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No hurry to map out plans for Galway Hurdle second Milkwood

Neil Mulholland is keen to let the dust settle on Milkwood’s excellent effort in last week’s Galway Hurdle before making future plans.

Making his first appearance since winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr in April, the seven-year-old produced a fine performance to fill the runner-up spot behind the Willie Mullins-trained Grade One winner Saldier.

“It was a great run and we were over the moon with him,” said Mulholland.

“He was a bit short of room after the last, but that’s the Galway Hurdle and you have to take the good with the bad. We were obviously very, very happy with how he performed on the day.

“He’s very solid. He’d been out in the field for a month or five weeks after his run in Scotland and thankfully the plan worked.

“He picked up €50,000 for finishing second, which is twice as much as he got for winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle.”

Mulholland plans to consult discuss options with Milkwood’s owners in the coming days, with the Somerset-based trainer happy to consider races over hurdles, over fences and perhaps even on the Flat.

“We’ll speak to the owner later in the week and see where we’re going to go from here,” he added.

Neil Mulholland was delighted with Milkwood's performance in the Galway Hurdle
Neil Mulholland was delighted with Milkwood’s performance in the Galway Hurdle (David Davies/PA)

“There are so many options. The owner wanted to go novice chasing last year and I convinced her not to. His run the other day would make you wonder whether he should be going novice chasing as it looks like he could still pick up quite a bit of prize-money over hurdles.

“He was rated 150 this time last week. We’ll see what the English handicapper does now, but he might just be gone out of handicaps now.

“There is nothing jumping out at you in the next month or so. The only thing that is in the back of my head is he has such a good Flat pedigree and the way he travels, you wonder whether you could look at that (running on the Flat).

“We’ll know more later in the week. We’ll see how he is and have a cup of tea with the owner and go from there.”

Current Option retains Galway title

Current Option successfully defended his crown in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Ahonoora” Handicap at Galway.

The Ado McGuinness-trained five-year-old was a narrow winner of the €100,000 contest 12 months ago, before going on to win at Listed and Group Three level by the end of 2020.

He finished seventh behind stablemate Sirjack Thomas in Tuesday’s BMW Mile, and the pair renewed rivalry in the Festival’s final-day feature.

There was drama from the start, with Archie Watson’s British challenger Stone Soldier unshipping Oisin Orr shortly after the stalls opened.

The loose horse threatened to cause trouble rounding the home turn, impeding 5-1 shot Current Option just as he was challenging another stable companion in Spanish Tenor for the lead.

However, 7lb claimer Cian MacRedmond managed to get his mount on an even keel and picked up well to score by half a length from the fast-finishing On A Session.

Spanish Tenor was third, with Sirjack Thomas fourth, to round off an excellent result for McGuinness.

He said of the winner: “I fancied him, because I thought he was the class horse in the race.

“He ran well the other night when Cian got blocked in. I love when you drop these Group horses back into handicaps like that. He’s proved that he’s a very good horse.

Current Option with connections in the Galway winner's enclosure
Current Option with connections in the Galway winner’s enclosure (Gary Carson/PA)

“Of course we got a big scare up the hill with the loose horse – but it worked out great.

“We had four in the first six, and I can’t believe it.”

Current Option looks set to make a swift return to action too.

“We’ll probably go to the Listed race next week in Cork, because he won’t carry a penalty,” McGuinness added.

“We did it last year. So if all goes well, we’ll do it again and then give him a break.”

Church Mountain won the opening race at Galway
Church Mountain won the opening race at Galway (Brian Lawless/PA)

The front-running Church Mountain (12-1) provided trainer Denis Hogan with his third winner of the week, digging deep for rider Joey Sheridan to land the Kenny Galway Volvo Handicap by half a length from Ten Ten Twenty.

Hogan said: “That was great, and Joey executed it well. We always liked this horse, from the time he ran as a two-year-old, but he’s a massive big lad and he’s still not the finished article.

“He’s grown all year and he’s babyish – you could see there he was very green in front.

“We’ve schooled him over hurdles, but we probably won’t go that route this year. We’ll let him mature first.”

Dermot Weld and Colin Keane combined to claim the Lord Hemphill Memorial Irish EBF Median Auction Maiden, with 15-2 shot Malayan.

