It's the final day of the marathon that was Galway 2018 and Tony Keenan has five horses to back on the Ballybrit card...
"That race might have been the strongest handicap run in Ireland this year, throwing up subsequent winners like Zorion, Settle For Bay, Honor Oak, Surrounding and Casimiro."
If there is one punting takeaway from Galway 2018, it is to care a little less about the Willie Mullins jockey bookings. Throughout this past week, the Closutton-trained winners have been ridden by an array of riders and returned all sorts of prices and while perhaps a fully-fit Ruby Walsh that was riding all the runners in their trials would pick better, there is a sense that this is just the way the yard is now with the sheer amount of horses they have for these good races. This was the case not only in races where the betting was open but also when the yard had an apparent good thing like Limini, beaten twice at short odds by stablemates.
Patrick Mullins commented in a recent Newstalk interview that their numbers went up in light of the challenge of Gordon Elliott and sorting between them seems to have become more difficult. Listening to Willie Mullins talk about his various horses over the week, I was struck by how uncertain he was about what was his best chance, often even changing his mind mid-interview. There is nothing wrong with that of course as it is the trainer's job to have the horses ready for the day, rather than ensure the stable jockey is on the right one and that decision often has to be made in the tight window between 10am and midday the day before the race. It's something to keep in mind when we have multiple Mullins runners in races over the winter.
The Ahonoora often falls to a horse that has run earlier in the week with the Galway Mile a key trial; Dream Walker and Bond Street have obvious claims though the latter may be suited by going up rather than back in distance. Preference however is for a horse that had an entry earlier in the week over a mile but has waited for this shorter race, Tresorier.
Trained in France for the previous two seasons, he shaped well on Irish debut at Leopardstown, missing the break but travelling well in rear then trying to make headway up the rail before meeting trouble and coming home well under tender handling. That race might have been the strongest handicap run in Ireland this year, throwing up subsequent winners like Zorion, Settle For Bay, Honor Oak, Surrounding and Casimiro. He was well-backed next time at the Curragh but found the ground too quick (officially good but Timeform had it as good-firm) but got back on track off a break at Killarney last month, travelling well and doing best of those held up in a race where the leader got away from the field early. The draw (stall three) has been kind and this stiff seven furlongs should be ideal.
A number of these were Galway Plate also-rans to one degree or another but that accusation can't be levelled at Sub Lieutenant who ran a good race under top-weight to finish fifth and is well-in given the race conditions. Still, he hasn't won since November 2016, had a tough race on Wednesday and has been put in quite short.
Kalondra had been one of my ante-post picks for the Plate but swerved that race to get better ground today; it was difficult not to be impressed with how he went through his last race at Cheltenham and is worth backing now against some rivals that could be jaded.
Call It Magic is worth a small saver too. A course-and-distance winner, he shaped better than the distance beaten when seventh in the Irish National last time, right there three out only to fade up the straight but that was strong form, the third winning the Punchestown Gold Cup next time. He hasn't run since but being given time to overcome those exertions may be no bad thing and he has a reasonable record fresh.
The backend end of Galway week tends to see horses that ran earlier in the week coming back in winning but this year only Truffles has succeeded on that count. The market seems to think a quick returner will win here with Camlann, Queen Iseult, Rovetta and Maze Runner all quite short but perhaps the value is with those having their first run of the meeting. A few that haven't run this week look better value however, chief among them Lucca and Seize Your Star with Newcross also respected.
Lucca was fourth at the meeting last year before winning a competitive Navan handicap last September in a good time, pulling clear with one that was in excellent form at the time. Both his runs this season have been promising; he was notably strong in the betting on return at Fairyhouse before racing too keenly and found the ground too quick in the Apprentice Derby along with getting hung very wide into the straight. A relatively low draw should prevent that happening this afternoon and he also gets his favoured slow ground and the chance of a relatively easy time up front.
Seize Your Star is a three-year-old against older horses but some statistical studies have shown weight-for-age to be advantageous to the younger animals at this stage of the year over staying trips. In any case, she looks to have improved for step up in distance lately, grinding down Erin at Bellewstown the time before last in a good time, and the runner-up has won since and went close off 78 here yesterday. The ground is a little worry with Seize Your Star, hence a win only bet is recommended, but a mark of 73 probably underrates her.
2018 P+L: -29.2 points
1 Point Back Tresorier @ [14.0] or bigger in the Galway 15:55
1 Point Place Back Tresorier @ [4.0] or bigger in the Galway 15:55
1 Point Back Kalondra @ [5.0] or bigger in the Galway 16:30
0.5 Point Back Call It Magic @ [21.0] or bigger in the Galway 16:30
0.5 Point Place Back Call It Magic @ [4.8] or bigger in the Galway 16:30
1 Point Back Seize Your Star @ [13.0] or bigger in the Galway 17:30
0.5 Point Back Lucca @ [24.0] or bigger in the Galway 17:30
0.5 Point Place Back Lucca @ [6.0] or bigger in the Galway 17:30