Friday 19 January 2018


WITH the exception of the high-class absentee Captain Cee Bee, which will instead tackle tomorrow's big hurdle race, the final line-up for this afternoon's Galway Plate wants for nothing.

A hugely competitive field of 22 is headed by Scotsirish, one of three that will bid to give the perennial champion trainer Willie Mullins a first taste of glory in the two-mile-six-furlong showpiece.

If any of the Mullins trio are to prevail, they will have to account for an array of Ballybrit specialists, including two previous Plate winners.

The 2009 hero Ballyholland is due to be partnered for a first time by Denis O'Regan, who steered the mighty Ansar to a memorable victory as a three-pound claimer six years ago. Ballyholland's regular rider Andrew McNamara has opted for the Tony Martin-trained Psycho, while Finger Onthe Pulse has also been deserted by the man who guided him to such a popular triumph in 2010.

With Finger Onthe Pulse's owner JP McManus responsible for no less than six contenders, Tony McCoy prefers Michael Hourigan's consistent 10-year-old Dancing Tornado, leaving Barry Geraghty to renew his association with Tom Taaffe's Finger Onthe Pulse, a horse that he partnered to Cheltenham Festival success in 2008.

Majestic Concorde, third to Finger Onthe Pulse 12 months ago, is Dermot Weld's sole hope of a fifth win in 21 years, while Paul Nicholls, who sent out Oslot to run riot in 2008, is responsible for Rebel Du Maquis, one of five English-based raiders. None of the above, though, head the market for the €120,400 handicap.

That distinction falls to Bahrain Storm. Pat Flynn's stalwart, second in last year's Galway Hurdle having won in 2009, gets in off a mere 10st today as he attempts to become just the fourth horse ever to complete the Hurdle-Plate double. For him, then, nothing less than immortality beckons.

3.0 Tote Pick Six

Maiden Hurdle

Galileo's Choice and Laganbank stand out here. Twice a winner on the Flat, Galileo's Choice has finished third behind Fame And Glory in a Group Three, so he could take some stopping on his jumping debut now for Dermot Weld.

Laganbank is a dual bumper winner that was caught late on by the smart Sublime Talent on his hurdling debut in May. He is a different type of horse to Galileo's Choice, but his recent Killarney bumper success under 12st was a fair performance.

Verdict -- Laganbank's jumping experience might give him an edge.

3.35 Tote Phone Bet

1850 238 669 Handicap Hurdle

Five recent winners feature in this. Of the four that landed maidens, Latin Connection isn't badly treated off 10st 11lb, having sluiced up at Downpatrick a fortnight ago.

Seader, placed five times before scoring at Ballinrobe, is also interesting off a mark of 109. Ordinary Man could run well now that he drops back to two and a half miles.

A facile winner at Clonmel over the trip, he may not have quite got home over further at Killarney subsequently.

Verdict -- Ordinary Man could go close at a big price.

4.10 Tote Jackpot

Races 3 to 6 Handicap Hurdle

Presenting Nama has a lot on his plate here off top weight. King Of Redfield is effectively nine pounds better off with his June Listowel conqueror Abbey Glen now that he reverts to hurdles, but AP McCoy's mount Abbey Glen may not be done with improving yet.

Don't Stop Me Now and Eirland also switch back from chasing, and both are relatively unexposed. The 2010 winner Hoopy is out of form, but he gets in off a three-pound lower mark than last year.

Campbonnais competes off the same rating that he won a three-mile chase off in June. This is his first start over the trip since.

Verdict -- Campbonnais has a great deal in his favour.

4.45 Tote Trifecta

Qualified Riders' Maiden

Wearing first-time blinkers, Mutasharef sets the standard. On his only previous start at Leopardstown in April, he finished a creditable fourth in a maiden that was won by the subsequent Listed scorer Quest For Peace and featured numerous other winners.

El Gran Torino, seventh that day, re-opposes now. He has since been placed twice, including when second over this 12-furlong trip last time.

Verdict -- Mutasharef is difficult to oppose under a decent amateur.


Galway Plate

Finger Onthe Pulse has struggled somewhat since winning this last year, but he isn't without a chance off a fair weight.

Majestic Concorde, third 12 months ago, may struggle to improve on that off a 15lb higher mark, though he did record a fine win under a big burden at Leopardstown at Christmas. Former Galway Hurdle winner Bahrain Storm has never run a bad race here and is in excellent heart. On his hurdles form, he is weighted to go close, but he has just four chasing starts to his name.

Blazing Tempo, a classy mare, is a live threat, while the five English challengers are all interesting, with the in-form Qulinton maybe the pick of those. Dr Whizz has snuck in at the bottom. Lightly raced, the mount of Niall 'Slippers' Madden might have been coming here on a hat-trick but for falling two-out on his penultimate start at Gowran Park.

Verdict -- Dr Whizz is taken to follow up his Punchestown Festival success.

6.0 Tote Daily Double Handicap

Intyre Trail is in great nick having won his last two, but he has it to do now off a seven-pound higher mark and from a bad draw. The unexposed Yellow Rock should feature prominently on the back of a taking win at Leopardstown last week.

Beauthea is another to consider. He has never won over a mile, but he has finished in the first four here on three previous occasions and is drawn close to the rail.

Verdict -- Beauthea to shade it from a favourable draw.

6.35 Handicap

A Word Apart, another Dermot Weld representative getting a first try in blinkers, must have a chance. Well beaten at Killarney over 11 furlongs, he reverts to a more suitable mile here and has dropped a few pounds in the handicap.

Cheers Buddy also appeals from an inside draw. Slow to find his form this term, he was third in a fair Curragh handicap last time.

Verdict -- Cheers Buddy may be the one to keep on side.

7.10 Tote Return All Profits To Racing Maiden

This is one of the weaker events of the week. Jolie Jioconde, disappointing on soft this term, will be thereabouts if she reproduces the form that saw her placed behind Zoffany last year.

Font Of Wisdom is the one to beat on just his third start, though. In a conditions event at Fairyhouse last time, the Marju colt shaped well when keeping on for fourth.

Verdict -- Font Of Wisdom should get off the mark.

Irish Independent

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