The Lady O’Reilly-owned filly was a never-nearer sixth on her racecourse debut at Fairyhouse three weeks ago, but displayed marked improvement at Ballybrit – charging home to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

“The step up in trip helped, and she obviously came on for her first run,” said Keane.

“She’s still a filly that rides plenty green. So you’d imagine she will improve a good bit yet, and in time I’d imagine she will get an extra furlong if needs be.

“She could be a nice filly going forward, because I’d say there is a lot of improvement yet to come from her.”

Micro Manage was a clear-cut winner
Micro Manage was a clear-cut winner (Brian Lawless/PA)

Keane doubled up aboard the Willie Mullins-trained Micro Manage in the JPK Fencing Systems Race.

The 8-11 favourite eventually wore down the front-running Monas Melody before pulling three and three-quarter lengths clear inside the final furlong, giving Mullins his 10th winner of the week.

Keane said: “He did it well. He’s a horse with a good bit of form to his name to be fair to him.

“He’s a horse that they obviously thought highly of, and they ran him in the Irish Leger last year. He just probably wasn’t right on the day and disappointed.

“He’s a fine, big, strong horse – and talking to Willie beforehand, he thought he’d improve from the run. So to go and do it like that, you’d be very happy with him.”

Imposing Supreme (left) won again at Galway
Imposing Supreme (left) won again at Galway (Brian Lawless/PA)

Imposing Supreme notched his second win of the Festival in the Ardilaun Hotel Handicap.

Victorious over an extended mile on Tuesday, Tom Gibney’s charge was the 2-1 favourite to follow up – dropping down to seven furlongs.

Ridden by Chris Hayes, the grey knuckled down well once meeting the rising ground to beat Fridtjof Nansen by half a length.

Gibney said: “That’s brilliant. He came out of Tuesday’s race as well as I’ve ever seen him and gave us huge confidence for today.

“It’s great that it’s coming together for him now at this stage of the game. We were very disappointed with him last year when we thought we’d do well.

“The handicapper went to town on him after Tuesday, and it seems a bit exaggerated to me, but it was great to win again today anyway.”

Major performance delights Emmet Mullins at Galway

Crowns Major went one better for Emmet Mullins than earlier in the week when winning the €100,000 Galway Shopping Centre Handicap.

Second over two miles on Tuesday in a minor contest, the four-year-old, who won a bumper at the Punchestown Festival, was ridden by 7lb claimer Wesley Joyce.

Never far from the pace, Joyce kicked on a furlong out and once by Longbourn he won going away by two lengths.

“It was a brilliant performance, especially from Wesley here in Galway around a tricky track in a big handicap like that. He was very cool on him and we’re delighted,” said Mullins of the gelding he bought in Japan.

“The trip was definitely a worry, but to be fair they went such a slow gallop in the two-miler the other night, and he was keen – that may as well have been a mile-and-a-half race.

“It was a huge pot, a great race, and if you’re not in it you can’t win it. That’s a great big pot to get with a horse like that. The little foray to Japan is paying off in spades now!”

He added: “It was only his first ever run in a handicap on Tuesday night and I’d say the experience and everything stood to him.

“It was always the plan to target these premier handicaps with him, the November Handicap, the Cesarewitch and the likes.

“He’s an exciting horse going forward.”

Joyce said: “He jumped very smart and I sat behind the leaders as I thought they were going a bit quick. I said I’d let them go on and give my horse a breather.

“I came along, picked them up, gave him two slaps and then he just brought me home. He won with a bit in hand and he’s a very nice horse.

“It’s very good for me to win this €100,000 handicap, it’s a big race for a 7lb claimer.”

Jazzaway another big winner for Willie Mullins at Galway

Jazzaway got up in the dying strides to give Willie Mullins another feature race winner at Galway in the Guinness Handicap Hurdle.

Having already achieved the notable double of landing the Galway Plate with Royal Rendezvous and the Galway Hurdle with Saldier, Mullins continued his dominance of the meeting on day five.

Only fifth turning into the straight, Jazzaway (9-1) looked to have plenty to do under Conor McNamara – who already had one winner under his belt on the day – as Western Victory made his bid for home.

Jazzaway found plenty on landing after the last, however, and was always getting there, ultimately winning by a head.

Mullins said: “I told the owner she wasn’t going to run this week as she was lame the other day, but whatever happened, 24 hours later, she seemed fine and then she comes out and does this.

