A briefish post with some musings on the Galway Plate and Goodwood Cup……

There are a plethora of horses to like in the Galway Plate this year, but there are two that leapt off the page at me and are the two I have best handicapped in the race.

The first has been well found, and on form it is no surprise to see BALKO DES FLOS head the market.  A decent novice hurdler, he was 5th in the Albert Bartlett, and 4th in the Sefton before switching to fences last year.  I gave him a big number when he finished 3rd in the Flogas Novice chase in February behind Disko and Our Duke, beaten just 8 lengths.  With the subsequent exploits of those two it is easy to see that he is potentially very well treated off a mark of 146.  He fell when going well enough in front in the JLT at Cheltenham, before rounding off his season finishing third in a hot handicap chase at the Punchestown festival.  With a bit of juice in the ground at Galway this week suiting him as well, all the signals point to him running a big race.  Road To Riches went off 7/2 favourite for this last year, and I can see him being similarly supported, so the 8/1 currently is probably only going to get shorter.  He is capable of being a 160+ performer to me, and looks sure to run well off 146.

The other one I like is bit darker, and his price could be very much influenced by jockey bookings as Willie Mullins has a number of likely runners at this stage.  But I think HAYMOUNT has a huge chance running off a mark of 145.  A solid, if unspectacular novice hurdler, he firmly left that form behind on his chase debut in November at Punchestown where I rated his win highly.  He had horses such as Coney Island, Mall Dini and Woodland Opera in behind him that day and they are now rated 157, 141 and 149 respectively.  He then finished a close second to Bellshill in a Grade 2 before finishing 3rd and 7th over marathon trips in the four miler and Irish Grand National…I don’t think he’s necessarily a 3 mile plus staying chaser and dropping back to 2m6f here I think is sure to suit.  The other aspect of his form that appeals to me is his record fresh.  He won a Tipperary bumper on his racecourse debut (Joshua Lane was 3rd that day), and finished a neck second to Royal Caviar over in a 2 mile maiden hurdle on his seasonal debut in 2015.  His massive run in dispatching Coney Island last year also came on his seasonal debut, and he’s going to come here off a break of 107 days.  At 16/1 he seems a fair each way to price to me….it will be interesting to see who gets the ride considering Mullins could end up running four or five.

I’m still trying to get my head around the Galway Hurdle which at this stage looks a somewhat weak albeit open affair.  But I can’t let an old friend go unbacked in the Goodwood Cup today.

The favourite Big Orange has now been labelled the “people’s horse” whatever that means.  What I know it does mean is that he is going to be a dreadful price wherever he runs.  Cue Card was given a similar moniker recently, and as much as I love him he was rarely a betting prospect.  That leaves us with plenty of value on offer and I can’t let WICKLOW BRAVE go unbacked.

He came of age when romping to victory in the County Hurdle a few years ago and since then has been an admirable horse for connections.  It seems to me the key to the horse is to have a bit of cut in the ground.  Since that run, on ground softer than good, over 14f-16f his form reads 11133311. His defeats include a close third in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot, a monster run behind Nichols Canyon and Faugheen, and a 3rd in the Fighting Fifth when running too soon after that big run.  The last two times he has encountered such conditions he has won the Irish St Leger and the Irish Champion Hurdle!  The going stick today is reading 6.8 which to me seems firmly in the Good to Soft range despite the clerk of the course calling it good (it wouldn’t be the first time a clerk has called it differently to suit popular horses).

Wicklow Brave was fourth behind Big Orange in this last year, but the ground was good to firm that day, with the rain in the race not getting into the ground in time.  On softer ground today I think we can reverse the placings, with Big Orange in need of better ground.  I’ve rated Wicklow Brave in the mid-160s over hurdles, which should translate into a 120ish number on the flat so he has the quality to threaten the favourite.  Last time out he went for home too soon and just got collared by Rekindling, giving that runner a stone in weight.  That may turn out to be hot form with the winner on my mind for the St Leger.  In the mean time, at a big price I think Wicklow Brave can take on the people’s horse today!

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