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Dub trainer Ado McGuinness keeps to same formula of trying to bag as many of the big Ballybrit handicap pots


Trainer Ado McGuinness

Trainer Ado McGuinness

Trainer Ado McGuinness

Ado McGuinness may be a Group One trainer now, with the dual top-flight success of A Case Of You, but his business model remains based on picking off big pots in prestigious handicaps.

When it comes to considerable booty, the Galway Festival delivers in spades and with a raucous social element to proceedings during the week, too, it ticks a lot of boxes for trainers and owners.

“Galway is very important for the likes of me and it’s a great place to have winners,” says McGuinness. “A lot of my supporters, the Dooley brothers and that, they love Galway. My yard sponsor, James O’Sullivan, loves Galway. Lives and dies for it as his father (Bart), Lord rest him, before him did as well. They love the craic, they love the banter and just love the city.

“The Dooleys and James stay the whole week and really enjoy themselves. My wife and I always stay a few days too. Together, we have been very lucky and very successful there.”

Winning is what elevates the experience, and in recent years, McGuinness has made a habit of that. Most notably, he has saddled the last three victors of the Colm Quinn BMW Mile via a Saltsonstall double and Sirjack Thomas, who prevailed at 50/1 last year.

“The first year we won the Galway Mile with Saltonstall, all the crowds were there and it was just unbelievable. Bart was there before he passed away and led him in. That was an incredible occasion, a day you’ll never forget.

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“To be there without crowds, it’s a bit damp now, even when Saltonstall won it again. Last year, there were a few more in, but it would be great if we could do it again with a full house.”

There are few venues where the term horses for courses applies more than Ballybrit. It is tight and undulating, and things happen very quickly. Some shrink there, but others grow a leg.

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“If a horse handles the track, it’s a huge advantage. Like Beau Satchel, who was never out of the money there in his life and won three years in a row there. Beau Michael ran well enough there a few times and won. Bubbly Bellini was another. Jack Thomas has won twice down there and ran solid races down there all the time.

“Saltonstall seems to come to form at this time of year as well as loving Galway. Seven furlongs on a Sunday, if it’s a wet week, you’ll certainly want more than a seven-furlong horse to win it. That’s why we speculate with some of those entries and a few of them will run more than once. But there’s such great prize money there as well. Second or third in a place like that is better than winning a 0-90 handicap. There’s great prize money.”

That is why the boss of Skylark House Stables in Hayestown, just outside Lusk, has entered anything eligible. He expects to run seven in the mile and up to eight in the Ahonoora Handicap on Sunday, when Current Option, who has finished second in a Group 3 and fourth in a Group 2, will be bidding for a three-in-a-row off an eight-pound lower rating.

McGuinness’ first group winner Bowerman, who also landed a €96,000 pot in Doha in February of last year, will have his first Galway experience, while others that will represent the Dubliner include Saltonstall, Sirjack Thomas, Spanish Tenor, Pierre Lapin and Star Harbour.

Asked for one, though, and McGuinness plucks Casanova from the pack.

“Casanova won impressively enough there last September. He’s a horse that’s improved no end. He’s in the Galway Mile and he’ll probably run in the seven (Ahonoora). He’s a very good horse, very well bred, by Frankel. He wasn’t bred to win the Galway Mile, but I think he’ll run a smashing race.

“But I could make a case for the six horses in the Mile and for whatever goes in the Ahonoora.”

Casanova has the typical profile of a horse McGuinness and his right-hand man, first cousin Stephen Thorne, have invested in more in recent years.

“I’d have to mortgage me place to buy him as a yearling! He’d have been out of my league. We have yearlings in the yard, but you go out and pay 40 or 50 grand for a yearling, and he’s a 65-rated horse, you haven’t much of a future with him.

“I can give 50, 60 grand for a horse that has lost his way and maybe there’s a chance. If I get him back to within a few pound of his best, we’re gonna win a few races and owners can have a lot of fun. So we’ve targeted them.”

A Case Of You is reported to be in good order after running below par in the Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, but it’s all systems go now for the Flying Five at The Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend and then a return to Paris-Longchamp, where he will be aiming to go back-to-back in the Prix de l’Abbaye

“We’re very happy with him. He worked well (Wednesday). I’ve entered him in a Group 1 in France, but we might wait. If we wait and run him here in Ireland (in the Group 3 Phoenix Sprint on August 6), he’s to give seven pounds to the rest of the runners, so we’ll see. He’s definitely on target for Champions Weekend and that will be his main target, and then France.

“He hadn’t a virus, but he was recovering from something, so he definitely wasn’t himself in Ascot. But he’s been there twice and hasn’t run well there twice, so it’s not a place now I’d be bursting to get back to next year!”

Unlike Galway. Wild horses wouldn’t drag him away.

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