Gardens Of Babylon is on course to bloom in Hurdle classy enough for Galway Hurdle
Joseph O'Brien-trained gelding has shown form and class to claim honours
My Irish Independent colleague Patrick Mullins won the Galway Hurdle (4.55) last year with the top-weight Sharjah rated 146, and this race has changed a lot in the last ten or 15 years, with far more high-quality participants these days.
Indeed, after a brief but unsuccessful stint back on the Flat after Galway, Sharjah went on to win a couple of Grade One contests - so it will be interesting to follow today's winner over its next few races.
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This year, Norman Lee's Sole Pretender is the top-weight rated with 11st 8lbs, and he's not without a chance at 15/2, although he's now gone up a whopping 31lbs since making his handicap debut at Ballinrobe in April. That includes a 10lb hike for his latest success there last time out in late May, and it might just be enough to keep him from winning today.
Joseph O'Brien's Band Of Outlaws is likely to go off as favourite around 5/1, and that's not much of a surprise considering he was a neck-second to Thomas Hobson in Grade Three Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary last time out, a strong piece of form coming into this.
The Cheltenham Fred Winter winner is still aged four and has a bright future ahead, although at the prices, I prefer his stablemate Gardens Of Babylon, which was chalked up at 10/1 in the early markets yesterday evening.
Darragh O'Keeffe claims 5lbs on this four-year-old son of Camelot, which has some good form under the belt including a couple of placings in Grade One company.
This is his handicap hurdle debut so there's a bit of guesswork involved, but he's definitely got enough class to win and last month's spin on the Flat at Killarney will have warmed him up nicely.
In the Listed Arthur Guinness Irish EBF Corrib Fillies Stakes (3.45), Surrounding catches the eye as a decent value punt around 4/1. Michael Halford's mare comes here in top form having won a Group Three at Fairyhouse last time, and between that race and her Listed success at Naas in May, she's beaten a good chunk of today's opposition.
At the age of six, she's the oldest runner here, but she's showing no signs of slowing down and a step back to this level should make her hard to beat. She does have a 5lb penalty for her latest win, but she's got more than that in hand on her rivals on all known form, so it shouldn't hinder her too much.
Speaking of talented female horses, Hermosa ticks the right boxes at Goodwood around 15/8 for the Group One Qatar Fillies And Mares Nassau Stakes (3.35).
Aidan O'Brien's filly steps up in trip to 1m1f here, having finished second to Watch Me in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot last time, and she should appreciate the extra furlong as she stayed on reasonably well in that race. That Ascot defeat was a little disappointing but she is a dual Guineas winner and is expected to bounce back.
John Gosden's Mehdaayih looks the best of the rest with the in-form Frankie Dettori on board. A daughter of Frankel, she won a Group Two at Saint-Cloud last time with relative ease, and her seventh place in the Oaks is overlooked as she had rotten luck in-running.
A little earlier on the same card, Richard Hannon's Threat is the one to beat around 5/2 in the Group Two Qatar Richmond Stakes (2.25). Second in the Group Two Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, he'd won his debut maiden at Newmarket in good style and I've stuck him in the notebook as one to follow on his next few runs.
Finally, consider backing Constantinople in the Group Three Qatar Gordon Stakes (3.0). He was narrowly beaten in a Royal Ascot handicap, but has winning form at the level from the Curragh.
2.25 Goodwood: Threat
2.35 Galway: Moon Over Germany
3.0 Goodwood: Constantinople
3.35 Goodwood: Hermosa
3.45 Galway: Surrounding
4.55 Galway: Gardens Of Babylon
LAY OF THE DAY
Wicklow Brave, 2.35 Galway
When I saw Wicklow Brave's Novice Chase entry, I initially felt like backing him - but that's the heart ruling the head, and the fear of missing out on a great story.
Willie Mullins' gelding has had a long and distinguished career: a Cheltenham win over hurdles, a Group One on the Flat and a Punchestown Champion Hurdle just some of the highlights.
He won some Flat races last year and went close in the 2019 Coral Cup proving he's still got talent, and credit goes to Mullins for landing a first chase last time at the ripe old age of ten.
As much as I'd love to see him come back to Galway and win, there's a number of other younger ones with serious chances including Moon Over Germany, which destroyed the field in a handicap chase at Aintree. At 11/4, Wicklow Brave is opposable.