Friday 15 December 2017

Cuan na Grai in fine fettle for Plate bid

Paul Nolan sends Cuan Na Grai to Galway
Paul Nolan sends Cuan Na Grai to Galway

Thomas Kelly

Paul Nolan reports Cuan Na Grai to be in fine shape as the 2006 Galway Hurdle winner bids to emulate Ansar by also capturing the Galway Plate.

Dermot Weld-trained Ansar made history by taking the Plate in 2004 and 2005 after success in the Hurdle in 2001.

Nolan expects Cuan Na Grai to run well, but is concerned the race might come too soon as the nine-year-old was in action on Sunday, when second to 2009 Galway Hurdle scorer Bahrain Storm at Tipperary.

"He's in good form and he's come out of his race grand," said the County Wexford trainer. "He likes Galway, I don't think the trip will inconvenience him and we'd like to think he'd give the owners a good run for their money."

The Weld-trained Majestic Concorde is 6/1 favourite with William Hill, with Cuan Na Grai a 10/1 chance, after 65 horses stood their ground at the latest forfeit stage for Wednesday's feature.

"Majestic Concorde and Themoonandsixpence have been the two best- backed horses in the race," said William Hill spokesman Tony Kenny.

"However, both seem to perform better on a sound surface, and with the ground currently soft, we could see a shake-up in the market if the ground remains the same or gets worse."

Fancied British-trained possibles include Five Dream from Paul Nicholls, who sent out Oslot to take this prize in 1998, and Grand Slam Hero.

The Fonze, which is seeking a fourth-successive win, will carry top weight if he takes his place following the withdrawal of Church Island.

The most notable absentees after Church Island are Powerstation and Kilbeggan's Midlands National winner Golden Kite. The withdrawals ensure Themoonandsixpence, The Last Derby, Hampstead Heath and Valerius a place in the field, which has a safety limit of 22.

John Hanlon has given Luska Lad the green light to contest the Guinness Galway Hurdle off top weight.

The six-year-old is one of 42 entries remaining in the valuable event and recent rain has given the County Carlow handler cause for optimism.

"I was absolutely delighted with the rain we've had and he's in great form, so we are going for the hurdle with him without a doubt," said Hanlon.

"He was brilliant the whole year, but we shouldn't have gone to Punchestown, the ground was too quick. We worked him at Tipperary the other morning, Davy Russell rode him and said he felt super. "Davy will ride him next week. I thought about claiming off him, but as soon as Davy was fit, he knows the horse so well I think he is worth the 5lb of a claimer."

Donald McCain's Overturn is the ante-post favourite. Fellow British entries include Phil Kirby's Amazing King, Evan Williams' Dantari and Tiger O'Toole, Michael Scudamore's Gloucester, Brian Ellison's Palomar and Paul Nicholls' Truxton King.

All the major fancies have stood their ground including Bahrain Storm, Gordon Elliott's Dirar, Jessica Harrington's Gimli's Rock and New Phase, representing Weld.

Galway Plate -- latest betting: 6/1 Majestic Concorde; 8/1 Themoonandsixpence; 9/1 Five Dream; 10/1 Cuan Na Grai, Grand Slam Hero, Nedzer's Return, The Last Derby, 14/1 bar.

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