It would be remiss of me to ignore the Galway Festival in favour of Glorious Goodwood, and so today’s feature looks at one of the meeting’s showpiece events, the Galway Hurdle.
The race has been dominated in recent years by six and seven year olds, with last season’s renewal going to Tony Martin’s Thomas Edison. The race is always a wonderfully competitive affair, with only two horses having carried more than 11 stone to victory since 1999. No one trainer has dominated the race in recent times and the same can be said for jockeys.
With a first prize of €180,500 the race has once again attracted a quality field, especially bearing in mind the time of year. Willie Mullins is represented by the top three in the handicap and has five entries in total. Gordon Elliott runs a pair for Gigginstown, whilst Tony Martin runs three classy types including the much fancied and seemingly well handicapped Quick Jack.
He was last seen chasing home the Ascot Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris in the Chester Cup. Prior to that race he had run a cracker in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival when third to Mullins’ Wicklow Brave. He receives a generous swing in the weights for that defeat and looks sure to run a huge race here.
Max Dynamite is another who was recently seen to great effect on the flat, when a gallant second in the Northumberland Plate. He was fourth in the aforementioned County Hurdle and is also handicapped to go close in this. He is one of Mullins’ mighty assault team, though his stable companion and top weight Diakali could prove to be the champion trainer’s main hope.
He’s a class act and returned from a year off with a stunning win at Tipperary earlier this month. I’m convinced that he’ll prove to be a better horse over further, but for now he looks sure to go close in this.
Dan Skelton and Nicky Henderson travel over for the Brits. The mare Stephanie Frances represents the Skelton’s. She was impressive when winning a listed mares’ event at Cheltenham in April. This is clearly a much more difficult challenge but decent ground will certainly help her cause.
Henderson sends the JP McManus owned Snake Eyes in to battle. He was last seen winning a novice event at the Punchestown Festival and will also appreciate a sounder surface should the rain stay away.
Of the remainder expect a huge run from Hidden Cyclone off a lowly hurdles mark. He’s not run over the smaller obstacles since 2011, but hosed in on the flat at Leopardstown earlier this month. The bookies are taking no risks with the ten-year-old, and they may be wise to be cautious.
It’s hard to dismiss any from this year’s field and the renewal looks set to be one of the best for many years. I’m pretty confident that the race will prove to be the highlight of this week’s Galway Festival.