Who’s the right one for PlateJuly 26, 2012 - 7:00am
WHEN Dermot Weld turned out a record breaking 11 winners at the Galway Summer festival two years ago, there was a general presumption that the meeting’s most successful trainer ever had surely reached the peak of his dominance of the country’s most popular racing fixture.
But Weld fairly blew that theory out of the water 12 months ago as his string blitzed Ballybrit in the most spectacular fashion by landing 17 of the 52 races at the festival, an incredible strike rate of almost 33%, with the highlights being the triumphs of Stunning View in the Topaz Mile and Rock City in the Ladbrokes Handicap.
The Master of Rosewell has naturally been playing down the yard’s prospects of even coming close to emulating their staggering 2011 feats next week, but there is no doubt that punters who shows blind faith in Weld’s runners are still likely to have the better of the argument with bookmakers over the seven day meeting.
Yet, Weld’s prospects of landing either of the festival’s two landmark races, the Tote Galway Plate or the Guinness Galway Hurdle, look in the remote category. His only entry in the hurdle, Teach Nua, is rated 64th of the 74 entries and has no chance of making the maximum field of 20 runners.
At least, Weld is set to be represented in the Galway Plate with Daffern Seal, impressive winner of his Beginners Chase at last year’s festival, his leading hope. Not seen since finishing sixth in the amateur riders’ National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last March, the seven-year-old probably lacks the experience to land a handicap of this magnitude. Prince Erik could be the yard’s other representative, but the grey – tailed off on his previous run in the Irish Grand National – doesn’t possess the necessary gears to trouble the big race principals.
With three-time Grade One winner, Follow The Plan, heading the weights, there is a somewhat unbalanced look to the Galway Plate field. Last year’s Punchestown Gold Cup winner and hero of the Betfred Bowl at Aintree in April, is rated up to 17lbs superior to the rest of the field bar the 2011 first and second, Blazing Tempo and Wise Old Owl respectively, and ante post favourite, Blackstairmountain.
It’s a big ask lumping top weight around in the Galway Plate, but connections of Follow The Plan are not tilting at windmills as General Idea, Life Of A Lord and Ansar, have all carried similar burdens to big race Ballybrit success in the last 20 years. Furthermore, Ollie McKiernan’s stable is flying in recent months, a situation which also underlines the prospects of their second contender, Whodoyouthink, an impressive 17 lengths winner of a conditions chase at Punchestown in May, and our fancy to land the €200,000 event.
Blazing Tempo, having gone up a stone for last year’s triumph, may sidestep a repeat bid for the Plate in favour of running in the Guinness Hurdle, especially as the talking horse for the race, Blackstairmountain, is in the same ownership and also trained by Willie Mullins. The seven-year-old has mixed it with the best of company in his novice career and ‘warmed up’ for the Plate with an effortless win on the flat at Bellewstown recently.
The John Kiely trained Wise Old Owl, now rated 10lbs higher since his exploits 12 months ago, hasn’t appeared in public in the interim, but still commands respect as does Casey Top, winner of the McSweeney Arms Hotel Handicap Chase in Killarney in May, Edward O’Grady’s Irish Grand National second, Out Now, the progressive Raptor, another Mullins potential challenger, and possibly the Ted Walsh trained Devil’s Elbow, through the five-year-old has a number of other engagements in Galway.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.