“It was minor but at the time it looked major, especially for Galway week and she also lost a shoe today. She is brave and has now won a handicap in Punchestown and comes here, going out in trip, and wins another handicap.

“There wasn’t much else for her after Punchestown but if you want to have a go at big prize-money, you’ve got to do that.

“Conor gave her a great ride and his 3lb (claim) obviously counted.

“She has a lovely pedigree, is a sister to Briar Hill and I don’t think we’ll run her back too soon. We’ll see where the next big prize-money race is and I don’t know if she’ll go jumping fences or not.

“We’re very happy with what she’s done and she has done more than we ever thought she would.”

Jack Gilligan celebrates with Born By The Sea
Jack Gilligan celebrates with Born By The Sea (Brian Lawless/PA)

Paul Gilligan and his son Jack have also had a week to remember, and they landed a second winner as Born By The Sea rewarded strong market support in the Guinness Galway Blazers Handicap Chase.

The 10-1 shot was one of a host in with a chance at the last and he emerged from the pack having never been far off the pace under his young rider, who is excellent value for his 7lb claim.

Kicking for home, the seven-year-old had enough in hand to see off all-comers, chief among them Henry de Bromhead’s 5-1 favourite Popong.

Gilligan senior said: “We were lucky to win this race before with good old Barry Geraghty on Wellforth and this is magic. We’ve had a double for the week, were unlucky not to win the second race and we own the horse.

“He ran Monday evening and we decided to leave the tongue-tie off him today. He is a mighty warrior, he owes us nothing.

“He always runs a solid race and the Kerry National is a possible, why not. He had a fantastic run when third at Listowel in June.

“I’ll dedicate the win to a good friend of ours, Mandy Nolan, who passed away and we were at her funeral before we came here. It was a sad day earlier watching Mandy going, but this is fantastic.

“Today is a family day and days like today don’t happen too often.”

Denis O'Regan shone aboard Arcadian Sunrise
Denis O’Regan shone aboard Arcadian Sunrise (Brian Lawless/PA)

Denis O’Regan was seen at his very best as Arcadian Sunrise denied Bua Boy in the valuable Guinness Galway Tribes Handicap Hurdle, to give connections ample compensation for missing the Galway Hurdle.

Bua Boy looked to have sealed the deal under Denis Hogan, bidding for his second winner of the festival in the saddle, but O’Regan rolled back the years.

Riding the 5-1 chance for John Queally, O’Regan managed to conjure up a real sprint finish from his mount, getting up to win by half a length with the pair five lengths clear.

“We were disappointed not to get into the Galway Hurdle (second reserve) so it was great to win today and he has only been out of the frame twice in 14 runs. He has been a lucky horse for us,” said Queally.

“Denis was at his best there. They went a bit steady early on, but a good run two miles is his job.

“He’ll go up a bit for that again and there’s always the chasing route and also the Flat route. There’s a two-mile Flat handicap for him in York, but it is 18 days away so might come too soon. He’ll mix it and has his job done.”

Saldier is Galway Hurdle king for Mullins

Saldier defied top-weight to give Willie Mullins a huge double by winning the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap.

Just 24 hours on from winning the Galway Plate with Royal Rendezvous, Mullins saddled his third winner of the Galway Hurdle in just four years.

It was also a third win in the race for Patrick Mullins – a fair achievement for an amateur jockey.

Saldier, a Grade One winner back in November 2019, is still only seven but his career has been blighted by a succession of injuries.

Mullins nursed him back to health to win on the Flat in June and he then ran a good race at Royal Ascot to finish fifth in the Copper Horse Stakes.

Back over timber and fitted with cheekpieces for the first time, the Rich Ricci-owned gelding did not look to be travelling as well as some into the straight with Neil Mulholland’s Milkwood going as well as any and Cape Gentleman hitting the front at the last.

But Saldier really quickened up at a vital stage and got first run on Milkwood, meaning Mullins could grab the rail and the 18-1 shot went on to win by two lengths. Milkwood was second with 6-1 favourite Cape Gentleman third.

Mullins senior said: “It was fantastic for Patrick to get his third win, it’s an extraordinary achievement for an amateur.

“I’m very proud of him. I know he’s kicking himself that he’s not able to win the amateur handicap, but no one would swap one Connacht Hotel Handicap for three Galway Hurdles.

