Three Wise Men the smart choice to deliver goods
With four winners from 14 runners last year, Henry de Bromhead's horses earned their keep at the Galway Festival, the highlight being a win for Shanahan's Turn in the Galway Plate under Johnny Burke.
The Knockeen yard is expanding and it's interesting that De Bromhead focuses on the Galway Festival much more these days. To put it into context, he had two runners in 2011 and just one the year before.
He's got a reasonably strong team in 2016 and I'll be surprised if Three Wise Men goes off as high as his forecast price of 3/1 in the opening Colm Quinn BMW Novice Hurdle (5.15).
He made a few mistakes when winning a maiden hurdle on his debut under rules, but it was promising and he wasn't disgraced when third behind two Willie Mullins horses in a novice hurdle at Punchestown in April.
I reckon Mullins' Master Of Verse is the danger horse. The gelding had hit 4/9 in-running in a hurdle at Downpatrick earlier this month when narrowly beaten by Carrig Cathal, but is sure to get back to winning ways soon.
The market should be a good guide for the rather tricky Latin Quarter Beginners Chase (5.45), but my early hunch is for Gordon Elliott's Casual Approach, which may go off in the region of 5/1 under Jack Kennedy.
He's mostly been racing over hurdles and was pulled up in a handicap at Bellewstown last time but physically, he looks like a chaser in the making.
He made a few mistakes on his chasing debut previously at Thurles but there was no shame in coming third considering the winner, Shaneshill, was 1/4 in the betting.
Mullins' Briar Hill will no doubt be popular in the betting under Ruby Walsh although bookmakers won't take any chances and I expect he'll go off around 6/4. The 2013 Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner was very smart in his day over hurdles so it will be interesting to see how he tackles the larger obstacles for the first time here.
We don't have much to work with in the Colm Quinn BMW E.B.F. Fillies Maiden (6.15), but one thing I do know is that Dermot Weld has had 33 winners from 69 runners (48pc) in Galway Festival maidens since 2009.
That means that Eziyra would have to top anyone's list of potential bets, and the daughter of Teofilo showed plenty to finish second to 4/5 favourite Sea Of Grace (John Oxx) in her debut maiden at Tipperary last month.
Don't expect the layers to be over-generous here and I'd be pleased to get on around 15/8 or 2/1.
I'm sticking with Weld in the following maiden (6.50), and if the early markets are reliable,this could be a battle between his Sikandarabad and Jim Bolger's Saafarr.
The latter has more experience but has yet to win a race in seven attempts and while Sikandarabad looked green in his Leopardstown debut last year, the horse that beat him into second, Painted Cliffs, has since won a Group Two.
We've a 21-runner flat handicap to get stuck into next (7.20) and I'm going to take a chance on a big outsider around 33/1, although I'll keep my stakes fairly small.
Trained by Kevin Prendergast, Mohaayed was once rated 107 but some disappointing runs lately mean he's dropped right down to a mark of 91 for a racing weight of 9st today.
I often get worried when I see blinkers employed for the first time but they might just help in this case and at the odds, he's worth a couple of quid each-way, with the likely favourite Karalara short enough.
The Caulfield Industrial Handicap (7.50) is another difficult puzzle, although John Larkin's entry Chillie Billie catches the eye around 20/1 down at the bottom of the weights.
A quick glance at the racecard will reveal that he's done very little in his latest five races but he was rated in the 70s which was simply too high and you'd expect to see some improvement today off a mark of 68. He's won off higher at Galway in the past and I hope to see Ross Coakley get him out early to stay out of trouble as he's most effective when he gets into a front-running position.
Yet another handicap brings the evening to a close (8.20) and The Fox Tully gets a token each-way vote around 25/1 in a race where stakes should be kept fun-size.
Gerard Keane's gelding often races over hurdles although the veteran has only won twice in a 47-race career, which is a worry.
He finished mid-division in a flat handicap off 67 at Fairyhouse last time and that was the latest in a long line of races which could be described as mediocre.
But the handicapper has finally relented and taken a bit of weight off so today's mark of 64 might leave him in with a chance to place.
5.15: Three Wise Men
5.45: Casual Approach
6.15: Eziyra (Nap)
7.20: Mohaayed (e/w)
7.50: Chillie Billie
8.20: The Fox Tully (e/w)