Galway gets under way on Monday, and Alan Dudman is strapped in for the week-long ride with two each-way bets at big prices for the opening races...
"Great White Shark won in 2019 and seemed to relish the Galway hill when arriving late thanks to a brave ride from Jody Townend."
The Galway marathon starts on Monday, and while it won't quite be Ballybrit as we know it, there will be plenty of betting opportunities in the days to come and to enjoy on Racing TV.
The action for this afternoon/evening is a snapshot of the festival with a couple of interesting handicaps and one or two less so, therefore it's important to pace yourself. That doesn't detract from the spectacle, though, and the near-130,000 that attended last year for the track's 150th anniversary would testify to that. And while we won't have the fun and the crowd roaring home moderate handicappers like they're Dayjur, it will be interesting to see what sort of team Galway stalwart Dermot Weld will be sending out to battle.
Weld has long been associated with success round these parts, but the dominant days and his hegemony over the variety of madcap racing has slipped away. So has his crown of the "King Of Ballybrit".
To highlight the change in fortunes for the yard, last year Weld had to wait for his first winner on Day Five - almost unthinkable. That was his first with 52 runners at that stage.
In contrast, Willie Mullins' skills of mixing and matching his jumpers to the Flat has paid dividends at the meeting. Mullins sent out 12 winners in 2018 to capture the leading trainer title. His 2019 tally was ten, but that was enough to retain the crown. He even coaxed a win out of my old friend Yorkhill.
There are odds boosts to check out on the Sportsbook for Galway, and you can also find the two big jumps' races priced up for the Plate and the Hurdle.
Let's move on with the bets.
Can Jody do it again with Great White Shark?
The best race on the card in terms of quality (and not short of quantity) is the Premier staying handicap for amateurs. I was keen on Dalton Highway earlier in the season when he was a non-runner, and he comes out of an interesting 1-2 with De Name Escapes Me at the Curragh. The latter is a fine example of weighing up this race; he's rated near 140 over hurdles and is looking to pick up a nice prize from an exploitable Flat mark.
That comment can be copied and pasted to most of the field, although it's hard to get away from the huge claims of Sharjah. But then his price reflects that at 3.65.
De Name Escapes Me is more interesting at 14/1, but it may sound strange for a horse who has raced over 3m; he could be vulnerable to a stronger stayer.
I quite like the idea of having an each-way dart on last year's winner Great White Shark at 14/1. This is also an EXTRA PLACE SPECIAL race on the Sportsbook.
Great White Shark won in 2019 and seemed to relish the Galway hill when arriving late thanks to a brave ride from Jody Townend. It was some story too coming back after a terrible injury. She rides again and gets to claim 7lb. Townend has been in fine form in the saddle of late with two wins from her last two rides.
Townend won the Ladies Derby last time at the Curragh on board Princess Zoe - and her trainer Tony Mullins was quite keen on keeping her for the mount looking at his post-race comments. She won that race by five lengths and is completely unexposed, but she's 4/1, and that price does nothing for me in a race like this. Townend also stays faithful to the Shark.
The selection is a bit hit and miss, but she didn't run too badly when finishing third in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham, and horses tend to stay well who run in that. And I am hoping the little break to freshen her up will have the desired effect to perk her up to run a big race.
For small stakes, the 28/1 on Mister Blue Sky is worth more than a cursory glance. He was 34.033/1 on the Exchange on Sunday.
I've always associated this horse wanting a bit of rain in the ground, so with a wet forecast for the week, I am hoping the heavens open for Monday.
He has got more than enough to find on Flat form, but as a Grade 2 winning novice over hurdles, he looks overpriced. He tends to be help up and waited with, which isn't a bad thing. However, I don't know an awful lot about his inexperienced 7lb jockey, so it will be interesting to see what he does from his inside berth.
In terms for other bets on the card, the staying handicap at 18:15 looks winnable. Joseph O'Brien has Globe Theatre in the race, and he'll be a good test of the handler's skills to see what he can do with one of his dad's cast-offs in this 0-80. He should come on for his Ballinrobe run over a new trip tonight, and has a little bit of ability.
My each-way bet will be with the Dot Love-trained On The Balcony at 12/1.
I think she's worth a shot over the trip of near-enough 1m5f and has created quite a good impression in two starts since joining the yard from the French provinces.
She has made the running at both Gowran Park and Roscommon this term, so there'll be an element of looking to trade her if she can get out from her very wide draw. But she handles deep ground and there could be a bit to work with considering the 4yo has a nice pedigree.
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Back On The Balcony Win and Place @ 16.5 in 18:15 at Galway
Back Great White Shark Win and Place @ 17.016/1 in the 18:45 at Galway