Bahrain can overcome his novice status and take showpiece
The standard of racing cranks up a couple of notches at Galway today.
I have a smart ride in the Plate on Hampshire Express for Willie Mullins, but it's a race that is going to take some winning. You could name any number of horses that seem to hold a realistic chance.
Hopefully, Hampshire Express is one of those. When I rode him on his latest start at the Punchestown Festival, he ran really well to be third in a competitive handicap behind Phillip Hobbs' good horse Wishfull Thinking.
He hated the soft ground that day, so I'd be expecting him to be much happier on the better ground here. My main concern would be that he's going to need a lot of luck in running in a race that is notorious for congestion.
Hampshire Express simply has to drop in, though. He loves passing horses, so the plan would be to try and creep into it as the race develops. If things fall his way, I'd like to think he could be thereabouts at the finish.
With Tony McCoy getting off last year's winner Finger Onthe Pulse to ride Dancing Tornado, you'd have to assume that Dancing Tornado has a serious chance. But I quite like the look of one of JP McManus' other runners, Wise Old Owl.
John Kiely's horses are flying right now and Wise Old Owl looks like he has been trained with this race in mind. On his only run this year, he was second in a fair handicap at Punchestown and he gets in here off a nice light weight.
Still, I reckon Pat Flynn's Bahrain Storm is the one we all have to beat. At the end of the day, he absolutely loves it around Galway and he is thrown in here off 10st.
Although he is a novice, he has plenty of racing under his belt and Shay Barry is an experienced jockey. I'll be amazed if he doesn't turn in a big performance.
Presenting Nama may be the best of my other rides, in the three-mile handicap hurdle. He is a fine big horse that I won on at Clonmel in May, and he will love the ground.
While I'm not overly worried about him carrying top weight, it probably is going to be difficult to concede weight around here. Noel Meade's Eirland will have a chance in this too, but the improving Abbey Glen is the key horse.
He has won three in a row for Christy Roche, so it's a question of whether or not the handicapper has caught up with him now that he is 21lbs higher than when he set off on his scoring spree. I reckon he could still have a bit in hand.
In the two-mile handicap hurdle I'm on Latin Connection for Stuart Crawford. He is consistent horse that won nicely for me at Downpatrick last time, but that might not have been the strongest of races.
Again, he will need luck in running as he has to be settled in. Sparkling Tara could be a more straightforward option. When he won at Limerick last time, he hadn't run since March, so you'd imagine he could have scope to improve again.
Fantastic Gold is my mount in the opener, but Dermot Weld's Galileo's Choice, which has been placed behind Fame And Glory on the Flat, is a class horse. I worked and schooled alongside him at Tipperary recently and he really looked the part.
Willie Mullins' Laganbank might give him something to think about, but that one needs to settle better if he is going to get up the hill.
I'd also fancy Weld's Mutasharef in the qualified riders' race. He ran a decent race at Leopardstown on his debut and he gets between seven and 10 pounds off all the older horses here. That could be significant.
Galway Plate Prediction
1st Bahrain Storm, 2nd Wise Old Owl, 3rd Hampshire Express
Galileo's Choice (3.0) and Bahrain Storm (5.25)