Shanning has right profile to reign Supreme in Hurdle free-for-all
The Galway Hurdle sets a fascinating puzzle as always. This race, with its intoxicating cocktail of speed and power, heavily laced with a jockey's urge for recklessness and their thrill for danger, has midwifed some spectacular moments in time. Think Clondaw Warrior lunging late under Ruby and Rebel Fitz hanging on grimly for Russell and Winters.
This year's favourite Band Of Outlaws would look obvious after his easy victory in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham but don't forget that that is a very restricted handicap and not nearly as competitive as today's showpiece.
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Indeed, the last four-year-old to win was the Seamus O'Farrell-trained Perugino Diamond in 2000, and he carried 9-8 under Jim Culloty. Band Of Outlaws has 11st 1lb.
A neck behind Thomas Hobson last time reads well, but they were only five lengths clear of Like An Open Book, which doesn't read quite the same way.
We run four. Sayo is one to watch for the future but this is a mammoth task off a two-year lay-off and with only two hurdle runs to his name.
Stratum remains unexposed with only six hurdle outings under his belt. He should be thereabouts but I wonder does he need further over hurdles to be at his best.
Riven Light is an intriguing candidate. Twice a Galway Festival winner but over a mile. He now has his attention turned to hurdling, where he was disappointing as a novice. Stamina will be an issue, as anyone who watched his last hurdle run in Punchestown back in 2017 will attest, and no hurdle run in the intervening 27 months is hardly a positive.
It is not impossible to see him winning but he will need a lot to go right, including a less-than-frantic pace being set. Off a strong gallop, I could see him going down the hill hard on the steel and coming out of it sometime just before the bumper on Saturday.
Shanning has the best profile of ours and yet the least weight. She split Ballyoisin and Voix Du Reve in Listowel last year, a monster run, and she was second to Golden Spear in Down Royal, which she meets on 8lb better terms today. Shanning is a nimble jumper and a powerful traveller so should be able to get into, and hold onto, a favourable racing position.
She has handicap experience without being exposed, has course winning form and is in good heart as she showed in her recent win in Killarney.
She can continue the golden year of Supreme Racing, after Cadmium's Aintree success and Kemboy's Punchestown victory, not to mention Aramon's Grade One win and Robin De Carlow's string of triumphs.
Wicklow Brave continues his racing odyssey in the Novice Chase. He has twice won at the festival before and I believe he can bring up the hat-trick here.
More versatile than a Swiss Army Knife but as predictable as the Bermuda Triangle, he has brought everyone involved with him on some magical mystery tour these past few years.
For a horse which came late to steeplechasing, he has a great technique and is clever as well as brave at his fences. He stands out in this field like Johnny Depp at a McDonald's. I expect him to star in another successful scene in his story today.
The novice hurdle is tricky. Foveros was beaten by Morosini last time and I'm not sure that form is good enough to beat Doctor Duffy which I rate highly. It might be worth taking a chance on Little Nugget.
She isn't flashy at home, but she bolted up in her bumper last summer ahead of two subsequent winners and was impressive on her hurdling debut. She receives 10lb from Doctor Duffy and that could swing the odds in her favour.
2.35 Wicklow Brave
4.20 Little Nugget