It’s week’s like this we live for as Horse Racing fans.
We have the best of the flat at Glorious Goodwood and the beautiful mixture of jumps and flat action at beautiful Ballybrit in Galway.
They say the Cheltenham Festival is a marathon, well Galway is 7 days of top class racing! So, make sure you really pace yourself as if the four-day Cheltenham festival is a marathon, then we are in for a serious stretch of stamina here.
Charles Byrnes won this race in 2010 and his yard has been seriously on the comeback trail over the last year or two. Viking Hoard looks like yet another handicap plot.
Here, Viking Hoard gets in off bottom weight with young Kevin Brouder claiming 7 pounds, like he did last time at Killarney. This is a very good young claiming jockey who’s effectively stealing seven pounds given his ability, especially as he knows the horse well after that runaway success last time.
Two runs back Viking Hoard was third behind Wee Tiger, who has won again since off a mark of 96.
Last time at Killarney, Charles Byrnes’ charge hammered both Veneziano Springs & Epsilon Indi by 15 or so lengths. Epsilon Indi should have won himself since in the meantime but fell at the last with the race at his mercy.
A mark of 106 looks workable given the strength of this form, especially with Brouder taking seven pounds off again.
Off bottom weight Viking Hoard should take all the beating in what is a very competitive race.
Selection – Viking Hoard 4/1
Adrian “Ado” McGuinness has his small North Dublin yard in flying form of late.
He’s produced four winners over the last two weeks, with a plethora of places. Ado rarely leaves the Galway Festival without a winner and he might not have to wait that long at all in 2018 with Final Treat.
Final Treat only moved recently from William Haggas to the McGuinness yard and it’s easy to see that there easily might be plenty of room to manoeuvre from a mark of 73.
As a 2-year-old she was a close 3rd behind Veracious (5 & 1/2 lengths), who herself is as short as 3/1 for the Grade One Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood after finishing a valiant second behind the star filly Alpha Centauri.
Crucially that was her best run, over today’s trip of seven furlongs.
Her runs in the meantime have been respectable, but nothing really to write home about. She runs here off 73 and she screams of the type of horse that McGuinness can really get the best out of.
A change of scenery could get her back on song – as could the first time Blinkers and Cheekpieces, and from a plum draw of stall two, she could simply be a step above these here.
Selection – Final Treat 9/1
It’s easy to see that Willie Mullins holds a very strong hand in this race.
Limini, if she’s fully tuned up, will take all the beating obviously.
You’d need to be a person of great faith however, as she hasn’t run since the 2017 Cheltenham Festival and I’m happy to take her on today on that basis.
Her stablemate Chelkar has Richie Deegan on and ran a massive race at Royal Ascot in fourth behind Lagostovegas. That was a huge run when you consider Stratum was in 3rd who has won easily since off 94 in a classy affair at Newbury.
That was Chelkar’s first run for 603 days, his first run for the yard and it’s easy to see that there easily could be vast amounts of improvement to come off a mark of 100.
The very capable Richie Deegan takes the ride, who also claims five pounds and it’s hard to see Chelkar being too far away if Limini isn’t fully on song.
At a big price, I’m also chancing Grand Partner who was better than ever last season.
Grand Partner comes alive at Leopardstown and that has been proven again this year when 3rd in a major handicap at the Dublin Racing festival behind Off You Go, with the likes of Bleu Berry, Low Sun and Agent Boru who all won big handicaps afterwards in behind.
After that, again over hurdles, Grand Partner then went on and won at Leopardstown, and afterwards off 136 he was only 2 and half lengths behind when in 5th in a very competitive handicap hurdle at the Aintree Festival.
Grand Partner had a good warm up for today since at the Curragh, gets the very promising Finian Maguire on board who can claim 3 pounds and a mark of 80 might just underestimate this evergreen ten-year-old who has also won decent affairs on the level.
Grand Partner might not be up to a fully fit Limini or Chelkar on ability but receiving plenty of weight he could well cause a shock at big odds.
Selection – Chelkar (4/1) & Grand Partner (25/1, E/W).
Ger Lynch trains only a few miles down the road from Ballybrit and he could be cheering a big win for his small yard with Ashqar.
Ashqar is unfortunately drawn out in the carpark in 14 which is obviously a negative around Galway, but he showed last time that he is adept for tight racecourses like Galway and might just come with a rattle late on to take this at big odds.
After four relatively quiet runs in maidens, Ashqar showed he can take advantage of a mark of 72 when running a huge race in the Ulster Derby at Down Royal. I like form at Down Royal in regards to Galway as horses have to negotiate undulations to a similar level. Ashqar handled it well that day.
He was fourth behind the likes of Change of Velocity and Sheberghan and was unlucky not be closer after a bad break cost him valuable ground at the start. In the context of this race he can go very close.
He will need plenty of luck from this draw obviously, but he might just be well handicapped and good enough to overcome it.
Selection – Ashqar (16/1, E/W).
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.