Classy Road To Riches taken to go the distance
Galway Festival Expert View
Things can change fast in this game and unfortunately Klepht, my intended mount in today's Galway Plate, pulled out lame yesterday morning.
Tom Mullins tells me that it's nothing serious, thankfully, but by the the time it came to light it was too late for me to get another ride in the race. Gordon Elliott has no runner and, much as I would like to have ridden Road To Riches for Noel Meade, it is understandable that Gigginstown are anxious to claim off his 11st 4lb burden in such a competitive race.
Shane Shortall is the lucky man filling the breach for Ger Fox, who was second on Road To Riches at Punchestown before breaking his collarbone last week. Shane is good value for his seven-pound claim, and if he enjoys a bit of luck in running, I think he will have a big say.
Road To Riches has a touch of class, he jumps, he stays well and he has been pleasing everyone with his work at home. He was just a couple of lengths behind last year's Plate winner Carlingford Lough when third in the Grade One Drinmore Novices' Chase at Fairyhouse in December, so you'd imagine he would have the quality to go close here.
His biggest dangers might be Away We Go and Shanpallas. Away We Go has been placed for Willie Mullins in an Irish Grand National and the race formerly known as the Whitbread Gold Cup. He won over today's trip at Punchestown in June when I finished second on Pageboy, and I thought then that he might run well in this. Under 10st 7lb, he will go close.
Shanpallas has three pounds less. Charles Byrnes is brilliant at laying one out for these big handicaps, so I wouldn't be worried that we haven't seen Shanpallas since January. He loves fast ground, and it could be significant that Paul Moloney has made the journey over to ride.
I ride Fantastic Gold for Athenry-based Martin Cullinane in the mares' handicap hurdle. She is a mare that I rode here when she was starting out a few years ago, and she has since gone on to prove very versatile, winning a couple of chases. She is a good, consistent performer that should at least have an each-way chance in what is a wide-open contest.
Ballychorus will probably be hard to beat, though. She has looked the part when winning her bumper and maiden hurdle and I don't think she is harshly treated on her handicap debut.
In the other handicap hurdle I ride Vasco Du Mee for Gordon. He is a quirky sort that looks up against it, with The Black Russian my idea of the winner. Greatness and Ancient Sands both have chances as well. Greatness receives a bundle of weight as a four-year-old and Ancient Sands is a horse that goes really well on fast ground.
However, The Black Russian likes it here and he won nicely at Kilbeggan. If Barry Geraghty gets the same tune out of him now, he could take a bit of stopping again.
Gordon's Sister Slew is my final ride in the mile handicap. She will improve for her comeback fifth at Bellewstown and I'd give her a good each-way chance. Beau Satchel is on a hat-trick. Like me, he is drawn wider than ideal, but he is still the one that we all have to beat.