Townend to work his magic and get Marty's off the mark
Dermot Weld resorts to a lowly Tramore maiden hurdle in an effort to get the frustrating Marty's Magic off the mark tomorrow.
On its Galway debut a year ago, the American-bred five-year-old was just denied by Wicklow Brave in a decent bumper. He has since failed to build on that promise in nine further starts, posting his worst performance yet when toiling home on the Flat at Sligo last week.
There is a temptation to throw the towel in with Marty's Magic now, but his most encouraging display in a while came when he tackled hurdles for a first time on his previous outing at Galway. He made most of the running there before simply being outgunned by Marchese Marconi, and he drew 12 lengths clear of the third.
It may be the case that Marty's Magic will be happier back over flights now, with his preference for setting the pace a distinct positive around this unique venue's tight turns. If so, he and the early jockeys' championship leader Paul Townend could be hard to peg back.
Townend's fellow former champion Davy Russell is aboard the main danger in Gusty Rock - Pat Flynn's course Flat winner will come on plenty for his middling hurdling bow at Galway.
Russell is tipped to score when he teams up with Flynn's fellow local raider Eoin Doyle for King High in the handicap hurdle. Paul Flynn's progressive Sligo victor The Ring Is King is a threat under Kevin Sexton, but King High is a three-time course winner that always runs well here.
Having won this off a mark of 111 a year ago, he has fallen from a high of 119 down to 113 after three moderate hurdle runs. That must give him a live chance.
The qualified riders' maiden hurdle is a wide-open 14-runner affair, with Willie and Patrick Mullins represented by the recent Kilbeggan bumper winner Tempest Missile.
Magical Moon and Saltmills Blackie are others with chances, but Tempest Missile might prove very hard to beat if her jumping holds up. Given the game way that she held on over two-and-a-half at Kilbeggan, she clearly stays well, and there is no doubt that she has a bit of quality for this time of year. Moreover, as a daughter of Presenting out of a Strong Gale mare, she will surely want for little in the jumping department.
Galway Plate hero Shane Shortall could go close aboard Coldstonesober in the handicap hurdle over the same two-mile-five-furlong journey, while Gordon Elliott and Davy Condon are expected to take the mares' beginners' chase with Definite Ruby. Recent Cork hurdle winner Baidin Fheilimi is respected in this, but Definite Ruby showed enough when outpaced and outclassed en route to be third behind Ted Veale on her fencing bow over two miles at Galway. Up in trip and down in grade now, she is sure to pose a more potent proposition.
On tomorrow's Flat spread at Dundalk, Sylvan Mist is napped to get proceedings off to a winning start for Eddie Lynam and Pat Smullen in the rated race over five furlongs. Course specialist Almadaa is the horse to beat, but he remains just one from 14 over the minimum distance. Sylvan Mist showed a bundle of pace to quicken readily clear here off a mark of 75 over the trip on her penultimate outing in January. If she strips fit enough on her first start since February, she ought to take a bit of beating.
Later on, Andy Oliver's Panama Hat will strive to stretch its winning run to five in the 10-furlong handicap. Chris Hayes' mount is 11lbs higher than when scoring at Naas but remains impossible to oppose.