Cheltenham and Aintree winner Belfast Banter bids to bag another huge prize in the Guinness Galway Hurdle.
Peter Fahey’s charge enjoyed a fantastic end to last season, proving his surprise victory in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March was no fluke with a Grade One success on Merseyside the following month.
The six-year-old has since been trained specifically with Thursday’s €250,000 contest in mind – and has already won a maiden hurdle over the course and distance.
Fahey said: “I’m thrilled with him. He’s working well – his last few bits of work have been very good.
“We just backed off him a little bit after Aintree and kept him going steady away. We upped his training the last fortnight, and I couldn’t be happier with how he’s been working.
“It’s a very competitive race, but he has a bit of course form – which is a big plus going there.
“It looks like there’s plenty of pace in the race, which will be a big help to him. He’s definitely better when they go a good gallop, because it helps him settle.
“He’s fit and well, so hopefully everything goes well and he goes there and runs a big race.”
Willie Mullins has saddled three of the last five winners and has declared four runners for this year’s renewal, with Ciel De Neige, top-weight Saldier, former Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory and second reserve Getaway Gorgeous in the mix.
Other leading contenders for the home team include Denise Foster’s Magic Tricks, the Emmet Mullins-trained Cape Gentleman and Jesse Evans from Noel Meade’s yard, while British hopes are carried by Neil Mulholland’s Milkwood.
The seven-year-old was just over two lengths behind Belfast Banter when third in the County Hurdle, and then ran out an impressive winner of the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr.
Mulholland said: “This has been the plan since the Scottish Champion Hurdle, and he seems in good form.
“He seems to run well fresh. It’s a nice race with good prize-money, so we’re delighted to go over and take our chance.
“You need luck in running anywhere, but especially round Galway. It’s a tight, competitive handicap and everything in the race deserves to be there – so we’ll see how we get on.”