THE Galway Festival is a rather special thing. If you haven’t been then you are missing out. Seriously. Racing festivals are usually three or four-day jamborees but Galway lasts for seven days, a relentless week of flat and national hunt competition. The festival is synonymous with Irish legend Dermot Weld. He has been leading trainer a staggering 31 times at the Galway Festival and famously targets it every year. However, this year will be different…
The Weld yard has been struggling due to a virus and will only saddle a handful of runners. Inevitably, this will open the door for Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and other Irish trainers to make hay. Both have multiple entries in the highlight of the week, the Galway Plate, which takes place on August 2.
Among the 47 entries for the 2m 6f chase, Mullins has eight possibles and Elliott four. The two trainers occupied the first six places last season with Elliott’s Lord Scoundrel beating Mullins trio Alechi Inois, Ballycasey and Devil’s Bride.
Lord Scoundrel is 11lb higher while the rejuvenated Ballycasey is 15lb higher and is top weight off a mark of 160. That looks a tough ask but the grey is better than ever and is not ground dependent. That could be crucial as there is plenty of rain forecast in the run-up to Galway.
Hopefully the ground won’t be a problem for the in-form Alcala, who has been well backed since winning the Summer Plate at Market Rasen last Saturday. He will go on soft ground but would undoubtedly prefer a decent surface. Still, the 14/1 looks fairly generous each-way for Paul Nicholls’ raider.
A similar price is former Cheltenham Gold Cup third Road To Riches who trainer Noel Meade says is finally showing some of his old zest. He has slipped down the ratings and is looking dangerously well handicapped if recapturing his form. However, soft ground would not suit him.
Jessica Harrington has entered Sandymount Duke and Rock The World, with Slowmotion a possible for Joseph O’Brien.
Other Galway Plate possibles from Britain include Henryville, Ballybolley, Vintage Vinnie and Art Of Payroll.
But at the head of the market is Henry de Bromhead’s unexposed six-year-old BALKO DES FLOS. He fell four out in the JLT at Cheltenham when bang in contention before running well at Punchestown. He is off a mark of 146 and looks nicely weighted to run a huge race. He is only six and looks exactly the right type to win this race at around the 8/1 mark.
Selection: Balko Des Flos 8/1
Prices correct at the time of going to press.