Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 21 April 2018

The usual suspect

Punters will turn to Weld in quest to beat the bookies

Dermot Weld bids to be the leading trainer at Galway for the 29th time in succession
Dermot Weld bids to be the leading trainer at Galway for the 29th time in succession
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Galway colossus Dermot Weld will begin his quest for an incredible 29th successive leading trainer award with half-a -dozen runners on the opening night of the seven-day festival.

The Curragh genius has stressed recently that his early prolificacy this season and the distraction of having to carefully manage campaigns for high-class horses like Free Eagle, Forgotten Rules and Mustajeeb might impact on his habitual Galway Races supremacy.

It's part of a time-honoured routine that is designed to lower expectations, but the likelihood is that the master of Rosewell House will again carry all before him.

Weld and his brilliant ally Pat Smullen combine for half of the six-strong delegation this evening, with his regular jumps comrade Davy Russell pencilled in for his two hurdlers.

Rising star Finny Maguire is booked to steer Sierra Sun for the stable in the featured Connacht Hotel Flat race that is confined to amateur riders.

Over the course of a week, in the region of 150,000 racegoers will throng an institution that has its origins all the way back in 1869. Around €15m is forecast to be wagered with the on-course bookmakers and Tote pool betting facility, and it is to Weld that punting newcomers and hardened betting sages alike will turn in the search for winners.

Over the past five years at the renowned Ballybrit gathering, he boasts a strike-rate of 31pc, returning a profit in excess of 12 points to a single unit level stake. That is a formidable record.

Such a return on investment is the sort that racecourse manager John Moloney would love to see replicated in his absence over the next couple of years. The long-standing figurehead will retire soon after proceedings come to a close on Sunday, handing the reins to his son, Michael.

It will doubtless be a smooth transition, but the incoming manager may have to share the unenviable task of having to locate a suitable site for a new stabling block. If the proposed underground city bypass comes through the planning process, 15 acres that incorporate the current racecourse stables will be lost.

Consultants are in the process of identifying a practical solution, but the bottom line is that a new stable yard will be required if the bypass gets the go-ahead. It would be 2017 at the earliest before any construction of the bypass would commence, but there is no doubt that such a burden represents a major challenge for a unique event that generates approximately €54m for the local economy each year.

All that, of course, won't impinge on the masses' rampant gaiety this evening. A typically competitive spread that includes a two-year-olds' maiden that Weld has won on 22 occasions gets the festivities under way, with ground conditions officially described as yielding on the jumps course and soft on the Flat track.

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