Highflying Mullins has Plate target next on menu
Willie Mullins is set to dominate the Galway Festival after winning the big race for the second evening in a row, but his main rival Gordon Elliott got off the board in the finale before a 17,480 crowd.
And Dermot Weld, so long the 'King Of Ballybrit', again failed to trouble the judge, befitting his pre-festival pessimism about his runners' prospects.
While Weld's former amateur rider Robbie McNamara enjoyed his first winner at the festival as a trainer, it was Mullins' Riven Light which pulverised the opposition in the €120,000 pivot race - which was anything but straightforward.
Declan McDonogh's winning ride was hailed by Mullins's son Patrick but the stewards were less impressed, suspending him for four days for careless riding. There was even a brief doubt about Riven Light, a well-backed 7/2 favourite, keeping the race.
McDonogh was adamant that the gap that the horse went through was there. "He was a bit slow away and coming back to a mile it might have been a little bit of a shock to the system for him," he said.
"He overcame a lot of things and I had plenty of horse in the dip and he quickened well and was a very easy winner.
"He obviously has a lot of class and I was always happy in the dip. I just had to sit and suffer for a little bit but it's typical Galway, getting a little bit messy with horses getting a little bit tired, but I felt I was a good winner.
"In my opinion the gaps were there, the outside horses were pushing in a little bit and there was plenty of room for me to go."
Again the attendance was up on the corresponding evening last year, and around 20,000 are expected to attend the Galway Plate meeting today.
Mullins has five runners and a reserve declared in the Plate, with Ruby Walsh riding the likely favourite Shaneshill.
"Shaneshill is our number one. He is unexposed, essentially a second-season novice over fences; the trip should be ideal," Patrick Mullins said in his exclusive column in our pullout today.
He rides the top weight in the race, Ballycasey, which trades at around 25/1.