Dream team to claim glory with fancied Alelchi
Raging market leader Alelchi Inois is at least half the odds of any of his 21 rivals to provide the irresistible Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh axis with a first shared Galway Plate victory.
One of the most forceful partnerships in the history of the game, both protagonists have plundered the winner's cut of the €220,000 spoils in thetote.com-sponsored before. When Mullins did so for a first time with the 5/1 favourite Blazing Tempo four years ago, though, Walsh was on the sidelines after a fall at Killarney had left him with a crushed vertebrae.
Having won the prestigious two-mile-six-furlong handicap twice previously, Walsh's 2011 loss will have been reasonably palatable, but the multitude of punters who habitually put their faith in the dream team will hope they finally click in the race today.
Of course, with Mullins saddling five in all, Walsh might well end up simply being on the wrong one. However, the insatiable champion trainer's influence ultimately appears to be a positive for Alelchi Inois's chance, as the presence of stablemate Boston Bob at the top of the weights keeps the favourite's burden down to a manageable 11st 1lb.
In recent years, the Plate has been the preserve of some of jump racing's most recognisable names, with marquee owners JP McManus and Gigginstown Stud plundering the last three on a ratio of two to one. There is a similar theme this time. Apart from Mullins's quintet, McManus and Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown are each responsible for four runners. Mouse Morris will saddle three, with Gigginstown's Davy Russell-ridden Rule The World sure to be especially popular.
David Mullins, whose father Tom masterminded Bob Lingo's 2012 coup and saddles Alderwood for McManus here, is pencilled in for Gigginstown's Tony Martin-trained Savello. With Patrick Mullins on Boston Bob and cousin Danny on stablemate Indevan, the illustrious family that descends from three-time Plate-winning doyen Paddy sees its name appear nine times in all.
Alelchi Inois is 5/1 to prevail, with Charles Byrnes' Munster National victor Shanpallas next best at up to 10/1.
In the first significant conundrum that Barry Geraghty has had to solve in his short stint as McManus's number one, it is to Shanpallas that he has turned. The brilliant former champion is still chasing his first triumph in the race and he has eschewed last year's course winner Jacksonslady to boot, so it won't have been an easy decision.
Dermot Weld fires just four carefully selected bullets tonight. That is a minute delegation for the master of Ballybrit, though he should at the very least maintain his record in the concluding maiden with New Agenda.
It is a race that he has won six years in a row and 15 times in 19 years. As an illustration of his enduring excellence, of the few other handlers to win the race since 1990, only one, Francis Flood, is still training. Imagine.
3.00 Tote Pick Six Guarantee Maiden Hurdle 2m
Fill Your Hands didn't seem to relish going right-handed when second to Princely Conn at Punchestown, but it was still a fair effort in defeat.
He hasn't run since the autumn so something may have come to light. Thomas Hobson was struggling to get on top when falling at the last on his Listowel hurdle bow.
He needs to do better now but has the scope to do so, as he won off as high as 97 on the Flat.
Stuccodor won last year's Irish Lincolnshire off a mark of 102. He has twice run well in defeat here and is ground-versatile, finishing second on both outings over flights last winter, latterly when left with a little too much to do at Fairyhouse in January.
Verdict - Stuccodor (Nap) is the one to beat if fully tuned up.
3.35 Tote Mobile App EBF Mares' Handicap Hurdle 2m
An array of mares come into this competitive race in a rich vein of form.
The versatile Damefirth is on a hat-trick, but she has a lot to do under top-weight.
The Nutcracker, I'm All You Need, Red Four, Supreme Vic, Lily The Lioness and Havana Dancer all have obvious claims, while Crystal Earth and Give Her Bach are consistent.
Dancing Meadows caught the eye at Perth when second to a horse that has run well since off a mark of 128. She could have a big say off just 111.
Verdict - The newly-hooded Dancing Meadows looks handicapped to win.
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This is another wide-open affair. Buster Dan Dan won so well at Killarney that he should figure prominently again under a seven-pound penalty.