“It’s a great testament to the handicapper that the top-weights can win these big handicaps.

“We tried everything with this horse and the prize-money was the only lure that we came here. We needed to have a crack at it anyway.

“I put cheekpieces on him and it probably just concentrated his mind a little bit.

“Patrick thought he was travelling well at all stages. He just got into a few traffic problems around the second-last and came out, but once he got through he was happy enough.

“He travelled and jumped well. Patrick said he was very brave throughout the race, jumping wise.”

He went on: “He just got an awful fright the day he fell in Naas as a four-year-old and I’d say it’s taken him all that time to get over it. He’s just never had the same confidence and never been the same horse.

“He’s slowly, slowly coming back and then trying to run in Grade One races too is probably tough on him.

“Virginie Bascop who rides him out and led him up today has been huge for him as she’s kept him sound all season. She deserves a lot of praise.

“Keeping him sound and right has been half the battle.

“I might go down the Flat route again with him.”

The winning rider added: “He wasn’t at his best through the winter, but I think the cheekpieces and good ground helped.

“I never thought I’d even get a ride in this, never mind win it – it was always the race you wanted to win, it’s special.”

Mullins had earlier been on the mark with Farout (3-1) in the Guinness Novice Hurdle and Fan De Blues in the Grade Three Rockshore Novice CHase

John McConnell’s Albert Bartlett third Streets Of Doyen made a winning debut over fences in the Guinness Open Gate Brewery Beginners Chase.

While he failed to repeat his Cheltenham form at Aintree or Punchestown, he was sent off at 7-2 in a strong field.

Simon Torrens shot up the inside of Paul Townend on Blue Berry turning into the straight, but his mount idled close home and just held off Western Run by a neck.

“The gap just presented itself and I thought why not go the shorter route,” said Torrens.

“I came across to the stands rail for a bit of a running rail. Halfway up the hill he spotted the crowd and he idled plenty.

“He wore cheekpieces over hurdles and I’d say it won’t be too long before he gets them put on again.

“He’s a classy horse, he went to Cheltenham and was third in the Albert Bartlett. He’s been consistent all year and deserved to get his head in front.”

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.”

Banter bids to enhance Festival spree in Galway Hurdle

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.”

Harrington promises to learn from mistake in Galway mix-up

Jessica Harrington has vowed her team “will learn from” the error which saw the wrong horse run in a two-year-old maiden at Galway.

Alizarine appeared to have run out an impressive winner in Tuesday’s COLM QUINN BMW Irish EBF Fillies Maiden on her racecourse bow, but it later transpired that three-year-old Aurora Princess had mistakenly run in the juvenile’s place.

The Galway stewards disqualified the winner, meaning favourite Twinkle was awarded the race, and Harrington has issued a full apology for what she described as “human error”.

She tweeted: “On behalf of all at #TeamJHR I want to apologise to everyone for what happened yesterday. We are particularly sorry for the owners of both fillies but also to anyone else who was impacted by our mistake.

“It was human error, a mistake that we will learn from.

“We will ensure that it never happens again. Thankfully both horses are home safe & sound.”

Coltor claims top honours for Weld on first day of Galway Festival

Coltor and Finian Maguire snatched the spoils in the valuable Connacht Hotel (Q.R.) Handicap to deny Aubrey McMahon a third victory in the day one feature at Galway.

Maguire himself had ridden subsequent Group One scorer Princess Zoe to victory 12 months ago, while McMahon had partnered Whiskey Sour and Uradel to win in 2017 and 2018.

When McMahon hit the front on Foveros, like his two previous winners trained by Willie Mullins, he looked sure to win, but Maguire pulled Dermot Weld’s Coltor out from in behind and his mount quickened well.

Sent off a 14-1 chance, it was Weld’s first victory in the race since Midnight Music in 2012.

Coltor went on to win by three-quarters of a length with a further length and a quarter back to Harry Fry’s Litterale Ci in third.

Weld said: “I thought he’d run very well last time out at the Curragh but by the time the last race came, the ground was gone very heavy and testing and that’s not for him. It was beautiful ground today, on the slow side of good.

“Finny was with me for a couple of years, is a very talented guy and has been in France riding successfully for the past six weeks. He came back especially to ride today and this is the owner Mischa Bucher’s, son of Eva Haefner of Moyglare Stud, first horse.

