13-2 WINNER FOR THE SHAMROCK OUTSIDER AND NOW IT’S GALWAY: Though there was no racing in Ireland yesterday, Shamrock nominated one outsider, the gambled-on 12-1 forecast Grissom (WON 13-2) at Pontefract. Today he analyses the first day of the week-long Galway Festival, race by race.
5.05 Galway: They’re off and racing at Ballybrit, the opening hurdle on the opening day of the Galway Races, and if you’ve never been, you haven’t lived!
First rule: watch Dermot Weld in the paddock. If he smiles he’s contemplating his usual bag of Galway winners; if he doesn’t smile, this is the one that’s serious: get on! Either way, you can’t lose.
The festival’s leading trainer for the first time in 1977, and every year bar two from 1988 on – that ‘s an incredible 26 out of 28 – Weld first had a winner here 39 years ago, and it says it all for the man that every runner today, and in the next seven days, will have been prepared as meticulously as that 1972 starter.
If you don’t believe me, think on: last year was his personal best at the meeting, with 11 winners. Still hungry or what!
Weld’s Rosewell House stable kicks off with Sulwaan, tightly handicapped on Flat form, rated 87 alongside Banyan Tree, 4lb in front of Mejd. But Mejd has had his chances over hurdles and Banyan Tree is a ‘character’. I wouldn’t trust him to hold my jacket in a heat wave.
Acapulco Gold and Virgil Earp could do with some rain but the two devils – Bit and Elbow – have both won on top of the ground.
5.35 Galway: How is it you keep on winning, Mr Weld? Answer: Force Of Habit. The Ulster Derby second is a stone clear on Flat form over all bar Sixteen Forty Two, who – off 113 – rates with First Trim (115) and One For Joules (116) as serious rivals to Force Of Habit (114) over hurdles.
Force Of Habit and First Trim have an edge that’s always worth consideration here: both have already won at Galway over hurdles but the First Trim yard is out of form, and Sixteen Forty Two’s Cork win has been let down by the long-term maiden which finished second and has been beaten again since.
6.10 Galway: Weld’s Riviera Poet could be odds on here but there are so many unknowns, I won’t get involved. I have had to Learn the hard way (Weld and O’Brien are 2-2 in this in the last four years).
6.45 Galway: Admiral Barry last year interrupted a Weld hat–trick sequence but is 20lb higher now. However, he did beat today’s Weld runner, Natural High, on the Flat last September.
Praxiteles comes over from England on a hat-trick and, though no horse over the age of six has won this for nine years, there will be many at Ballybrit today who would back Derek O’Connor blindfold with their wallet open on the bar.
I’m having an old punt each way on the dark horse Rattan, thought good enough to contest the Ascot Stakes and otherwise confined to the wrong trips. Come on Katie Walsh!
7.15 Galway: Do I hear you right, or are the acoustics bad? Wonderman Weld is not on the scoresheet for this, in the last decade any way.
You need an extreme draw: after high numbers won for a while, stalls 3 and 4 took the last three runnings. Watch carefully: you’ll need this result as a test for several races to come in the next week. I’ll stick with the low stalls and try Hawkswood in his first handicap.
7.45 Galway: Only Weld has been able to win this with a favourite, and Hill Of Content is also first time in a handicap. So, too, Shazamour.
But I always look for David Wachman in this; he’s won it twice in five attempts and Tantalising looks solid each-way value at 8.0 on Betdaq this morning.
NAP: Sulwaan (5.05 Galway)
NEXT BEST: Force Of Habit (5.35 Galway)
OUTSIDERS and EACH WAY: Rattan (6.45 Galway), Hawkswood (7.15 Galway), Tantalising (7.45 Galway)
DAQ TRIO: Sulwaan (5.05 Galway), Force Of Habit (5.35 Galway), Tantalising (7.45 Galway)