Galianna can make winning debut in McManus colours
A hugely competitive renewal of the Carlton.ie/Galway City Qualified Riders' Handicap is the feature event on the opening programme at Ballybrit this evening.
Dermot Weld, bidding for a fourth successive win in the two-mile contest, saddles the useful four-year-old Sublime Talent.
Coming here in fine form having won both of his last two Flat starts, Sublime Talent is stepping up to the extended distance for a first time. However, the trip shouldn't pose a problem for the son of Sadler's Wells, and he is also quite unexposed.
His most recent success at the Curragh last week was his first start in a handicap, and he carries only a five-pound penalty for that now. There is every possibility that Weld has kept a bit more than that in reserve, but a suspicion remains that Sublime Talent may just lack what will be needed to win this.
He was twice a beaten favourite at the Festival 12 months ago, and the forecast 5/1 is too short given the nature of the race. Others to consider are Charles Byrnes' recent winner Cyborg, while Admiral Barry brings some tip-top form into the race.
Eoin Griffin's charge went down by a short head over two miles at the Curragh in June, beating subsequent winners Bahrain Storm and Dreamy Gent -- which reopposes here -- in the process. With a decent claimer taking five pounds off, Admiral Barry looks booked for a place, but may struggle to contain Galianna.
Running for JP McManus for the first time, Galianna is an improver. She won twice for Pat Flynn last autumn, and has since mixed hurdling and Flat racing to good effect.
On her reappearance on the level in April, she caught the eye once again when keeping on to be second over an inadequate 11 furlongs. She subsequently stepped up to two miles at Clonmel in May, when she ran out a facile 10-length winner from Admiral Barry. Tellingly, Flynn has kept her under wraps since.
While Galianna has been hit with a 13lb hike by the handicapper, she still meets Admiral Barry on favourable terms. Crucially, that one's solid subsequent efforts serve only to validate the Galileo mare's claims.
Dermot Weld's Force Of Habit will also be popular in the opening Hotel Meyrick.ie & Ghotel.ie Hurdle. Third on his only jumping start at Limerick, the Dalakhani gelding has won two of his last three on the Flat, but may be vulnerable on slow ground to something with a bit more experience.
Hail Caesar could be the horse to oppose him with. A 100-plus rated Flat horse when in the care of Aidan O'Brien, the Montjeu colt has had just three runs over flights for Walsh. At Ballinrobe last week, he looked more the finished article, hurdling brilliantly to score by seven lengths and his class is expected to count again.
Weld should take the Claregalwayhotel.ie EBF Maiden with A Word Apart at the expense of O'Brien's Robin Hood, but there might be better value to be had about his Mutamaleq in the three-year-old handicap over seven furlongs. That one has finished second in three maidens, most notably at Roscommon on its penultimate outing.
Over today's trip, Mutamaleq put in a career-best effort in first-time blinkers that day to go down by a length to Roicead. On a line through the winner, and with the blinkers back on for a second time now, he has been given a chance off a mark of 73.
In the Jurysinn.com Handicap Hurdle, the unexposed Acclaimed is fancied to score for 'Shark' Hanlon. Total Excitement is another to watch for a market move in this, but the selection has less to do at the weights.
Third to Blackstairmountain on its jumping debut in January, Acclaimed went on to finish second and fourth in two more outings in the spring. He reappears now with just 10st 10lb on his back, and it's hard not to see him being involved at the finish.
5.10 -- Hail Caesar
5.45 -- Acclaimed
6.20 -- A Word Apart
7.00 -- Galianna (Nap)
7.35 -- Mutamaleq
8.05 -- Notalossonya
8.35 -- Fort Defiance