High hopes for Premier's charge
The Galway Festival always starts a bit slowly for us jump jockeys.
Day one comprises just the novice and handicap hurdles, but it picks up as the week goes on and the one thing we have in our favour this year is that it looks as though there will be plenty of ease in the ground.
That may not suit some of the Flat horses, but it makes our job a lot easier. Galway is a tight track for jumpers, so fast ground compounds that and the jostling for position coming down the hill will be a bit less frantic once there is some give underfoot.
My only booked ride this evening will love the yielding ground. I'm down to ride Premier Rouge for Dave Marnane in the handicap hurdle, although we are first reserve so we need something to come out. My sources tell me that there might well be a defection. If Premier Rouge does get a run, I'm confident he'll have a right squeak.
I could have ridden one or two others ahead of him, but Dave had been on to me to ride this all week, so I was happy to take a chance on one defecting.
While Premier Rouge hasn't run over hurdles for a few years, he has been in good form on the Flat and won at Fairyhouse recently. This evening's race is competitive, but he has a nice weight.
Split Ear and Mojito Royale will probably be the two to beat. Their handlers, Tony Mullins and Eoin Doyle, are in absolutely fabulous form.
In the novice hurdle, Dermot Weld's Force Of Habit is the horse everyone will be looking at. You've got to respect him, but Fingal Rock would be my pick. As a mare, she gets weight from all of the other winners, yet she was a Grade Three winner at Fairyhouse and is the highest rated in the race at 122. That gives her a fighting chance.
Funnily enough, I think the other NH race, the bumper, is nearly the best race on the card. Two horses stand out: Apt Manor and Fort Defiance.
Apt Manor is Willie and Patrick Mullins' representative, and I think she'll be hard to beat. She made her debut in a hot bumper at Galway a year ago when she found only Dermot Weld's classy Natural High too strong.
That one has since won twice on the Flat from just three starts, so Apt Manor was unlucky to come up against such a hot prospect. Weld also trains Fort Defiance, which ran well to be second behind Double Double at Naas in March. Fort Defiance will be hard to beat, but Apt Manor would be the pick for me. As usual, Weld should win the two-year-old maiden with A Word Apart, and I really like Galianna in the big amateurs' race. She was hugely impressive when she won at Clonmel last time out, so impressive that JP McManus has since purchased her.
With Pat Flynn's horses in such good order, she could be the one to beat, though I also think Eagle's Pass has an each-way chance at a big price. He loves Galway and has twice been placed in the big hurdle race.
Casey's five to follow
5.10 -- Fingal Rock
5.45 -- Premier Rouge
6.20 -- A Word Apart
7.0 -- Galianna
8.35 -- Apt Manor