ONE of the most eagerly awaited days of the racing calendar is finally here. All year, Galway waits for the Festival to come around and when it does, the attention turns to Ladies Day and particularly the Galway Hurdle.
And it's even more exciting when you're on a horse that has a real chance and that's exactly what I have in Hidden Universe. I know that Mr Weld has had this race in mind for him for a while and his form -- he was second to Shot From The Hip on his last run at Punchestown -- suggests he is going the right way, so I expect to be in the mix coming up the hill.
As is always the case, it is a competitive renewal. Captain Cee Bee was redirected from the Plate to the Hurdle by connections and as a previous winner at Cheltenham, it'd be foolish to ignore that.
But the main danger in the race for me is The Real Article. He seems to be very well in the weights and with a win and a second from his two runs this year he seems to be in form.
Fosters Cross is another that could enjoy the trip and he seems to like Galway, as he showed when winning the amateur race on Monday night and while it's a big ask to come out again so soon in this company, he can put in a good performance.
Another horse I expect to run well is Tavern Times in the Guinness Fund Novice Hurdle at 4.10. It's a competitive looking race, but Davy Russell's mount was second at Sligo on his last run when he was narrowly beaten. But the form from that race holds up as the third from that race, Princeton Plains, won the Novice Hurdle here on Tuesday and that looks like a good indicator.
The novice chase could see Jessica Harrington pick up the win with Alpine Eagle. She usually manages a couple of winners on the week of Galway and her yard seems to be in great form, meaning you'd have to give AP McCoy's mount a real chance in another open looking race.
There are a couple of dangers, not least Darenjan. He won at Killarney last time and clearly like this terrain as he has won twice here before, but I'm going to stick with Alpine Eagle to pick up a third win on the bounce.
In the opening race of the day, Traffic Article gets my vote. Gordon Elliott's horse will battle for you and importantly he jumps well. He might just have the edge in experience over his main rivals.
That said, Dessie Hughes' Mr Nosie commands respect. At one stage in his career he was a decent hurdler for Noel Meade and he ran a decent second at Punchestown in May and with normal improvement he could be in the shake up here.
In the fillies handicap over seven furlongs, Core Element looks to be the pick of the bunch. Shane Buggy's inmate is in good form and has won each of his last three outings at Dundalk, Sligo and Roscommon and he looks like an improving sort.
Dermot Weld's Anam Allta is a threat. The son of Invincible Spirit is well bred and although she has only had one run this term, a third place suggested there is plenty more to come from her and she is the one most likely to pose the biggest threat to Core Element.
In the day's penultimate race, Days Ahead with Seamie Heffernan on board has a real chance and Eoin Doyle normally has his horses right for the week of Galway.
And though the final race of the day is very open, Brough Academy looks like a good each-way bet. Joanna Morgan's charge ran a decent race first time out when second at Downpatrick and that suggests he'll like the track here.
Galway Hurdle Prediction
The Real Article; Hidden Universe EW (4.50)
Alpine Eagle (2.25) and Tavern Times (4.10)