We have two magnificent racing festivals to look forward to this week, and here with his thoughts and tips for day one of the Galway Festival is Mark Milligan...
"There’s an air of unfinished business about Hook Up on the flat and she strikes me as one that could take a big step forward in the sort of scenario she’ll encounter here."
As we head into high summer, there is literally something for every fan of horseracing over the next week or so.
On Monday, the Galway Festival kicks off the first of seven fantastic days' racing, combining the best of flat and jumps action, while the following day the Qatar Goodwood Festival (or Glorious Goodwood to traditionalists) gets underway, showcasing a feast of top-class equine competition in the spectacular surroundings of West Sussex.
Familiar faces to follow at both meetings
Turning to Galway first, it's probably fair to say Willie Mullins will have more than his share of winners, though picking out which ones to concentrate on will be key, as he'll often field multiple entries in several races.
And Galway aficionados don't need telling that Dermot Weld isn't called the 'King Of Galway' because he parades around Ballybrit holding a sceptre and wearing a shiny crown.
He may well do (for all I know) - and his record at this festival over the years would more than merit such actions - though I suspect the master of Rosewell House probably takes a more low-key approach when saddling his runners!
Over at Goodwood, take note of anything that Mark Johnston sends down from his Middleham base. The canny Scot has been leading trainer at this meeting on 13 separate occasions, most recently in 2019.
It's a massive disappointment that his impressive Ascot Gold Cup winner Subjectivist is ruled out of a tilt at the Goodwood Cup through injury, though there will be plenty more high-class stars for us to watch throughout the week
It goes without saying that the likes of Charlie Appleby, Aidan O'Brien, Richard Hannon Jr, William Haggas and John and Thady Gosden will be other trainers who'll field live chances throughout the week, while Jim Crowley and Oisin Murphy are two of the jockeys who ride the unique switchback track particularly well.
Hook Up the pick of Mullins' six
The feature race on Galway's opening day is the Connaght Hotel Premier Handicap for qualified riders at 18:15.
One of the great aspects of the Galway Festival is the opportunity it affords throughout the week to amateur jockeys, or qualified riders as they're known in Ireland. It's not often the amateurs get to race for the same sort of money as their professional counterparts, but Galway certainly provides those kind of openings.
This race sets the first Willie Mullins conundrum of the week, as the Closutton handler sends out no less than six in an effort to claim a big chunk of the €100,000 prize money. Trying to narrow down that six to those with the best chance is a tricky process, but it may well be that Foveros, Hook Up and My Sister Sarah are the trio to concentrate on.
Foveros was an impressive winner of a Curragh handicap in May off a mark of just 65.
Racing in touch under Wayne Lordon, he barely needing to come off the bridle to run out an impressive winner over Weather Alert and Dinard Rose.
Obviously, the handicapper wasn't going to let that lie and Foveros has been hiked up to 83 for this contest, though his current hurdles mark of 135 suggests he could still be fairly treated on the level.
My Sister Sarah is rated even higher than Foverus over jumps (141), and she is still unexposed on the flat, her narrow win at Listowel last time being just her fourth outing in that sphere.
While not particularly impressive on the day (scrambled home by a nose), she was worth marking up as the race wasn't run at much of a clip and she should be seen to much better effect in the big-field scenario she gets here.
Hook Up is a mare I've always had plenty of time for and she is another that boasts a relatively unexposed profile on the flat. It's her sticky jumping that's let her down over hurdles, that being the main bar to her really kicking on in that code, though there's no such concerns here.
A winner on the level in France in 2019, her sole flat start for Mullins came when third at Killarney in May, and like My Sister Sarah, she looks the type to thrive in a well-run staying handicap.
There's an air of unfinished business about Hook Up on the flat and she strikes me as one that could take a big step forward in the sort of scenario she'll encounter here. I also like the fact that Patrick Mullins is in the saddle.
Weld runner can get back on track
While Mullins holds a strong hand, it would be remiss to ignore Dermot Weld's Coltor, who was a highly promising novice hurdler over the winter.
Off the mark at third attempt at Naas in January, he was far from discredited when third in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham in March, not seen to best effect either, having been forced a bit wide on the home turn.
A winner of a maiden on the flat last October, Coltor was a shade disappointing returned to the level at the Curragh in May, having gone off a well-supported 7/2 shot. It's worth noting that Weld now switches the cheekpieces he wore last time for the visor he sported when breaking his maiden - that move could well enable Coltor to get back on track.
In a wide-open affair, it's possible we may not even have touched on the winner, though in Coltor and Hook Up, Weld and Mullins both sport live chances. It's a long week and there will be plenty more punting opportunities to come, so let's keep stakes sensible as we embark on a feast of quality racing.
A split of a 1-point stake between both Coltor and Hook Up is probably the best way to play here and both should give us a good run for our money.
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