Saturday 24 February 2018

Galway Festival success is lifeblood of racing community

Tony Martin can score in the Galway Hurdle with Quick Jack. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE
Tony Martin can score in the Galway Hurdle with Quick Jack. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Rachel Wyse

Next week is all about the annual pilgrimage to the West – and I don't mean to Knock.

Nothing compares to the Galway Festival in the Irish racing calendar. The week in Ballybrit is important to every facet of the racing community whether it be trainers, owners, bookmakers, punters or those who enjoy an occasional day at the races.

Galway is a racing festival that breaks all the rules. Nowhere else on this earth could attract such crowds considering the moderate calibre of horse on display.

In times when racing is trying to broaden its appeal and get punters through the gates of Irish racecourses, there are lessons to be learned from the success of Galway's showpiece.

Bookmakers will be hoping for another Festival Bonanza.

The downturn in attendances at racetracks has forced some bookies to relinquish their on-course pitches, while those who remain freely admit the industry is in a dark depression.

Their dependency is growing ever greater on the big festivals where large crowds are guaranteed and increased turnover is a certainty.

Along with the incomparable Dermot Weld being leading trainer for the week, the extent of certainties goes no further.

The racing may not always be of the highest standard, but it will be fiercely competitive. For many horses, the limits of their ability will mean the shot at a pay day comparable to those on offer next week won't come along too often.

On Thursday, the richest handicap hurdle in Europe will be run, and at the time of writing, some 40 horses have been entered, with 16 of those British-trained.

Pique Sous had been the ante-post favourite but Willie Mullins was yesterday forced to withdraw the Royal Ascot winner due to an unfortunate setback.

While he isn't a certain runner, I fancy the Tony Martin-trained Quick Jack. He will need luck to get in on Thursday, but off a rating of 125, this horse is well handicapped. Should he be balloted out, he holds two other entries at the festival, and I would suggest there are worse investments that could be made.

Irish Independent

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