“I thought coming down in the car that a two-mile handicap at York in the middle of August would be a plan for him. York is now the immediate target.

“He’ll go jumping at Leopardstown at Christmas time, he never wants the ground too heavy.

“It was a lovely race to win, it has been a very lucky race for me as a trainer and I won it four times as a amateur jockey, starting as a 15 year old.”

The opening Claregalwayhotel.ie Irish EBF (C & G) Maiden went to Michael O’Callaghan’s I Am Magic (15-2).

Despite finishing in front of Aidan O’Brien’s Anchorage last time out, that one was sent off the 5-4 favourite but the form was confirmed as Leigh Roche made all on I Am Magic.

I Am Magic (left) just held on in the opener for Leigh Roche
I Am Magic (left) just held on in the opener for Leigh Roche (Niall Carson/PA)

“It was a lovely performance, he is a nice horse and we thought a lot of him. The plan was to make every post a winning post and he got the fractions right,” said O’Callaghan.

“He travelled very strong, has plenty of natural pace and Leigh said he was just getting lonely in front. It is tough to make the running here, but we’ve found it a way of keeping things simple as well.

“We think he’ll improve again, will get a mile and we’ll step him up to Stakes company now. He has a Futurity Stakes entry but we’ll look at a few options in the UK as well.”

Black Cat Bobby (14-1) prevailed in a tight finish to win the Claytonhotelgalway.ie Handicap for Ciaran Murphy and Gavin Ryan.

Black Cat Bobby (right) arrives late on the scene to win
Black Cat Bobby (right) arrives late on the scene to win (Niall Carson/PA)

“He loved the hill and hung on and I’m over the moon with the horse. We thought plenty of him as a two-year-old but he grew and was backward, so we minded him along,” said Murphy.

“He’ll have an entry for the weekend and see how he is.”

Jessica Harrington and Shane Foley got off the mark for the week when Maud Gonne Spirit was an 18-1 winner of the Galwaybayhotel.com & Galmont.com Handicap.

“She has frustrated us up until now. We were baffled by her runs compared to her work and we fancied her once or twice but she ran bad. It all worked out today. ” said Foley.

Foley and Harrington also struck gold with Citronnade (7-1) in the Eventus Handicap.

Dylan Browne McMonagle once again advertised his talents when winning on Joseph O’Brien’s Merroir (6-1) in the Easyfix Handicap.

Patrick Mullins chasing Galway glory on first day of the Festival

Patrick Mullins gets another opportunity to finally break his duck in the prestigious Connacht Hotel Handicap on the opening day of the Galway Festival.

The most successful amateur jockey in the history of jump racing, Mullins is no stranger to big-race success, with his excellent CV including four winners at the Cheltenham Festival and multiple Grade One victories aboard equine superstars like Douvan, Faugheen and Un De Sceaux.

The 31-year-old has also won two of the last three Galway Hurdles on Sharjah (2018) and Aramon (2020), but victory in Monday evening’s 100,000 euro feature – one of the most renowned amateur races in the Irish calendar – has so far proved elusive.

Mullins said: “I think this is my 15th go at it!

“I suppose this race and the Champion Bumper in Punchestown are the two main amateur races of the year in Ireland. Willie (Mullins) won it once way back and Ruby (Walsh) won it once, so hopefully we can join them.”

Mullins junior will partner Hook Up in this year’s renewal. The Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned mare certainly appears to hold strong claims, having been placed at Grade One level over hurdles and run just three times on the Flat.

“I think only two winners in the last 20 years have carried more than 11 stone, so it’s a race for the light weights,” Mullins added.

“Hook Up is carrying 11st 1lb, which is kind of my minimum and puts her just above the right kind of weight bracket.

“She’s unexposed on the Flat and is not the most natural jumper, so I think she’s entitled to be a little bit better on the Flat than she is over hurdles.

“We’ve got a nice draw (stall eight) and we’re very happy with her at home, so she ticks plenty of boxes at the moment.”

Hook Up is just one of six contenders for the Mullins team.

Aubrey McMahon, who has already won the two-mile contest twice aboard the Mullins-trained pair of Whiskey Sour (2017) and Uradel (2018), will partner recent Curragh scorer Foveros, who is part-owned by the rider’s father Luke McMahon.

