Ahead of next week's Galway Summer Festival, Kevin Blake is on hand with his guide to the historic venue and the superb seven-days of racing that it hosts...
"Such is the attraction of having a winner at the meeting, it is commonplace for trainers and owners to gear a horses' entire campaign around Ballybrit and as a result, identifying potential Galway plots has become an art form amongst punters. "
The Galway Festival is just around the corner and it will be very different to what we are used to. The meeting is one of the enduring success stories of Irish racing, tending to attract in the region of 130,000 attendees over the course of the seven days of festivities.
However, the ramifications of the Covid-19 crisis mean that this year's Galway Festival will be held behind closed doors. For all the havoc this will play with social and tourism calendars all over Ireland and beyond, the racing will still take place and is sure to prove as popular as ever amongst the betting public.
While some racing purists may scoff at the notion of a seven-day meeting consisting of mostly average-at-best contests with a few valuable handicaps and a Listed race thrown in being so incredibly popular, in many ways that is the true beauty of the Galway Festival on a racing level.
Opportunities knock for a career-altering success
With both Flat and National Hunt racing in Ireland now being dominated by a small number of world-class operators, the Galway Festival represents an excellent chance for the working man of the Irish racing industry to pursue a genuinely high-profile and potentially career-altering success. After all, where else could a trainer, jockey or owner look forward to being interviewed on RTE Racing after winning a humble 50-70 handicap?
Such is the attraction of having a winner at the meeting, it is commonplace for trainers and owners to gear a horses' entire campaign around Ballybrit and as a result, identifying potential Galway plots has become an art form amongst punters.
An obvious starting point in this pursuit is identifying the horses that have won or gone close around the track before. The tight and undulating nature of the track makes Galway very much a specialist track and those that have run well there before are always likely to be aimed at the Festival meeting there.
For those that like to go a layer deeper in their study, finding horses that have shaped better than the bare form without necessarily getting involved in the finish at Galway can be particularly attractive betting mediums when they return there, as they are unlikely to come onto as many radars than those that have won or gone close at the track.
The draw is another significant factor on the Flat at Galway with low numbers favoured on good ground or better and high numbers not being so disadvantaged in softer conditions.
For jumps fans, the ultra competitive Galway Hurdle and Galway Plate are just two of the week's highlights, where backing the winner can bring you even more satisfaction than usual.
Achieving a profit over the course of the seven days of the Galway Festival is arguably the toughest challenge of all for Irish racing punters. It can be a roller coaster ride over the course of the week, but it is a real achievement for those that manage it. Best of luck!