Wednesday 12 December 2018

Galway Plate Day: A race-by-race guide, top tips from our expert team and our lay of the day

Riven Light, with Danny Mullins up, on their way winning the Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap during the Galway Races Summer Festival 2018, in Ballybrit, Galway. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Riven Light, with Danny Mullins up, on their way winning the Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap during the Galway Races Summer Festival 2018, in Ballybrit, Galway. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

WITH top-class horses including Balko Des Flos, Carlingford Lough and Road To Riches on the recent Galway Plate roll of honour, the winner of today’s €250,000 feature will join elite company.

Balko Des Flos progressed to win the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival a little more than six months after last year’s Ballybrit success while Carlingford Lough was a five-time Grade One winner and Road To Riches a dual scorer at the highest level.

The Plate has a special place in the heart of Irish racing and the quality has improved immeasurably in recent years with many graded horses running in handicap company and this year’s 22-runner showpiece is another ultra-competitive affair.

English raider Drumcliff ticks a lot of boxes for Harry Fry but he must defeat the best the Irish have to offer, with champion trainer Willie Mullins (below) saddling five runners – and exciting first reserve Patricks Park.

Gordon Elliott also throws four darts at the lucrative pot with Grade Two-winning novice chaser Jury Duty the partner of champion jockey Davy Russell in another intriguing renewal as the Plate switches to an evening start for the first time in its rich history.

5.10 WIN BIG WITH TOTE MAIDEN HURDLE 2m5f11yds

IT’S hard to believe that Debuchet is still a maiden after four starts over hurdles, having kept good company at Grade One level behind the likes of Samcro, Summerville Boy and Dortmund Park.

This looks a decent opportunity for Margaret Mullins’s charge to get off the mark and the five-year-old grey definitely sets the standard given what he has done on the racecourse with a rating of 140 over hurdles.

He also boasts the best Flat form with his Cheltenham Champion Bumper second a little less than 18 months ago, but there are some dangers lurking among his 19 opponents and Martin Brassil’s Punchestown bumper winner City Island under Mark Walsh is respected.

Tipperary trainer/jockey Denis Hogan is already on the board for the week and dual bumper winner Macgiloney is one for the shortlist, but Debuchet’s biggest rival may come in the shape of her brother Willie, who saddles Getareason. It may be a leap of faith to side with Ruby Walsh’s mount on his hurdles debut, however, and Debuchet is the safest option.

VERDICT: This is a good chance for Debuchet to break his duck.

5.40 THETOTE.COM HANDICAP HURDLE 2m5f11yds

ANY Pat Kelly runner shouldn’t be discounted and there’s a lot to like about Dawn Raider as the Galway trainer looks to score on home soil in the hands of regular pilot Russell.

This 20-runner contests is a bit of a head-scratcher, however, and it may pay to side with Aydoun for 31-time leading Ballybrit trainer Dermot Weld.

Not seen over hurdles since winning his maiden in good style at this meeting 12 months ago (having finished third earlier in the week), Aydoun hasn’t been setting the world alight on the Flat in the mean time, but can come alive again at Galway.

The five-year-old seemed to thrive when he met the rising ground up the straight last year while Colin Bowe’s Victoria Bay isn’t ruled out of the equation after a string of good hurdle efforts in recent months, but Weld is the man to follow.

VERDICT: Aydoun looks to have been laid out for this contest.

6.10 TOTE IRISH EBF MARES HANDICAP HURDLE 2m110yds

BRIAN ELLISON took this €35,000 prize two years ago with Our Kylie and every time he sends a runner across the Irish Sea to Ballybrit, they are worth a second glance.

The six-year-old mare was unplaced 12 months ago and having since been raised 5lb by the handicapper, she faces a stiff task with last year’s second Rosie Alice more likely to make the frame.

As with any Charles Byrnes runner in a handicap, a market check is always advised and although she has shown very little since the turn of the year, Rosie Alice seems to thrive at this time of the year and is a danger.

Garvan Donnelly’s impressive Down Royal winner Misty Millie is another to note with an 8lb rise not a huge burden but preference is for Jessica Harrington’s Timetoget. The daughter of Getaway improved steadily for each of her three maiden hurdle runs before getting off the mark at the third attempt and with seven-pound amateur Niall Redmond again in the plate, there may be more to come on her handicap bow.

VERDICT: Timetoget can continue her upward curve and score.

6.45 WIN BIG WITH TOTE (QR) MAIDEN 1m4f43yds

WITH 18 runners and a lot of horses coming back from long lay-offs, it may pay to stick with the tried and tested as favourites have a fine record, with six hotpots obliging in the past decade.

Mullins and Weld have shared eight of the last 10 runnings of this race with four winners apiece and the drop back to 12 furlongs may work a treat for the Closutton representative Diamond Hill.

The mount of his son Patrick, Diamond Hill comes to Ballybrit match-sharp following a decent effort at Killarney two weeks ago, but preference is for Weld’s runner Crecerelle.

Still a maiden after four runs on the Flat, Crecerelle has kept good company behind some smart Aidan O’Brien types as a two-year-old and showed enough progression this year in his runner-up reappearance at Leopardstown in April to suggest that there is more to come. This should be well within his grasp.

VERDICT: Finian Maguire can do the business on Crecerelle.

7.20 THETOTE.COM GALWAY PLATE HANDICAP Chase 2m6f111yds

ONE of the most interesting features of today’s racing will be whether any runners are scratched in the big one because if Patricks Park gets in, he is selected to prevail as he still looks ahead of the handicapper.

