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into ballybrit

Today signals the beginning of a seven-day war of attrition in the west of Ireland. Punters take on bookmakers like nowhere else on this land anymore and vice versa.

The words 'Dermot' and 'Weld' pip 'pint' and 'Guinness' in a survey of most used words in the English language over the coming week and there will be cursing a-plenty too as connections of those who finished second to the Weld juggernaut on the 11, 12, 13 or even more times he has winners will rue what might have been.


Weld's horsebox is the most prized and valued piece of cargo that will grace the M6 motorway from now until this coming Sunday as the majority of the 150,000 people that will grace Galway Racecourse for raceweek will latch on to the very sight of 'DK Weld' in the racecard and that is as strenuous as their punting study will get.

The master of Rosewell House is unbackable, so short are his odds to be crowned leading trainer at the meeting for the 28th consecutive time this Sunday, but he is only the main ingredient in a week filled with action, excitement, disappointment, near misses, fun, frolics, best dressed and worst for wear that not even the patron saint of Ireland Garth Brooks could come close to matching.

Galway is a meeting that literally has something for everyone. Two of Ireland's most prestigious handicaps in the Galway Plate and Galway Hurdle, as well as many a high-class flat bred beast as was highlighted by Royal Ascot winner Mustajeeb who won here last year and many more before him too.

There is also the slightly lesser fare that often leads to the not so wealthy owner enjoying an afternoon they will never forget and for punters it is the satisfaction of unravelling the difficult puzzle by picking the right one - especially when Mr Weld isn't involved to make it easy.

Many of the sport's well known names will have to sit it out though and that is something that suits very few. Ruby Walsh, Paul Carberry, Bryan Cooper, Niall Madden and leading conditional jockey Ger Fox are all as láthair but their absence will carve an opportunity for someone else to grasp onto to the possibility of a career defining moment like winning the Galway Hurdle or Galway Plate.

Pat Smullen will be like a demon this week as he shrugs off the pressure of riding the Weld hotpots and concentrates on further extending his position at the top of Ireland's flat jockey championship by which going into this evening he leads his nephew Joseph O'Brien by 17.

And don't forget the amateurs who star on day one. The feature Connacht Hotel Handicap (still often fondly referred to as 'The GPT') further highlights the quality of horseman and woman we have in our amateur ranks alone and for all the big winners Paddy Mullins, Jamie Codd, Katie Walsh, and Derek O'Connor have enjoyed, winning 'the big one' on the opening day of Galway is just as important and that very fact sets the tone for the week ahead.

Now has anyone a spare ticket . . .?