Tuesday 12 December 2017

Doing homework will pay off for studious punters

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Galway demands that bit more of patrons in search of profit. Unlike the big meetings at places such as Cheltenham, Punchestown or Ascot, few of Galway's races are discussed at length on a public forum.

The individual prizes don't attract the same level of media interest in the months beforehand, so the punter must become the pundit.

If preparation for the Cheltenham Festival is all about packed-out preview nights, then for Galway read lonely nights in studying the form. But homework will reap rewards.

Although the horses haring around Ballybrit might not be household names, the racing is fiercely competitive. As a result, especially in the many handicaps, there will be plenty value to be had -- all you need do is identify it.

Out of the 28 handicaps run at the meeting in 2009, just two outright favourites obliged. Finding the right one to be on in these races will be the key to a good week.

The simplistic approach is to row in with Dermot Weld. Weld has been leading trainer at Galway 25 times, but his horses are priced up accordingly, particularly in maiden and novice events. Encouragingly, though, his two handicap winners last year returned 11/2 and 10/1, so it is important to assess each of his runners on its merits.


There are other trainers that target the Galway Races with notable accuracy. For one, Aidan O'Brien has never turned his nose up at Galway.

The Ballydoyle whiz has a long affinity with the Festival, and last year sent out four winners from six runners. Since 2000, he has a ratio of 19-56 for a 34pc strike-rate.

David Marnane, Paul Gilligan and Paul Flynn also do well. Marnane saddled three winners from five runners two years ago, and had five horses placed 12 months ago.

The locally based Gilligan secured a hat-trick in 2007, had another winner last year and makes no bones about the fact that his summer team is trained to peak at Galway.

Flynn's profile is less advanced, but he has had a winner and a second from just five runners at the Festival in his short career to date.

As for jockeys, prodigious claiming riders often come to the fore in both codes.

Young Gary Carroll, for example, rode three winners last year, as did Danny Mullins in 2008. The last two Galway Hurdle winners were steered by five-pound claimers, so don't be put off by a rider's relative inexperience.

A few other general observations. By and large, first-time-out two-year-olds struggle with the demands of the track, while a high draw is more favourable than a low one, predominantly so in the big handicaps.

And don't forget the two peculiarities that seem to prevail at Galway more than anywhere else. Firstly, some horses just love the place, so previous course form is a massive plus, and horses having a second outing of the week do exceedingly well.

In relation to the two feature handicaps, as with the other 26, the fundamentals still apply. Focus on unexposed types and be wary of those carrying 11st or more.

The last horse to win the Plate above that threshold was the ultimate Galway specialist Ansar in 2005, while Quinze, another local hero, was the last to do so in the Hurdle 11 years ago.

Finally, six of the past seven winners of the Plate were fresh out of their novice season, while cross-channel raiders have an abysmal record in the Hurdle.

All this means that Majestic Concorde, the ante-post favourite for the Plate -- who is trained by Weld, was a novice last season, has won at the Festival before and is set to carry 10st 12lb -- has a lot going for him.

Overturn, joint-favourite for the Hurdle, is trained in England and has been allocated 11st 6lb. It doesn't bode quite so well for him.

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