certainly isn't easy, the programme at Galway is rewarding.
Trainer Dermot Weld has enjoyed over 3,000 winners all over the world, but he continues to take great care in identifying a horse to act around the unique Ballybrit track and to target the horse's season around the week in Galway. It has been a most satisfying and rewarding hunting ground for Weld – in 2012 he was leading trainer at the Festival for a 26th time.
As usual, the racing will be a mixture of Flat and jumping, with the highlights coming on Wednesday and Thursday in the form of the Plate and Hurdle.
The Galway Plate is a handicap chase run over 2m 6f and worth €120,000 to the winner. At the time of writing, ante-post betting lists are headed by the JP McManus-owned, John Kiely-trained Carlingford Lough.
Twice a winner over hurdles at the Galway Festival, last year's victory came off a handicap mark of 129 and he is currently rated 133 over fences.
On the level of ability he showed over hurdles, it would appear a workable handicap mark.
Carlingford Lough has run eight times over fences since winning at Galway last year, so should he line up next week, experience certainly won't be an issue.
The worry for supporters of the favourite is that his form over fences has tailed off considerably since his initial tries over the larger obstacles.
His first fencing runs were promising: on just his second start he was third to Lyreen Legend over next week's course and distance.
Lyreen Legend progressed to finish runner up in the Royal and Sun Alliance Novice chase at Cheltenham and is now rated 150+.
On that form, Carlingford Lough has obvious claims but he has shown very little since that run. Connections may well be targeting Galway – and in terms of shrewdness they don't come much better than Carlingford Lough's owner and trainer – so if the market speaks in his favour next week it will be an ominous sign.
As expected, with a winner's prize of €156,000, the Hurdle on Thursday is no less competitive. Winner of the County Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, Ted Veale is likely favourite. After running at Punchestown, trainer Tony Martin gave his horse a break and a recent winning run on the level at Bellewstown will have him in good order for Galway.
On ratings, he is 10lb higher than his win at Cheltenham and his form over hurdles has all been in soft to heavy ground. After the recent dry spell, Galway is sure to be well watered, ensuring safe ground, but it is unlikely to bear any resemblance to National Hunt winter ground. Will this count against Ted Veale?
There may be no hurdles or fences to be negotiated at Goodwood next week but the action promises to be highly entertaining.
Spread over five days, some of the racing will be top-drawer.
Goodwood is like no other track I have ever visited. Words could never do it justice, but 'splendid', 'unique', 'picturesque' and 'truly memorable' are applicable to the Sussex venue. You could not ask for a better setting to enjoy a day's racing.
The undoubted highlight of the week will come on Wednesday in the Sussex Stakes as Dawn Approach and Toronado clash once again.
Aside from the big two, there will be good horses in the line-up, but this race surely looks a match between Jim Bolger's and Richard Hannon's charges.
So far they have met twice and each time Bolger's Dawn Approach has come out on top.
The Guineas victory was conclusive, but Toronado clearly wasn't at his best and they finished much closer in the St James's Palace at Royal Ascot when only a short head separated them at the line. In the straight at Ascot, the race became a little messy, especially for Toronado, which suffered bad interference.
There was huge merit in Dawn Approach's Royal Ascot run considering he had lined up in the Derby just 17 days previously.
Usually, if a horse has beaten another before they will do so again, but I will go against my instincts on this occasion and tip Toronado to turn the tables.
Perhaps on a less stiff track with more emphasis on speed, and assuming a clear passage, Toronado and Richard Hughes will come with a late run and claim the day. A great race it promises to be.
To finish, I would like to pay tribute to a brilliant racehorse.
It was with great sadness that I learned of St Nicholas Abbey's career-ending injury.
He was a truly brilliant racehorse, right from his two-year-old days to his last visit to the racecourse at Epsom in June.
Three Coronation Cup victories are testament to the horse's ability and his willingness to please. He gave his supporters many great days.
It seems strange to say of a horse that enjoyed so much success, but Lady Luck could have been kinder to him over the course of his career. Let's hope she makes it up to the great horse as he battles to recover from surgery. St Nicholas Abbey deserves nothing less.
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