Wednesday 21 March 2018

Ballybrit bookies pin hopes on another bumper week

But punters look to all-conquering Weld to help win battle of the betting ring

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

If the future is as bleak as it seems for the betting ring, seven days in Galway should at least offer some succour to the beleaguered on-course bookmaking fraternity.

When the six-month industry statistics were unveiled last week, the lot of the traditional layer was seen to contract again, a drop in turnover of 8.3pc being the starkest figure on the page, with the exception of an even more alarming reduction of 28pc on their point-to-point counterparts.

The manner in which the diminishing number of bookies themselves use the betting exchanges to hedge and play probably skews the essence of those figures somewhat, but the fact remains that their satchels don't bulge as much as they once did.

It was no different at last year's Festival, when the year-on-year figures plummeted another 26pc, continuing an uninterrupted trend that began in 2008. However, the seven-day total of €8,700,318 still amounted to no less than 12.5pc of their entire annual turnover, and the layers had a beano in terms of results.

A favourite didn't win until halfway through day two, with just 21pc of the 52 races going the way of the market leader. Dermot Weld departed his own personal fiefdom with nine winners en route to his 26th leading trainer's gong, yet the bookies' profits still rose substantially.


So, for all that it is right to acknowledge that the sums in the satchels aren't what they were, and that the colour and vibrancy of the traditional exchanges are in perilous decline, pity will be in short supply this week. In the region of 150,000 will descend on the Tribal City for what promises to be another intoxicating week of merriment.

The timeless Ballybrit gala has a large slice of intangible appeal that has little or nothing to do with horse racing, but the search for winners will still be a first reference point.

As such, Weld's concentrated targeting of the meeting and his consequent success rate remains astonishing for a man who turns 65 this afternoon.

That said, today's fantastically well contested opening salvo would suggest that this year's Festival could prove more challenging for him in terms of competition. The foreign raiders continue to be disappointingly indifferent to the sizeable sums of money up for grabs, but in recent years indigenous handlers have also been guilty of contributing to the Weld monopoly.

Of course, that's not to say that he won't still depart with a hatful of winners tonight, but the hope would be that a programme that appears to be something other than one-sided will set the tone for the week. Variety, after all, is the spice of life, and there is nowhere quite so eclectic as the Galway races. Here's to a great week.

Top-Weights continued to drop out of Galway Plate

The sense that Wednesday's Galway Plate could be left wanting in terms of quality did little to dissipate over the weekend.

After last week's forfeit stage, Rathlin is left at the top of the weights, but Mouse Morris has suggested that his back-to-form eight-year-old could instead tackle tomorrow's Latin Quarter Chase.

That would leave the similarly rejuvenated hunter chaser Mossey Joe as the highest-rated entrant, but his participation is understood to be in doubt due an ownership dispute.

Should both of those defect, last year's winner, the Tom Mullins-trained Bob Lingo, would in all probability be left with top-weight. JP McManus, who owns Bob Lingo, has eight left in the Plate, including John Kiely's 6/1 ante-post favourite Carlingford Lough.

Mullins could also be represented by his Punchestown Festival winner Klepht, while his champion trainer brother Willie, who landed the €200,000 feature with Blazing Tempo in 2011, also has eight to choose from, including Themoonandsixpence, which has run just once since finishing second to Finger Onthe Pulse in the 2010 Plate.

Murtagh eyes Gaway after Ascot triumph

Johnny Murtagh could saddle his first runners as a trainer at Ballybrit tomorrow evening.

Fresh from another barnstorming Group One coup on the German-trained Novellist in Saturday's King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the double-jobbing 43-year-old has a number of entries over the course of the week, starting tomorrow with the twice-placed maiden Calorie and the useful handicapper Campanology.

Because Murtagh – who quipped that he was "worth waiting for" after only getting the mount on Andreas Wohler's charge as a third-choice option – holds a trainer's licence, a quirk in the German rules means that won't be able to ride the colt if he runs in the Grosser Preis von Baden at Baden Baden.

However, Murtagh made no secret of his desire to ride Novellist – which clocked a record time in Saturday's five-length King George victory – in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe come the autumn.

"I hope I am riding him in the Arc," he said of his fourth King George winner, "as I think he has got exactly what it takes."

Duntle no match for Elusive Kate in France

schild at Deauville, but David Wachman's star filly still ran with tremendous credit to hold on for second under Wayne Lordan in the mile Group One.

Having had to survive a stewards' inquiry and an appeal before being assured that she would keep her narrow Falmouth Stakes triumph over Sky Lantern, this was a far more straightforward success for John Gosden's star filly.

Her ready two-and-a-half-length verdict under jockey William Buick was her fourth in all at the highest level, and her second in the Prix Rothschild.

Tweet of the weekend


looking at the ground at Galway you have to question the watering programme before the heavens opened, 3 different courses, 3 different goings

– The twitter account of the Supreme Horse Racing Club queries a watering policy at Ballybrit that saw the track artificially irrigated up to last Monday. The Willie Mullins-trained fast ground specialist Pique Sous is among the syndicate's entries this week in the Hurdle.

Numbers game

100 Years since Thursday's feature, the Guinness Galway Hurdle, was first run.

22 Times that Dermot Weld has won tonight's two-year-old maiden at the Galway Festival.

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