Coldstonesober has won over hurdles and fences recently, though he has less room for improvement. Be Seeing You might be the pick of Gordon Elliott's trio, having accounted for Coldstonesober off an 11lb lower mark with a bit of style at Bellewstown.
Lone Star is also interesting for Aidan O'Brien and JP McManus off a low weight. He won really well at Thurles in the autumn, but wasn't the same when the ground then got soft, so better conditions here should suit.
Verdict - There is a chance that Lone Star is favourably handicapped.
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Here For the Craic will relish this step back up in trip. He has run brilliantly in defeat in each of his three Flat starts, but his best effort was his first at the Curragh over close to this trip.
Hudson's Bay and Catalyst have ability but are a little more exposed, while Time To Inspire is the stand-out candidate. A Galileo brother to Forgotten Rules, the form of his two placed efforts is solid and he stays well.
Verdict - The application of blinkers and Finny Maguire's booking are notable pluses for Time To Inspire.
5.30 Thetote.com Galway Plate 2m 6f
Barry Geraghty has opted for Shanpallas of JP McManus's quintet. Third in the Kerry National, he won the Munster National off a mark of 139.
Little went right on his return from a break at Punchestown in June, but he must be a player here off 145.
Jonjo O'Neill's decision to send It's A Gimme across again might be significant, and Jacksonslady is another of McManus' with appeal. Successful at the festival last year, she is on a hat-trick, her two recent wins leaving her on a career-high 141. She was third off 137 in 2013 and is 10 years of age now.
Like Jacksonslady, Gigginstown House Stud's Savello and Make A Track last won at Punchestown. Both have climbed the ratings but couldn't be discounted. The firm's Rule The World was a smart and consistent novice. He gets in off 144 for 10st 12lb under Davy Russell so has lots going for him.
Of Willie Mullins's handful, Indevan would have a squeak at a price if the ground doesn't deteriorate, though Alelchi Inois is clearly the first string.
Unbeaten in his first five chases on decent ground last year, he returned to give Bayan seven pounds and a fair beating over flights at Cork, with Indevan back in third. He has plenty weight here with 11st 1lb for 147, but Bayan is a solid 150-rated hurdler.
Verdict - If the ground holds up, Alelchi Inois can go close for Ruby Walsh.
6.05 Tote Handicap 1m
Northern Surprise bounced back to form at Tipperary last time. He is just a pound higher than when winning at Sligo last year so he should figure. Plough Boy and Art Scene were first and second at Tipperary a week earlier. Plough Boy has won again since and the handicapper is getting hold of him, but Jack Kennedy's seven-pound claim will help.
He and Art Scene could do with some drying weather, while Pat Smullen's booking on John 'Shark' Hanlon's Camlann is of note. The Cape Cross four-year-old has shown glimpses of ability and might outrun a mark of 61.
Verdict - Northern Surprise might collect for Tim Doyle and Billy Lee.
6.40 Thetote.com Handicap 1m
The Royal Ascot third Sacrificial tops the weights in a cracking affair. This won't be easy off a five-pound higher mark but he never runs a bad race and handles all sorts of ground.
Fit For The Job returns to a more suitable trip after a couple of poor runs, while Cradle Mountain has its 13th start of the year. He has been holding his form and was second off a three-pound lower mark at the Curragh when he last ran in a handicap in May.
Shahzeena won in deep ground on her Cork bow in April. She ran into a decent sort in Roca Roja at Gowran Park so a mark of 93 looks pretty fair.
Verdict - A chance is taken on Shahzeena being ahead of the handicapper.
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This is all about New Agenda. The well-bred Khalid Abdullah colt tired into third in a hot Navan maiden in May. If he runs to a similar level or better, he really ought to win.
Boherbuoy is the pick of the rest of the field. Second on his Curragh bow, he improved to get chinned at Killarney by Aimhirgin Lass, so he is no slouch.
Verdict - Difficult to envisage New Agenda not winning.