It's going to be a very different Galway Festival to usual but there's still plenty of action for Gary O'Brien to get his teeth into as he picks out the highlights from the week...
In a month which usually plays host to the Wimbledon tennis championships, probably the most appropriate way to describe a Galway Festival with no crowd is like having strawberries without cream.
Anyone who has been to Ballybrit for the midsummer jamboree will know that while there is every chance of seeing a star of the future during the seven days - Capri, Legatissimo, Alpine Star and Santiago have all strutted their stuff their in recent times - it's the unique atmosphere as much as the action on the track which makes it a special week under normal circumstances.
But 2020 is no ordinary year and, for possibly the first time ever, the action will play out to an eerie silence, although if one listens particularly closely a distant roar from one or two of the town's famous hostelries might be audible. The race programme is a bit different this time too, with the absence of mixed fixtures resulting in consecutive days of flat action bookending the week and a trio of jumps cards sandwiched in between.
Two Monday tips before getting down to marquee business
For those looking to get off to a good start, Qaabil in the 17:45 and Penny Out in the 18:15 make plenty of appeal in their respective engagements on Monday.
It's the marquee events I really want to talk about though.
Prize might be down somewhat but the Tote Galway Plate at 18:45 on Wednesday looks well up to scratch.
Galvin is sure to be a big fancy after his fine second to the well-treated Imperial Aura at the Cheltenham festival. I would have a concern that the same hold-up tactics, which are often difficult to execute in this race, might be employed again however so my two against the field are Royal Rendezvous and Spyglass Hill, with marginal preference for the latter. Henry de Bromhead has a fine recent record with two wins in the last five years, and this useful novice from last term is just the sort of unexposed candidate you look for in a race like this.
Thursday's Hurdle at 18:45 possibly contains a little less strength in depth and I reckon Felix Desjy might be tough to catch from the front. A dyed-in-the-wool trailblazer, this Grade 1 winning hurdler was due to embark on a career over the larger obstacles last season but a pre-Christmas setback kept him on the sidelines for the entirety of what ultimately proved to be a truncated campaign. That might well prove to be a blessing in disguise as far as his prospects of capturing the €120,000 first prize here are concerned though, as compared to many of his rivals who were busy prior to the shutdown he comes here a relatively fresh horse.
This is a race his trainer badly wants to break his duck in after several near misses in the past, and Felix Desjy's warm-up - essentially a solo run in a flat maiden at Navan last month - could hardly have gone more smoothly. He beat Aramon, overcoming a serious error en route, when enjoying his finest hour at Aintree in April 2019 yet actually receives weight from that rival on Thursday.
Keep your Option(s) open
Galway has a long history of horses turning out and performing well on more than one occasion during the week and Current Option is worth keeping an eye on for another day when he lines up in the featured Colm Quinn Mile on Tuesday.
Ado McGuinness' Camelot gelding has a shocking draw to contend with so is hard to fancy there but also holds an entry in Sunday's featured Ahonoora Handicap over a more suitable seven furlongs.
And for more tips and insight on Galway, as well as Glorious Goodwood, check out our special Racing...Only Bettor podcast
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