British raider Ballybolley brings value to Plate mix
The Galway Festival gets into full flight today with the Galway Plate (5.35), and while it is a few years since the prize-money has been taken back across the Irish Sea, I reckon Nigel Twiston-Davies' Ballybolley has a greater chance of doing just that than his odds of 20/1 would suggest under Wexford native Daryl Jacob.
A useful hurdler in his day, he has been thriving over fences this season and has somehow managed to keep himself thereabouts in handicaps despite hitting some career-high marks in the 140s.
I've backed him a few times down through the years but he particularly caught my attention when winning a useful handicap chase at Haydock in April, a race in which he made all the running and kept under control throughout.
He was up 11lbs to 144 in his next race at Newton Abbot in May in which he was perhaps a little too keen early on - but not disgraced when third of five runners.
Most recently in late May, he appeared to have a high-quality renewal of the Clarke Chase Handicap at Uttoxeter at his mercy under a more patient ride off 143 before taking a spill, and I'm sure he still has some options before the handicapper gets him too tightly in his grip.
Racing off 142 at Galway today, he comes into this with 10st 6lbs which seems quite fair - and a similar patient ride to last time from Jacob should see him go close.
At the prices, the eight-year-old is taken as an each-way punt. Others worth considering are Balko Des Flos, Slowmotion and Shaneshill. Also priced around 20/1 in the early markets yesterday evening, another one I like each-way is My Painter in the Tote EBF Mares Handicap Hurdle (3.50) for trainer Denis Hogan.
A versatile sort which races over hurdles, fences and on the Flat, she was last seen when just a nose-second to Willie Mullins' Grainne's Dream on the level, even trading as low as 3/100 in-running.
Although it's quite a while since she's jumped timber, I think she could be ahead of her mark today.
The obligatory Dermot Weld bet comes in the guise of Sansibar Jewel, which was chalked up at 2/1 yesterday for the Tote.com Maiden (6.50). She's related to some smart sorts but hasn't yet got off the mark and was beaten in a maiden last time at 4/7 which might not inspire much confidence.
It was her second career race but it came after a break of six months and the 1m1f trip seemed to stretch her a little. Slightly down in distance here, she's worth another chance. Michael O'Callagahan's Perfect Soldier can follow her home, while My Amazing One should also feature.
Mullins's Castello Sforza was well beaten on his handicap hurdle debut at the Cheltenham Festival but he'd been going close previously in some maiden hurdles and looks a solid bet around 13/8 for the Win Big With Tote Maiden Hurdle this afternoon (3.15).
He likes to make the running so I hope to see Barry Geraghty take control of the race here and a smaller field of 12 might make life easier.
Across at Goodwood, I'm going to take on Happy Like A Fool in the Molecomb Stakes (3.0) based on the prices (see Lay of the Day above), and instead row in with Karl Burke's Havana Grey, priced around 4/1.
Following a Listed win at Sandown, his tenth place of 17 in the Group Two Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot in June looks poor on paper, but I'm willing to overlook that piece of form as he was held up for the first time, which didn't suit his style.
A very speedy type, he found little at Ascot when push came to shove but PJ McDonald went back to the usual forceful ride last time out which saw the two-year-old claim a Listed race at Sandown. A similar ride here can get the job done again so fingers crossed he gets a good break.
In the Group One Sussex Stakes (3.35 Goodwood), Aidan O'Brien's Churchill will attempt to bounce back from his disappointing fourth place of eight at 1/2 in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Having won both the English and Irish Guineas, it was a puzzling performance and Aidan O'Brien has said that no issues have come to light afterwards, suggesting it may have been simply a combination of the warm weather and travel - but he's not trying to make excuses.
So this will be a real test to see where he's at, but although quite short at 10/11, Ribchester looks the more reliable option. Third in this race as a three-year-old last term, Richard Fahey's charge has since won three Group Ones on both soft and firm ground, which proves just how versatile he is.
He won the Queen Anne with a bit in hand at Royal Ascot and this looks a straightforward penalty kick unless Churchill somehow pulls something very special out of the bag.
3.0 Goodwood: Havana Grey
3.15 Galway: Castello Sforza
3.35 Goodwood: Ribchester
6.50 Galway: Sansibar Jewel
Lay of the Day
When a horse travels a long way for a race, it's obviously worth taking note and the early markets have US raider Happy Like A Fool priced 7/4 for the Group Three Bombay Sapphire Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood (3.0).
But punters can fall into the trap of inflating the horse's chances based on the assumption that the trainer wouldn't send a horse that far for nothing. As respectable as it is, Happy Like A Fool's trainer Wesley Ward has a strike-rate of 20pc in Britain (mostly from Royal Ascot) which means four out of his five runners lose.
His place strike-rate is 30pc, so in other words seven out of ten go home empty handed. While the winners he gets must make it worth his while, it's unwise to ignore domestic form simply because a raider has travelled a long way. Second in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, Happy Like A Fool is no doubt promising but there are a lot of proven performers here and I'm happy to oppose her at the prices.