Mullins has a quintet of confirmed runners but if Patricks Park, winner of valuable handicap chases at the Punchestown and Dublin Racing Festivals, were to take his chance then the rest may be playing for second place.

Of the others, Saturnas is a Grade One-winning novice hurdler which has failed to fire over fences at top level in the spring, but has the assistance of Ruby Walsh as Mullins looks to land the prize for a second time.

The 2016 winner Lord Scoundrel returns to make another bold bid for Elliott, while the Meath handler also saddles the thoroughly frustrating De Plotting Shed, which has burnt fingers on numerous occasions and is still a maiden after seven chase starts.

The winner may be another of the Cullentra four, however, with Jury Duty fitting the bill for a Plate winner. Twice placed at Grade One level over fences as well as winning at the highest level, the progressive seven-year-old has the class to prevail and can do so.

Neverushacon is an interesting contender for Harrington while Fry bids to follow Paul Nicholls’s Oslot (2008) into the history books as an English winner.

Uttoxeter scorer Drumcliff – one of four runners for Limerick owner JP McManus – has the assistance of Áine O’Connor (who has a 100pc record in her two chase starts aboard the seven-year-old) and her 7lb claim leaves him running off a handy racing weight of 10-1.

VERDICT: If Patricks Park doesn’t get in, Jury Duty can prevail under Russell.

8.00 THETOTE.COM HANDICAP 3yo 1m123yds

ONLY one horse in the field can boast winning course form, with Andrew Slattery’s Spiorad Saoirse collecting a two-year-old maiden at last year’s Festival in gutsy fashion.

Slattery’s charge is in a rich vein of form having scored at Limerick in June on his last run and could be the one to beat in a tricky affair where the weights are headed by O’Brien’s El Greco, which kept on well to score by a head on his handicap debut at Killarney.

The burden of 9-12 is likely to be too much for Donnacha O’Brien’s mount, however, while the 2015 and 2016 winning combination of Ger Lyons and Colin Keane team up again with dual winner Espere.

Meath trainer Michael Mulvany finally broke his Galway duck on Monday through Premier League and he saddles My Silver Nails, which has been kept busy with 19 runs in her short career thus far, with Gary Carroll again in the plate but may find Spiorad Saoirse a tough nut to crack.

VERDICT: There’s a lot to like about course winner Spiorad Saoirse with Ben Coen claiming 7lb.

8.30 WIN BIG WITH TOTE HANDICAP 2m110yds

WELD has prevailed five times in the last 10 runnings but this is a 20-runner minefield where caution is advised and his sole runner Dalton Highway may not be up to taking this based on racecourse evidence thus far.

Elliott won this two years ago with Water Sprite and was second again 12 months ago but a 4lb rise in the weights may see her struggle to get her head in front while he also saddles the ex-Roger Varian-trained Falak and 10-year-old Hollow Tree, which astonishingly hasn’t run on the level in 2,568 days.

The 2017 winner Magna Cartor runs off the same mark as last year and should be there taking the home bend for ‘Shark’ Hanlon and Rory Cleary, but Mullins’s Bronagh’s Belle may fit the bill.

The lightly-weighted three-year-old filly looked a different horse when stepped up in trip to score over 1m5f at Leopardstown in June and a further three furlongs may negate the 16lb rise for Shane Foley’s mount.

VERDICT: Mullins and Foley can combine to take a scrappy contest.

Here are the top tips from our experts:

Patrick Mullins:

5.10 - Debuchet

7.20 - Haymount (e/W)

8.30 - Bronagh's Belle

Niall Cronin

5.10 - Debuchet

5.40 - Dawn Raider

6.10 - Ellie Mac

6.45 - National Wealth

7.20 - Jury Duty

8.00 - Beach Wedding

8.30 - She's A Star

Declan McDonogh

6.45 - Crecerelle

7.20 - Snow Falcon

8.00 - Mr Top Hat

8.30 - Dalton Highway

Ian Gaughran

5.10 - Debuchet

5.40 - Santiago De Cuba

6.10 - Ejayteekay

6.45 - Diamond Hill

7.20 - Calino D'Airy

8.00 - Spiorad Saorise

8.30 - Bronagh's Belle

Robbie Power

5.10 - Debuchet

5.40 - Santiago De Cuba

6.10 - Timetoget

7.20 - Jury Duty

Lay of the Day

CRECERELLE (6.45)

Odds of 9/4 look too skinny for Crecerelle, and the three-year-old is nominated as the lay of the day in the Win Big With Tote (QR) Maiden this evening (6.45).

The fact that’s he’s trained by Dermot Weld no doubt plays a part in pushing him to the top of the market , but he’s yet to get his head in front in four attempts. He was beaten once again in his latest handicap start at Leopardstown, despite trading as low as 2/13 in-running at one stage on Betfair. He was no match for the 2/9 winner Amedo Modigliani in a maiden here back in August, and I’m not convinced he deserves his place at the top of the betting today.

National Wealth looks a danger around 5/2. Trained by Joseph O’Brien, the Invincible Spirit colt is related to some decent sorts, and his form line in his three maiden races reads 432. He should appreciate the step up in trip.

Another one worth a mention is Willie Mullins’ Diamond Hill. He’s one from three in bumpers but his latest race when fourth is overlooked as Patrick Mullins had to switch, costing him a length or two. Mullins has a good record in this race and a big run is expected.

Charlie Stout, House Call and Rising are others for the shortlist.

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