Jody Townend, who steered Great White Shark to victory two years ago, partners previous course winner Exchange Rate, with Royal Illusion (Tom Hamilton), Runrized (Elliot Ohgren) and My Sister Sarah (Jamie Codd) completing the Closutton sextet.

Mullins said: “I think Exchange Rate could be the one. I won on him at the Festival in 2017, he’s run very well off a mark of 89 in the past and he’s running off 82 on Monday with Jody Townend claiming 5lb. He could be very well-in.

“Aubrey McMahon is one of the few jockeys to have won it twice and maybe Foveros, with a nice light weight, could give him the hat-trick.”

Olly Murphy rules Copperless out of Galway Hurdle

Copperless has been ruled out of the Guinness Galway Hurdle at Ballybrit next Thursday.

Trainer Olly Murphy has scratched the Swinton Hurdle winner from the valuable prize as he was not entirely happy with the six-year-old.

Murphy will now look nearer home for him to make his seasonal reappearance in the autumn, with the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in November a probable target.

“He doesn’t run in Galway, he was scratched today,” said the Stratford handler.

“He’s absolutely fine. I just wasn’t 100 per cent happy with him. Going over there you have to be on your A game.

“We’ll look back at the English programme now and look for a nice race in the autumn. The Greatwood could be very likely.

“He was a very impressive horse when he won his last start and I just want to run him in the right race. Unfortunately, Galway isn’t going to be the right race just the way he is at the moment.”

Copperless had been as low as 10-1 second-favourite with some firms for the Galway showpiece.

Top weight Samcro has Plate target

Samcro has been allotted top weight in the Tote Galway Plate – with dual Grand National hero and “speculative entry” Tiger Roll 3lb lower.

Both horses are currently in the care of Denise Foster, having been trained to major victories by Gordon Elliott.

Samcro is a dual Cheltenham Festival winner – while Tiger Roll registered his back-to-back Grand Nationals in 2018 and 2019, and has also posted five Festival victories.

The July 28 highlight of this year’s Galway Festival has long been Samcro’s aim, but whether Tiger Roll joins him there has yet to be decided.

Tiger Roll was given only a
Tiger Roll was given only a “speculative” entry in the Galway Plate (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The 11-year-old dished out the perfect riposte to those who were saying he should have been retired, following a listless run over hurdles, when he won the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham in March for the third time.

However, rather than running him in the Grand National in pursuit of a third victory to emulate Red Rum, connections decided he had too much weight and instead sent him to Aintree’s Grade One Bowl instead – in which he finished a distant fourth.

“It’s been the plan all summer to run Samcro – we assumed he’d have top weight,” said Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for Gigginstown House Stud who own both horses, along with another Galway possible Battleoverdoyen.

“It’s the plan with Samcro and if he’s ok he’ll run. It was only a speculative entry for Tiger Roll.

“It was great to see Samcro win at Killarney. He was then beaten at Listowel, but he hadn’t been trained for that race.

“We only ran him there because he looked well in for it, but he hadn’t been trained for it. We probably shouldn’t have run him – we were tempted into running him.

“I hope all is well, because it’s been the plan all along.

“Battleoverdoyen is a classy horse too, but it’s all about his wind these days.”

Petit Mouchoir has top weight in the Galway Hurdle
Petit Mouchoir has top weight in the Galway Hurdle (PA Wire)

Willie Mullins has the likes of Easy Game (11st 9lb), Brahma Bull (11st 6lb) and Royal Rendezvous (11st 5lb) towards the top of the weights in the Plate – while his nephew Emmet could run The Shunter (11st 4lb).

In the Guinness Galway Hurdle, two days later, Foster’s Petit Mouchoir and Willie Mullins’ Saldier are joint top-weights on 11st 10lb.

Norman Lee’s Sole Pretender is next in on 11st 5lb – while a rare UK-trained possible, Neil Mulholland’s Milkwood, winner of the Scottish Champion Hurdle, currently has 11st 2lb to carry.

Cheltenham and Aintree winner Belfast Banter (10st 13lb), 2020 Triumph Hurdle winner Burning Victory (10st 12lb) and Olly Murphy’s Swinton Hurdle hero Copperless (10st 9lb) are others to consider.

Former Galway Plate and Hurdle-winning jockey Robbie Power will not be fit to ride at this year’s showpiece meeting.

