Friday 23 February 2018

Follow The Plan given top weight in Galway Plate

Follow the Plan ridden by Tom Doyle. Photo: Getty Images
Follow the Plan ridden by Tom Doyle. Photo: Getty Images

Thomas Kelly

Oliver McKiernan's three-time Grade One winner Follow The Plan has been given the unenviable task of carrying top-weight of 11st 10lb in the Galway Plate.

The nine-year-old, whose latest success came in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree, could be joined by stablemate Whodoyouthink (10st 6lb) in the prestigious chase over two and three-quarter miles on August 1.

The last two winners, Blazing Tempo and Finger Onthe Pulse, have been handed 11st 3lb and 10st 5lb. Blazing Tempo's trainer Willie Mullins has two other possibles in Blackstairmountain (10st 11lb) and Raptor (10st 2lb).

Among the British-trained contingent are Evan Williams' Tiger O'Toole (9st 10lb), Venetia Williams' Idarah (9st 7lb) and the Nicky Richards-trained Peachey Moment (9st 7lb).

As for the Guinness Galway Hurdle, Tony Mullins has a contingency plan just in case Clarach does not make the cut for the big race. The valuable handicap on Thursday, August 2 has been the long-term objective for the seven-year-old mare for some time, but on studying the entries with weights, Mullins has discovered Clarach is not guaranteed a place in the maximum 20-strong field.

As a result, Mullins will take the precaution of entering Clarach in a two-mile amateur handicap on the Flat on Monday week at the Ballybrit track.

"We've been aiming at the Galway Hurdle all year. There's also the two-mile amateur handicap on the Flat on the Monday and, after seeing the entries, she's not yet certain to get in the hurdle," said the Gowran trainer. "She needs about seven to come out, so if there is a danger of her being balloted out of the Galway Hurdle, we might have to divert to the Flat race."

Clarach has been given 10st 4lb in the €156,000 event with the weights headed on 11st 10lb by The Real Article, which started favourite 12 months ago. Last year's winner Moon Dice comes next on 11st 6lb.

Among the British possibles are Local Hero, Lexi's Boy, Unknown Rebel and Idarah.

Dermot Weld would like to see an improvement in the weather ahead of Princess Highway's bid for the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh on Sunday. Weld has high hopes for Princess Highway, which impressed with a six-length romp in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, beating Epsom Oaks third The Fugue.

Former top-class sprinter Starspangledbanner could make his racecourse comeback in Saturday's Minstrel Stakes. Aidan O'Brien's Australian import could face stern opposition, with Weld's Emulous among the 11 possibles, as is John Oxx's Takar and Akeed Wafi, along with classy British raiders Firebeam and Penitent.

Irish Independent

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