“And the silence is deafening”
WHEN Sharjah toppled the legendary Faugheen, he received a big reception – one that he would be deserving of today in the amateur handicap should he add another Galway feature to his CV. So far my attempts to win this famous race have rebounded the way a bird bounces off a window pane.
I’ve managed to find defeat on a previous Cheltenham Festival winner and subsequent Royal Ascot winner but this will be my first time firing a Grade One winner at the elusive prize. Weapons of mass destruction compared to the ammunition most have to play with!
However, only once in the past 20 years would I have been able to do the weight on the winner so unless the statistics change dramatically I’ll only have one or two chances to actually win this in my career.
Sharjah and myself managed to defy top weight in the Galway Hurdle two years ago, becoming the first top weight to triumph since Quinze and Dunwoody in 1999. Strangely though, we carry more weight today than we did that memorably wet afternoon.
Riding this race is akin to being in a mental asylum where the nurses have ran out of ‘meds’, and you’ve to hopscotch your way to safety.
There’s usually a need for Lady Fate or Dame Fortune to grab your hand at some point in the circus of summer ground, tight undulating bends, high prize money, 80 steel-toed hooves and no daylight.
I know Sharjah has a finishing kick like an assassin’s bullet, so that’s the weapon I’ll be trying to hit the bullseye with. Those with a nervous disposition should probably place their money elsewhere.
His handicap mark doesn’t leave him with the possibility of having as much up his sleeve as some of our recent winners, and his three runs on the level for us have been far below his hurdle runs, but I wouldn’t swap him and he is a worthy favourite.
Princess Zoe is the obvious danger. She was devastating in the Ladies Derby in the Curragh and could still be unexposed. She is 13lbs higher for that romp and Finny Maguire claims 4lbs less than Jody Townend did that day, so she will have a far greater task here but her profile suggests she could be up to it.
The application of blinkers should help Zenon concentrate and he should outrun is odds but I’m hoping myself and Sharjah are celebrating in splendid silence though.
Mt Leinster bids to carry on his family tradition in the last. His brother Blackstairsmountain won this race in 2009 and his sister Diamond Hill was victorious in 2018.
Another brother Fugi Mountain won the winners’ bumper here in 2015 also so it’s a family that suits the Galway roller-coaster well. My mother Jackie bred all of them, so she must take a bow.
Mt Leinster has a wonderful temper and a sophisticated kind of ignorance, the kind of guy who writes his curses in cursive. This is in no way connected to him being a Mullins, obviously.
While he settled fine with hurdles, he treats them as speed bumps, the pace in bumpers was too slow for him, causing him to burn through his fuel too quickly so I imagine the drop to 1m4f will enable him to show his full level of ability on the Flat.
We are drawn just beside the strand in Salthill, but that was no barrier to Buildmeupbuttercup in this race last year.
Of greater concern is a Dermot Weld three-year-old teaming up with that exasperating Jamie Codd. Jamie has raced into a clear early lead in the amateur championship and Ciel D’Afrique is a Sea The Stars brother to a Group and Listed winner which could add to his haul.
He receives 11lb from my horse on account of his age and with two solid runs under his belt, he will be difficult to keep at bay.
WP has somewhat stolen DK’s Galway crown in recent years, but I think DK will win this battle, if not perhaps the war.
Ciel D’Afrique (7.15)
Dark Voyager (7.45)