Willie Mullins is not taking any chances in the Guinness Handicap Hurdle at Galway this evening as the champion jumps trainer bids to make it five victories in the last eight renewals of the €80,000 contest.
Mullins saddles seven runners with Great White Shark primed to show her love of Ballybrit once again on a day when the all-conquering 63-year-old looks set to reign supreme.
4.45 James's Gate Maiden Hurdle 2m½f
There has been lots of talk about £100,000 French recruit N'Golo as the five-year-old grey makes his debut for Mullins having got off the mark on his fourth Flat start two years ago.
Paul Townend's mount commands respect but he'll have to be race-fit as Joseph O'Brien's Risk Factor brings quality bumper form to table and it could be a straight duel.
The classy Risk Factor finished second to subsequent Cheltenham Champion Bumper runner-up Appreciate It in a Grade Two on his last start and JJ Slevin's mount will take plenty of stopping.
Verdict: Risk Factor could be banker material with Slevin in the plate.
5.15 Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle 2m½f
Conditional riders get their chance to shine with workers at Gordon Elliott's Meath yard hoping that Seán O'Keeffe can steer recent Kilbeggan third Enzani home in front as he carries the colours of the Cullentra House Stable Staff Syndicate.
Henry de Bromhead's Eagle Moon got off the mark at Bellewstown at the start of the month and will carry plenty of support while Paul Gilligan's Born By The Sea has been no worse than fourth in four trips to Ballybrit and was third here on Monday.
Preference is for Emmet Mullins' lightweight Millyinthemiddle, though, with Barry Browne's mount also making a quick return for her second run this week.
Verdict: Millyinthemiddle can be first past the post under Browne.
5.45 Guinness Galway Tribes Handicap Hurdle 2m½f
There are seven last-time-out winners in the 18-runner field and one which appeals towards the foot of the weights is Western Boy.
Pat Fahy's 11-year-old - owned by JP McManus - has dropped 22lbs from a career-high of 137 and after scoring on the Flat at Ballinrobe, Niall Madden's mount should be watched if the market speaks in his favour.
Charles Byrnes' Poseidon appeals under a 5lb claim from Cathal Landers but this may go the way of Willie Mullins' Fan De Blues. The five-year-old was having just his second start for Mullins when seventh in the Ladbroke Hurdle and Townend's mount may prove best.
Verdict: Fan De Blues could prove classiest under Townend.
6.15 Grade B Guinness Handicap Hurdle 2m7f
The feature of the day and Mullins seems intent on maintaining his stranglehold, having landed the odds four times in recent years. Three of the Closutton septet are at the head of the handicap, though, and no winner has carried more than 11-5 in the last decade.
Canardier (11-9) is the most likely to buck that trend after falling when in contention at the last in the Coral Cup and he's Townend's choice but he may be undone by a stablemate.
Great White Shark (11-1) was a close seventh in Monday evening's feature when making a bold back-to-back bid and brings strong hurdling form having been third on her last start over obstacles in the Martin Pipe.
A repeat of that effort would leave David Mullins' mount right in the picture and the six-year-old mare has strong each-way claims, while Mullins' cousin Emmet is likely to go close with Pilbara once again. With Simon Torrens taking off a valuable 7lb, he should be on the scene late along with Elliott's Recent Revelations and Gavin Cromwell's Gowran winner Flooring Porter.
Verdict: Great White Shark (e/w) can shine at Galway again.
6.45 Guinness Beginners Chase 2m2f
This looks to be one of the weaker races of the meeting with Elliott's Global Jackpot still a maiden over fences after nine starts, while O'Brien's Star Max has gone seven chase starts without a victory.
Both are high in the betting so value is sought elsewhere with Cromwell's Ming Dynasty - rated in the 130s over hurdles - preferred after putting in a solid start to his chasing career when fifth at Tipperary recently despite bad fortune in running. Natural improvement is expected for Keith Donoghue's mount and he won't have to be spectacular to get the job done here.
Verdict: Ming Dynasty can reign.
7.15 Arthur Guinness Chase 2M61/2F
THE 2018 winner Sub Lieutenant is back for another go in today's contest where five of those declared already ran in the Plate on Wednesday.
Mullins' Livelovelaugh fared best in sixth but whether they all show up is unlikely, although Elliott's The Storyteller is expected to do so having been pulled up early by Davy Russell.
He wasn't jumping fluently, though, and it's hard to have too much confidence despite being rated 8lbs clear of his nearest rival. Stablemate Mengli Khan got a confidence-booster when scoring at Kilbeggan three weeks ago and he can follow up with Russell switching allegiance.
Verdict: The in-form Mengli Khan can take the spoils.
7.45 Guinness Galway Blazers Handicap Chase 2m6½f
This race may revolve around two horses at the opposite ends of the handicap with John Kiely's top-weight Portmore Lough a course and distance winner with form figures of 3-1-1 around Ballybrit.
Gavin Brouder takes a valuable 7lbs off the Troytown third, which is making his reappearance having last been seen unseating at the Dublin Racing Festival in February.
Mags Mullins' Gunfire Reef bids for a three-timer under the trainer's son Danny and blitzed to hurdle success at Limerick by 46 lengths last week but while visually impressive that day and holding leading claims, Kiely's nine-year-old may be more durable and is marginally preferred with Elliott's Mighty Stowaway also an interesting contender having just missed out on a place in the Plate.
Verdict: Portmore Lough can defy top weight to prevail
8.15 Rockshore Light Flat Race 4-7yo 2m½f
'Shark' Hanlon couldn't hide his delight with Hallowed Star as he dubbed the Sea The Stars gelding "very special" having got off the mark in great style at Tipperary last month with comparisons made to former stable star Hidden Cyclone.
Mrs Antoinette Mee - who is usually a regular in the Galway winner's enclosure - has since purchased Hallowed Star and he is likely to be a warm-order favourite under champion amateur Patrick Mullins.
Eilise's A Lady sprang a 50/1 shock at Kilbeggan last month for Paul Fahey and she can be in the mix but the likely hotpot should oblige.
Verdict: Hallowed Star can soar into orbit under Mullins.
GALWAY RACES, DAY FIVE: OUR EXPERTS TIPSTERS MARK YOUR CARD
Michael Verney: 4.45 Risk Factor, 5.15 Millyinthemiddle, 5.45 Fan De Blues. 6.15 Great White Shark (e/w), 6.45 Ming Dynasty, 7.15 Mengli Khan, 7.45 Portmore Lough, 8.15 Hallowed Star
Patrick Mullins: 4.45 N'Golo, 5.45 Fan De Blues, 6.15 Diamond Hill
Katie Walsh: 4.45 Risk Factor, 5.15 Born By The Sea, 5.45 Bentham, 6.15 Canardier, 6.45 Star Max, 7.15 The Storyteller, 7.45 Gunfire Reef, 8.15 Hallowed Star
Wayne Bailey: 4.45 Royal Aide, 5.15 Trans Wood 5.45 Goodbye Someday, 6.15 Plinth 6.45 Star Max, 7.15 The Storyteller, 7.45 Craedan Grae (e/w) 8.15 Jawbox
Ian Gaughran: 4.45 Risk Factor, 5.15 Eaqle Moon, 5.45 Western Boy, 6.15 Canadier, 6.45 Ming Dynasty, 7.15 Menghli Khan, 7.45 Bay Hill, 8.15 Hallowed Star