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Royal Rendezvous delivers on Plate promise

Royal Rendezvous improved on last year’s second place to take top honours in the Tote Galway Plate on day three of the Ballybrit festival.

Beaten three-quarters of a length in 2020, jockey Paul Townend kept the faith – picking Royal Rendezvous from trainer Willie Mullins’ six contenders in the richly-endowed prize over an extended two miles and six furlongs.

Sent off the 5-1 favourite, Royal Rendezvous was prominent throughout with Townend opting to take it up from Samcro at an early stage and he had a clear lead jumping the last fence before the long run for home.

Stablemate Easy Game emerged from the pack to make a race of it, but Royal Rendezvous held on by a length, with Modus taking third and The Shunter back in fourth.

Townend and Mullins were winning the race for the second time following the success of Blazing Tempo 10 years ago.

Royal Rendezvous edged out Easy Game
Royal Rendezvous edged out Easy Game (Niall Carson/PA)

Mullins said: “Coming home from here last year we said we’d make this the plan if things worked out.

“The horse seemed to come into tremendous form the last three weeks, I was really pleased with him. He just looked a picture the last three weeks at home and we were just counting down the days, hoping we might get a bit of luck. It all worked out.

“I thought he got away in the right position, and then I wondered was he going too free – but he was jumping fantastically.

“Paul might have been a little worried he was getting too free, and he just got racing again with a circuit to run. I was a little worried was he doing too much too soon.

“But his jumping kept him in the game and he had enough in reserve. He had 7lb more this year, but he’s improving – he’s a late developer, I think.

“At one stage I didn’t think he would stay this sort of trip, (but) the way he races now I think we could even go further with him.

“I’d imagine he’d want to go up in grade.”

Annie G jumps the last at Galway
Annie G jumps the last at Galway (Niall Carson/PA)

Annie G (7-2) ran out a convincing victor in the Listed Tote+ Placepot Pays More Novice Hurdle.

Trained by Henry de Bromhead and ridden by Darragh O’Keeffe, Annie G was in control from some way out in the extended two-mile heat and while Surprise Package tried to launch a late challenge after the last, the winner had plenty in reserve to repel that rival by eight lengths.

De Bromhead said: “She was really good and is a lovely mare who is progressing all the time. Darragh was really good on her, I didn’t think he was going fast enough early on and next thing they were all struggling behind her – he was brilliant on her.

“She doesn’t have to go from the front, but it suits us in a novice hurdle. Today she didn’t jump so well and was a bit disappointing (jumping-wise), and Darragh said she was on her wrong lead all the time. We had a suspicion she was better left-handed than right-handed but we got away with it and there are plenty of nice left-handed tracks.

“She has a full novice hurdle season ahead of her and her brother (Westerner Point) was a good chaser. She is a really exciting mare and fair play to the lads, they have been very patient.”

Nodoubtaboutthat (right) won the opener
Nodoubtaboutthat (right) won the opener (Niall Carson/PA)

Nodoubtabouthat (12-1) was a poignant winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Handicap Hurdle in the hands of 7lb claimer Joseph Kelly.

Trainer Shane Crawley explained: “The (Who What Why) syndicate (winning owners) aren’t here today as one of the members, Michael Griffin, buried his mother Mae this morning.

“They saw her work last week and said ‘let her run, it’ll be all for luck’ so it was a very special win and it’s an emotional day for all of them. Michael is from Dublin and it is a Dublin syndicate.”

He added: “She had great form this season and was unlucky at times. I was stuck for a rider and Garry Cribbin (jockeys’ agent) said this lad could ride and is great value for 7lb.

“She came out of her Cork run really well and it worked out. I’ve only ever had one runner at the Festival and that’s my first winner. We bought her for €5,000 and didn’t think we’d be coming here winning!”

Desir Du Large on his way to Galway glory
Desir Du Large on his way to Galway glory (Niall Carson/PA)

Desir Du Large raced awkwardly in the closing stages but still came out on top in the Tote+ At tote.ie Galway Races Maiden Hurdle.

He had run well in a couple of Grade Two heats last season and made the most of a drop in class to open his account for trainer Joseph O’Brien and Shane Fitzgerald, who is another to claim 7lb.

O’Brien said: “He had goodish winter form and we thought if he could take that here he’d run very well. He won well, but got a bit lonely and Shane gave him a good ride and is good value for his 7lb claim.

“We’ll see what mark he gets and he’ll either go for a novice or handicap next. He’ll go chasing eventually and could even go now, but we’ll see what Michael and Eddie (O’Leary) want to do.”

The Shunter leads McManus’ Plate party

Ante-post favourite The Shunter heads a formidable team for leading owner JP McManus in the €250,000 Tote Galway Plate.

The eight-year-old enjoyed an excellent campaign for trainer Emmet Mullins last term, winning the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso before successfully reverting to fences in the Paddy Power Plate at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

He was snapped up by McManus before finishing second in a Grade One novice chase at the Grand National meeting at Aintree, and rounded off his campaign with a third-placed finish back over the smaller obstacles at Punchestown.

The Shunter is just one of seven McManus-owned runners declared, three trained by Joseph O’Brien.

McManus and O’Brien teamed up to win the 2020 Galway Plate with Early Doors and this year join forces with Top Moon, Darasso and potentially A Wave Of The Sea – who is first reserve.

