Galway: Sunday Preview
The final day of the seven day festival opens with a 2m Opportunity Handicap Hurdle and 16 runners go to post. There will be plenty of non runners as the ground was described as good at the time of declaration and following consistent rain it is now soft.
Spacious Sky was an excellent fourth in the Q.R Handicap on Monday behind stablemate Quick Jack considering he didn’t get the clearest of runs. That run was off a flat mark of 83 and he races off a hurdles mark of 99 which makes him well handicapped. However he has disappointed over hurdles before but Shane Shorthall takes 4lb off his back due to the race conditions. Dermot Weld runs Pacelli Road who needs fast ground and on this surface he might just struggle. Luddsdenene makes his first run for Gordon Elliott who can often improve horses already in training. He has won on this sort of ground before and will probably be held up, so a decent gallop will help. He could get into the shake up with Kevin Sexton claiming 2lbs. Lilly the Lioness carries only 9-11 and races off the same mark that she ran off when third on Wednesday. The ground is also a question mark for her though.
The following 3m Handicap looks even more open with the maximum 20 runners heading to post. In what is going to be a grueling race, low weights should be preferred especially on this ground. Tony Martin won this race easily last year with Victrix Gale and his Easy Vic could repeat the dose with Shane Shorthall taking 7lbs off leaving him with only 9-10 to carry. He will love this ground and should go well if things fall his way. Paul Townend rides Boss Croaker who has decent claims and won’t mind this ground.
Ted Veale is the class act in the 2m AttheRaces Beginners Chase. A County Hurdle winner at the Cheltenham Festival, was very disappointing over fences last season. His best chase run was his debut at Cheltenham and he has failed to back it up in Five Grade 1 contests since. The seven year old had a prep run at Killarney and shaped like he needed the run. This is the easiest task he’s faced for some time and with a mark of 141 he should be winning this despite the ground being softer than ideal. Clonbanan Lad won’t be inconvenienced by the ground and looks the main threat with a mark of 130.
17 Runners go to post for the 2m 1f Lord Hemphill Memorial Handicap Chase and many of them will also struggle on the ground. One that will love the ease underfoot, is the Dessie Hughes trained Nearly Nama’d and Barry Geragthy rides. This horse will bowl along in front and jumps well so should be tough to pass. JP also has a good chance with Formidableopponent who was gifted the race at Killarney the last day. He has a fair mark of 123 and has decent claims. Pires would prefer better ground but comes here on the back of a good run. Saint Gervais is interesting off a fair mark for his first handicap chase.
The feature Ahonoora Handicap is very open, despite there being only 11 runners for the lucrative prize. Northern Rocked, last years winner, is suited by this trip and loves soft ground and Leigh Roche gets on well with this eight year old. He has a nice draw in stall 2. Stablemate Sparkle Factor is drawn in 13 and won on heavy going at Limerick in April. The English Raiders demand respect here and Brian Ellison’s Pacific Heights is drawn best of them in stall 1. He ran very well at Royal Ascot and is the class horse in the race. David Wachman’s Hidden Oasis has course form and goes on this ground so must enter calculations. He should strip fitter for his recent run at Fairyhouse.
The 7f Galway Shopping Centre Handicap is centred around Iggy Madden’s Cairdiul who won here on Wednesday. He carries a 5lb penalty and will be very hard to beat, especially as the ground holds no fears. Timothy Doyle has been quiet of late but his Northern Surprise will be more at home on this soft ground compared to many of his rivals. He won quite snugly on his penultimate start at Sligo, beating Tom Dooley who re-opposes today and is only 4lb higher than for that success. The problem is he’s drawn 13 but he’s a horse who likes to be dropped in so that isn’t too big of an issue.
The 1m 4f Trappers Inn Handicap could go the way of the red hot Tony Martin, who has had four winners this week. He runs Pyromaniac who has been progressive on a sound surface so this ground is an unknown factor for him. Willie McCreey’s What Lies Ahead should enjoy the ease in the ground and doesn’t look badly treated by a mark of 73. She won a Punchestown bumper on heavy ground and although she didn’t beat much at Sligo, she seemed to idle a bit and so looks better than the form suggests. Dermot Weld runs Weld Arab who is the dark horse of the race and the step up in trip and application of blinkers could be the making of him.
The final race of the festival is a very good race. Dermot Weld’s Windsor Park was fancied for the Cheltenham bumper by many after winning easily at Leopardstown last time. Both Marinero and Killer Crow have franked the form and it will be disappointing should he not prevail. Willie Mullins runs Totally Dominant who is a much better horse on good ground and carries a double penalty.
By Sean Jackson 3/8/14
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