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Top class Sharjah can do the business for Mullins


Jockey Patrick Mullins and Sharjah after winning the Galway Hurdle at Ballybrit back in 2018

Jockey Patrick Mullins and Sharjah after winning the Galway Hurdle at Ballybrit back in 2018

Jockey Patrick Mullins and Sharjah after winning the Galway Hurdle at Ballybrit back in 2018

As the years have gone on, the action on the track at Ballybrit for the Galway Racing Festival has matched the standard of that off it in Irish racing's big week of the summer.

Of course, this year is very different as all racing is being held behind closed doors.

Racing has been a massive success as part of the 'new normal' but it will certainly be a little stranger this week from Galway, compared to the usual craic of the Festival.

There is still fantastic action to savour, however, and the feature heat of Day One is the Connacht Hotel Handicap for amateur riders over two miles and a furlong.

Willie Mullins has really targeted Galway in recent times and has landed this particular contest for the last three years.

The champion jumps trainer saddles five here in what really is a fantastic renewal of the race, and he can make it four in a row with the top-class SHARJAH (6.45).

The mount of Patrick Mullins is a three-time Grade One winner over hurdles and also won the Galway Hurdle here two years ago, and was best of the rest behind Epatante in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

A good Flat performer in his own right, he really is the standout performer in the field over flights, rated 163 in that sphere.

Quicker ground is an advantage for Rich Ricci's charge but the good to yielding terrain here will suit just fine and with a fair draw in stall seven, he is a confident selection.

To kick things off, WEMBLEY (4.10) should have enough talent and experience to get off the mark at the third time of asking for Aidan O'Brien.

This could turn out to be another good renewal of this race following on from the likes of winners such as Mustajeeb and Innisfree last year, and Wembley looks like he could go on to much bigger things.

He needed the run on debut when third behind stablemate Hudson River, and was unlucky to not get his head in front last time at The Curragh when not enjoying the cleanest of passages before just failing to get up.

He has already finished ahead of what looks the main danger here, Lust, and he can confirm that superiority. Johnny Murtagh has his string in fantastic form and his KOKURA (4.40) is drawn perfectly in stall two for the Claytonhotelgalway.ie Handicap.

Murtagh is firing in the winners at present and Kokura ran well when fourth at Naas last time. He has been dropped a pound after that and, running from an inside berth he should be able to get a nice early position before getting involved at the finish.

One who catches the eye in the Galmont.com & Galwaybayhotel.com Handicap is ROYAL CANFORD (5.15) for Billy Lee and Willie McCreery.

This lad had been off for three months but went into many people's horse tracker with a good fifth, not beaten far, at Leopardstown last time.

That would have been to blow the cobwebs off with an eye on Galway and McCreery is well able to have one spot on for the day.

Drawn in stall one, he is another who should be handy and avoid any hard luck story.

A few of the runners in division two of the Galmont.com & Galwaybayhotel.com Handicap faced off at Leopardstown a couple of weeks ago, when Atlas came out on top.

In third that day, just a length back, was Tanseeq (5.45) and on revised terms he can reverse that form.

He was giving Atlas 8lbs in weight that day and today will receive 3lbs from that rival this evening, which is enough to turn the tables.

NOBLE MUSIC (6.15) was certainly an impressive winner at Roscommon last time out in the mud and if he can back that up he would have a say in the finish in the Easyfix Handicap despite being drawn badly, and Elizabethofaragon (7.15) can make it three wins on the spin in the penultimate contest after she scored on Friday.

Finally, the highly-regard MT LEINSTER (7.45) can do the business in the last for that man Mullins on his first run on the Flat.