O’Brien told Betfair: “Top Moon has been knocking on the door in valuable handicap chases, and it was great to see him get off the mark over fences at Wexford last time. I think this trip will suit him well, and he looks to have a fair chance if getting a bit of luck on the day.

“Darasso has come back to form in the last couple of months, winning two of his last three starts. This is a much more competitive race, and he has plenty of weight, but he has earned it. Hopefully he’ll acquit himself well.

“A Wave Of The Sea is the first reserve. He has his stamina to prove for this longer trip, but he gives the impression that he’ll stay it. He wouldn’t be one to rule out if he gets a run.”

O’Brien also saddles Assemble and Home By The Lee, adding: “Assemble was running a solid race at Killarney when falling at the second-last fence last time. His run in the Paddy Power Plate at the Cheltenham Festival showed he can be competitive in races like this, and hopefully he’ll run well.

“Home By The Lee was impressive when winning a valuable novices’ handicap chase at Naas in February and ran ok in the Irish Grand National. Getting back to this sort of trip might well suit him, and if he gets into a good rhythm with his jumping he might well outrun his big price.”

Willie Mullins has trained just one previous winner of the Galway Plate, with Blazing Tempo striking gold a decade ago.

The Closutton handler appears intent on adding to his tally, with last year’s runner-up Royal Rendezvous joined by six stablemates in Easy Game, Brahma Bull, Annamix Livelovelaugh and Koshari.

“Royal Rendezvous had a nice prep for this when winning a hurdle at Ballinrobe last time,” the champion trainer said on his website www.wpmullins.com.

“He was unlucky in this race last year and, with a little improvement, should go close again.

“Patrick (Mullins) has elected to ride Annamix, who jumps well enough and has been working well. He will like this nice ground and has a good chance.

“Easy Game has a lot of weight and faces a tough assignment. Brahma Bull won over three miles last time and might just find this trip a little short. With his rider’s (Jack Foley) 7lb claim, he has an each-way chance.

“Livelovelaugh will be suited by this trip, but might find things happening a bit fast around this tight track.

“Koshari has a lovely racing weight and could be well handicapped. He improved hugely to win over hurdles at the Punchestown Festival and has a decent chance if he keeps his jumping together.”

Samcro has weighty task in Galway Plate

Samcro will have to defy top weight if he is to win the tote Galway Plate.

The nine-year-old is a dual Cheltenham Festival winner, but consistency has not been his strong point over the last two years.

Winner of a Grade Three at Killarney in May, he failed to back that up at Listowel next time out.

Samcro’s weight will be eased slightly on Wednesday – because he will be ridden by Jordan Gainford, who can claim 5lb.

His trainer Denise Foster also runs Battleoverdoyen.

Willie Mullins is well represented in the famous handicap by Easy Game (Bryan Cooper), Brahma Bull (Jack Foley), Royal Rendezvous (Paul Townend), Annamix (Patrick Mullins), Livelovelaugh (Sean O’Keeffe) and Koshari (Brian Hayes).

Owner JP McManus has five runners – Emmet Mullins’ versatile eight-year-old The Shunter, Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso and Top Moon, Off You Go, now in the care of Cathal Byrnes, and Enda Bolger’s Modus, formerly trained by Paul Nicholls.

McManus also has two of the three reserves, A Wave Of The Sea and Everlastingpromise.

The last horse to make the current cut in the field of 22 was Henry de Bromhead’s Somptueux. De Bromhead also runs Visioman.

Rejuvenated Samcro on target for Galway Plate

Samcro is being aimed at the Tote Galway Plate on July 28 after returning to winning ways at Killarney recently.

It was the talented nine-year-old’s first success since the Grade One Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2020.

His races in between had been limited to three, being pulled up in two of them – and connections of the Denise ‘Sneezy’ Foster-trained gelding believe a summer campaign could be more beneficial to Samcro, as Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud, explained.

“His summer plan will be the Galway Plate. We hope he has a healthier summer and hopefully his problems, scoping bad or his sinuses, will be helped,” he said.

“We just hope that being able to train during the summer he might have a healthier summer.

“We were all happy with his run the last day. The tight track wouldn’t have suited him, but he showed a lot of determination. Hopefully the next day we’ll see a bit of the old sparkle as well.

“The Plate will be his summer target. I don’t think there will be a race in between it, unless Sneezy has other options for him.”

Meanwhile, Tiger Roll, Gigginstown’s dual Grand National hero and five-time Cheltenham Festival winner, is enjoying a summer holiday.

The 11-year-old was last seen finishing distant fourth to Clan Des Obeaux in the Betway Bowl at Aintree in April.

Tiger Roll is enjoying a summer out at grass
Tiger Roll is enjoying a summer out at grass (David Davies/Jockey Club)

The owners ran him in the Grade One rather than bid for a record-equalling third Grand National as they were not happy with his handicap mark.

“He’s great, getting fat out in the field as is his wont,” said O’Leary.

“He’s in great form. We were disappointed, but not surprised, the handicapper didn’t reassess him downwards after Aintree.

“The plan is he’ll have to go back to the UK for a couple of more races at the back end, which is not his time of the year, and we’ll have the same carry on with the handicapper about his ridiculous rating.

“My point is we’ve been in racing for 20 years and never queried the rating of a horse. We’ve never complained over a handicap rating ever, except Tiger Roll.

“He won’t go for the National unless he’s given a chance. We don’t want to be forced into retiring him.”