Power posted on Twitter: “Unfortunately I have to undergo surgery this week on an old back injury and won’t be fit for next week’s Galway Festival. Disappointing but hopefully will be back in September in time for Listowel.”

Galway crowds limited to 1,000 each day

The Galway Summer Festival, one of Ireland’s most popular race meetings, will be limited to a crowd of just 1,000 spectators a day.

The track had hoped to welcome up to 5,000 racegoers on each day of the week-long fixture, which includes the Tote Galway Plate and Guinness Galway Hurdle, having submitted a detailed proposal to the Irish Government in late June.

The Irish Derby meeting at the Curragh was run in front of a 1,000-strong attendance as part of a Government pilot, and that is the figure Galway will also have to adhere to at the end of this month following the response to their submission.

Ireland is negotiating its way out of the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent restrictions – and racecourse crowds are still generally capped at 500, despite the success of the Curragh trial.

“We got news last night that we will be able to host 1,000 spectators on each day of the summer festival,” said Galway chief executive Michael Moloney.

“We know, given the support that we’ve got over the last couple of weeks, that this will be extremely disappointing news to all our fans who had been looking forward to the opportunity maybe of coming back to Ballybrit this year.

“In terms of our sponsors and everyone looking forward to a larger crowd this year, it is disappointing.

“On the upside it is 7,000 more people than we had this time last year – and for those that do manage to get to come to Ballybrit this year, we’re delighted we’ll have owners back and now a small amount of public on top of that.

“We certainly look forward to making it an event that will be worth being at.”

Beacon Edge sets up Hatton’s Grace bid with Galway triumph

Beacon Edge confirmed himself a smart prospect with victory in the Marlin Hotel Dublin, Supporting The National Breast Cancer Institute Hurdle at Galway.

Trained by Noel Meade and sent off the 10-11 favourite for the Grade Three contest, the Sean Flanagan-ridden six-year-old tracked the mare Minella Melody for much of the journey, with the pace hotting up going to two out.

The market principals jumped it almost together, but by the final flight the Meade runner had taken command.

Flanagan was able to coast home after the last, with the margin of victory four and three-quarter lengths over Minella Melody, whose only previous defeat over hurdles had been when favourite for the mares’ novices’ hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned winner is now set to tackle Grade One company at Fairyhouse, as Meade explained.

He said: “From the first day he arrived in the yard we’ve just loved him.

“Michael and Eddie (O’Leary) thought he should stay over hurdles and I was happy to agree. He’s more than justified the decision now.

“They didn’t go much of a gallop there, but Sean said he was cantering at all stages.

“The Hatton’s Grace looks the obvious race for him and we’ll see how it’ll work.”

The Tu Va handler also reported his earlier faller on the card, Diol Ker, none the worse: “He seems OK and Sean said he was just too fresh.

“With the whole Covid thing we hadn’t got him away. Ideally we’d have brought him to Navan or somewhere for a school.”

Discorama makes seasonal bow in Galway feature

Paul Nolan’s star chaser Discorama begins a new campaign at Galway on Wednesday.

The seven-year-old was last seen finishing third in the Ultima Handicap Chase in March – his third placed finish at the Cheltenham Festival, having previously filled the runner-up spot in both the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle and in the National Hunt Chase.

Nolan is looking forward to seeing Discorama make his seasonal reappearance under Bryan Cooper in the Ryans Cleaning, Disinfecting, Waste Disposal And Recycling Chase, with a tilt at Grand National glory at Aintree on the radar for next spring.

Nolan said: “He’s in good shape. We haven’t been able to give him a gallop on grass just yet as the ground has been too good, but he’s as fit as we can get him at home and we’re looking forward to getting him started.

“I always think the day you start making plans is the day it goes wrong, so we’ll just see how he performs on the track and make plans as we go along.

“He could end up in the English National and you’d be looking at races like the Welsh National, too – all those big, staying handicap chases really, but we’ll see how we go.”

Discorama heads a field of five runners declared for Wednesday’s Galway feature, with Noel Meade saddling Dream Conti in a bid to win the race for a fourth time in the last five years.

He is one of two runners for Gigginstown House Stud along with Gordon Elliott’s Milan Native, while the Tom Mullins-trained Court Maid and Forza Milan from James Nash’s yard complete the quintet.