O'Brien's Kalopsia all set to send punters home smiling
We've a busy week ahead with the seven-day Galway Festival kicking off tonight, and the five-day 'Glorious' Goodwood meeting getting under way tomorrow.
With so many opportunities to win or lose money ahead of us, it's important to get off to a good start.
Considering Dermot Weld's great record in the opening Galwaybayhotel.com & Radissonhotelgalway.com Novice Hurdle (5.15), Zafayan is sure to make the bookmakers a little nervous on day one.
He comes here from the Flat and proved that his stamina holds out well when third in a 2m2f handicap on soft ground at Chester last time out. He's still unexposed and should go close but I doubt the layers will take too many chances on price, and the 2/1 in the early markets looks a little short.
Instead, Willie Mullins' Bachasson gets the nod at a slightly bigger 9/4. A two-time bumper winner in France, he jumped really well to win a maiden hurdle at Sligo earlier this month.
Quite a big field of 20 line up for the Easyfix Rubber Products Handicap Hurdle (5.45) and Weld's Defining Year is likely to prove popular with racegoers at 4/1 or thereabouts. He returns to the jumps after a year and a half so it's hard to know what to make of his chances here.
He's useful enough on the Flat but hasn't set the world alight lately so at the prices, he's swerved in favour of Caridadi (12/1). A son of Invincible Spirit, he's been dropped a couple of pounds for a below-par effort over hurdles at Tramore a few weeks ago but he's since won a Flat handicap at Fairyhouse and comes here in good order.
With half the field being newcomers, there's not a lot to go on in the Claregalwayhotel.ie C&G EBF Maiden (6.15).
Dermot Weld's True Solitaire (5/2) is respected following a promising second in a maiden at Gowran, and it's interesting to note that he has a Group One entry for later on this season.
I won't be betting too heavily in this race but Brontide, which also has a Group One entry, gets a tentative vote at 7/2. Jim Bolger's colt has been runner-up on three occasions now and I'm sure it's getting a little frustrating - but a race like this should be well within his remit.
In terms of prize money, the €48,000 Connacht Hotel QR Handicap (6.50) is the big race of the day and the one that catches the eye is the Johnny Murtagh-trained Eye Of The Tiger which can be taken each-way at 14/1.
A fairly useful handicapper, he's been dropped 1lb following a reasonable performance when third in a handicap at Leopardstown back in April but jockey Jane Mangan's 3lb claim will come in useful.
Aged ten, he's well exposed at this stage but he still puts in some very sound efforts. Even though it's been quite a while since he's won, he's quite consistent and can be relied upon to give you a good run for your money.
The Claytonhotelgalway.ie Handicap (7.20) is up next and once again I'm going to take a chance each-way. Sauanna Belle is cool enough in the early markets at 14/1 but Michael Flannery's charge is now down to a realistic mark of 66, having struggled this summer with a rating in the 70s when trained by Johnny Murtagh.
It's her first race for Flannery and he's taking a chance by upping her in trip to 7f but she doesn't mind a bit of cut in the ground and it's the type of race which could go to any of them.
The Colm Quinn BMW Handicap (7.50) looks quite competitive and a reasonable case could be made for at least six of the ten runners.
When punters are unsure, they tend to stick to what they know best so Dermot Weld's Harasava will probably go off as favourite, priced in the region of 5/2. But having won her maiden at Sligo recently, I reckon her mark of 75 is about right and I'm not convinced she offers much value this evening.
Jockey Ross Coakley claims 5lbs on Johnny Murtagh's The Last Marju and the 8/1 about the three-year-old is appealing. He put in a career best when narrowly beaten in a handicap at Ballinrobe last time, and the assessor has still left him with room to improve with a 2lb rise in the weights.
It's not too often I nap a horse in a bumper but Kalopsia will be my biggest bet of the evening in McGettigan's INH Flat Race (8.20) at 11/4.
From the same family as Beef Or Salmon, the Aidan O'Brien-trained filly didn't seem to like wearing a hood at Roscommon last time so her seventh place in that bumper is overlooked.
Previously, she hit 1/100 in-running on the machine before being collared on the line by Glacial Drift in a similar race at Down Royal. She's been somewhat unlucky in her three races so far but Sarah O'Brien can get her off the mark at the fourth time of asking.
5.15 - Bachasson
5.45 - Caridadi
6.15 - Brontide
6.50 - Eye Of The Tiger (e/w)
7.20 - Sauanna Belle (e/w)
7.50 - The Last Marju
8.20 - Kalopsia (Nap)