It’s the time of year where I only see the light of day to go surfing, but in the midst of all the torture that is the flat racing season, there is an annual glimmer of light as the Galway Festival looms on the horizon and brings with it two of the biggest jumps handicaps of the year.

The Galway Plate saw the emergence of future Ryanair (and potentially Gold Cup) winner Balko Des Flos last year, and there is a similar type that interests me for the race this year in CALINO D’AIRY (159).  He represents the same connections as last years winner, and while I don’t feel is going to be as good as that one, I still have him well capable of winning this race off 145.

He was thrown in the deep end last season when upped in trip to 2m4f at Aintree for the Grade 1 Manifesto Chase, and ran a mighty race to finish 3rd beaten just five lengths after making a slight mistake at the last and staying on in the run in.  The time of that race was excellent, and compared favourably with the race won by Might Bite and marked Calino D’Airy down as a horse to stay on the right side of.  That was the furthest he’d run since his point to point win over three miles, and the extra distance of the Galway Plate looks set to suit him fine with plenty of stamina in his French pedigree on the dam side.

He is currently 16/1, but that is only with Bet365 so I won’t claim that as a price, but there is some 14/1 available and I think he should be clear favourite for this race.  His two visits to the track have yielded two wins over fences so everything looks primed for a big run before returning to Graded company and trying to emulate last years winner.

There are a few others of interest, but the two I fear most are A Rated and Vieux Morvan who look unlikely to get in, and indeed the connections of the winner have the top two rated horses in the race so can run all of theirs to force out the lighter weighted threats.

The other big handicap for us jumps fanatics is the Galway Hurdle, and there has been a recent race that I think holds the key to this years renewal as the time was very good.  Joey Sasa won the Grade 3 Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary at the start of July but it is two of his rivals that day who interest me here.  First up is SHARJAH (156) who was third that day.  I banged on last year endlessly about how good I thought last years novice hurdlers were, and this lad was set to win a Grade 1 at Christmas before falling in one of the most remarkable races I’ve ever seen.  He struggled on heavy ground the remainder of the season but returned at Tipperary to finish a fine third, giving 4lbs to the winner.  He only concedes a pound in the Galway Hurdle and I fancy him to turn the tables and reverse the form with more to come from the exciting five year old.  Softer ground would temper enthusiasm somewhat but it is unlikely to get as bad as some of the ground he encountered in the main jump season.

The other one of interest to me is very much from left field, but when I rated the race he actually comes out very well.  It takes a lot for me to like a horse with 44 runs over hurdles, and indeed one that has been beaten in this race four times before!  But PLINTH (151) looks quite well treated compared to some of the market protagonists and looks set to be a wild price for the race.

Horse Distance Beaten Weight turn with Plinth (lbs)
Joey Sasa 0 17
Wicklow Brave 1.5
Sharjah 3 14
Slowmotion 5.5
Tigris River 5.5 12
Plinth 9.5

The above table shows the result of the Grade 3 Grimes hurdle down to Plinth in 6th, who was actually conceding weight to most of his rivals in that race. As you can see, he was beaten 9.5 lengths in the race, but gets a 17lbs turn in the weights with the winner.  With the aforementioned Sharjah he was 6.5 lengths behind and gets a 14lbs turn in the weights, and with Tigris River he was 4 lengths back and gets a 12lbs swing.  He is actually weighted to beat all those rivals and whilst they are all towards the head of the market, Plinth is almost the outsider of the field at 40/1.

As ever with a horse of this type there are a few caveats, and his Galway record isn’t great, though he was 8th last year of a 7lb higher mark, and his form looks best in smaller fields.  But off a mark of 135, and at probably a crazy price on the exchanges on the day I won’t be able to resist getting involved!  Interestingly in his stable tour on the ATR website, connections seem to think he went up 5lbs for Tipperary to a mark of 139….they might be in for a bit of a shock to see he runs off 135! (He is down to run off 135 on RP website and HRI).  Considering how seemingly unfancied he is it is perfectly possible that a claimer like Donal McInerney might take another 3lbs off his back.

The rest of the race looks full of over hyped badly handicapped horses and I hope the Tipperary race holds the key.