Thursday 14 December 2017

Higgins can get Galway off to dream start for McManus team

Galway Festival Betting Ring

Wayne Bailey

The 52-race, seven-day marathon that is the Galway Festival kicks off with a Novice Hurdle this evening (5.10), where Henry Higgins (10/1) can get punters off to a good start from Charles O’Brien’s yard.

The JP McManus-owned four-year-old was last seen on the Flat at Leopardstown in early June when going from last to first to win a decent enough handicap with plenty to spare at odds of 7/2.

I reckon Henry Higgins is beginning to run out of options on the level but he’s relatively unexposed over timber, and his latest effort in this sphere (fifth of nine runners in a Grade Two juvenile hurdle at Fairyhouse) wasn’t the worst considering the ground was quite testing. O’Brien says he’ll continue to mix both codes for the moment and I doubt he’ll go home empty handed this evening.

An hour later, Aidan O’Brien’s Jamaica (nap) looks like banker material in the maiden at what seems to be a very reasonable price of 6/4.

A son of Galileo, the two-year-old was an eye-catcher in the parade ring on his debut maiden at the Curragh in late June, shaping well to finish third behind the even-money favourite and stablemate Gleneagles (which has since gone on to win a Group Three at Leopardstown).

He stayed on strongly in the final furlong and, unless one of the unraced horses here produces

something special, Jamaica should dispose of his rivals handy enough, leaving the likes of Vocaliser or Dudes And Diamonds to battle it out for minor honours.

The big race of the day is the Connacht Hotel Handicap (6.45) and there are at least half a dozen horses which I’m finding hard to cross off my list. As such, stakes will be kept reasonably modest.

It will be interesting to see if money comes for Tony Martin’s Quick Jack, which has been useful over both codes, winning a handicap at Newmarket in August and also novices’ handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in November.

He’s beaten a number of these before and may have some more to come before the handicapper catches up but I doubt the bookmakers will take any chances here and he’ll probably go off around 4/1, which is a little short for me in a 23-runner field.

Instead, Storm Away gets a tentative each-way vote at 16/1. The five-year-old mare won a maiden at Wexford back in May after which trainer Pat Flynn mentioned that Galway might be a good target before they send her hurdling.

It’s almost obligatory to back a Dermot Weld horse at Galway, and Call Vinnie (15/8) can send punters home with a smile on their face in the concluding bumper at 8.15. Weld has a good record in these races at Galway, with eight wins from 21 runners in the past 10 years, and Call Vinnie comes here in good shape having won a point-to-point at Templemore back in April.

Selections

5.10: Henry Higgins

5.40: Oscar Vespasian

6.10: Jamaica (nap)

6.45: Storm Away (e/w)

7.15: Tom Dooley

7.45: Primogeniture

8.15: Call Vinnie

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