Five things we learned from the Galway Summer Festival last week

Over seven days at Ballybrit we had everything

Monday, August 01, 2022

Champ Kiely was one of the breakout stars of Galway

The week-long spectacular at Galway never disappoints and this year, with a returning capacity crowd, was no exception, writes Jack Lacey-Hatton.

After seven days of thrilling racing over at Ballybrit, we’ve picked out five key takeaways from the 2022 festival. 

1.  Trainer Hanlon believes Hewick could be a Gold Cup horse after memorable Plate triumph 

Hewick’s win in the Tote Galway Plate was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the week.

The €850 purchase has consistently punched well above his weight throughout his career and trainer Shark Hanlon believes he could go on to even greater heights.

Although the Kerry National is likely to be his next outing, Hanlon is refusing to rule out a Cheltenham tilt.

“He could be a Gold Cup horse, it might just suit him,” said Hanlon. “When you have a good horse you need to try and mind them.

"He's not overly big, so the National fences might not suit him just yet, but he's only seven so he could still go for a National in time perhaps.”

2.Tudor City proves older horses can still cut it in the hurdle

Tudor City not only became the first dual winner of the Guinness Galway Hurdle since 1983, but also the oldest winner since Point D'Atout won it for a second time at the age of 11 in 1947.

The ten-year-old was given a dream run by Liam McKenna to repeat the feat of 2017.

The trend has been for younger horses to triumph in one of the week’s showpiece contests.

Apart from Clondaw Warrior in 2016, every winner since 2004 has been no older than seven.

But Tudor City showcased his remarkable ability to turn back time and gave us one of the standout moments of the week.

 3.Champ Kiely gives Mullins food for thought

The Galway Plate may have stolen the headlines on Wednesday but the day’s opening race, the Maiden Hurdle, featured an exceptional display from Champ Kiely.

Well rested after not appearing since winning on his maiden outing in Limerick, the six-year-old destroyed the field, coming home 21 lengths clear of Esperti.

He provided a first Galway festival win for owner Michael Masterson and Willie Mullins feels he may need to reassess the food chain of his novice hurdlers.

“I was hoping he'd win but didn't think he'd do anything like that,” he said. “That looked very good – he's moved up a few places in our novice hurdlers for this season. He looks a real jumping sort.

“I know he is only starting his novice hurdle career, but I'm already looking forward to him going over fences.

“I think there was a lot of confidence behind the favourite, so to come out and beat a 102-rated Flat horse like that was very good.”

4.Current Option becomes true Galway legend

To win twice on the spin at Galway is something special. To make it a hat-trick is the stuff of legend.

But that is exactly what Current Option achieved on the final day of the meeting in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Ahonoora” Handicap.

He claimed the €110,000 feature for a third year in-a-row after managing to gun down British raider On A Session on the run for home.

Trainer Ado McGuinness was full of praise for him after writing himself into Galway folklore.

He said: “I might never get a horse like him again. He’s been fabulous to have and the lads (owners) are great supporters.

“He’s a Group Three winner, a Listed winner, won a list of Premier Handicaps and taken us everywhere.

“He just loves this place and was unlucky the other night.

“He’s just down to a very nice mark and we’ll probably try for the big handicap in Leopardstown. He’s won that before as well.

“Some of my horses were a bit out of form in June, but they have come back and we always primed this fellow for here. We give him the same routine each year and try to prepare him for here. It works.” 

5.Brian Duffy’s win with Magic Chegaga shows the spirt of Galway

Magic Chegaga was in imperious form to take Tuesday’s feature – the Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap for the Magic Lads Syndicate under champion jockey Colin Keane.

She even survived a broken-down horsebox on the way to Ballybrit, before going on to secure one of the most popular successes.

It was a landmark win for fledging trainer Brian Duffy, who has just four in training and is working with a restricted licence. 

But the Galway magic has shown that it is still possible for the smaller yards to have success on the grandest stage.

“I still can’t believe it has actually happened,” said Duffy. “I was just hoping she’d hold on and there wasn’t a late finisher coming to nab her, but she just kept on finding and she’s a brilliant filly.

“We had the champion (Keane) on board and he’s champion for a reason. He gave her a super ride, from that draw to get her in and get her settled in mid-division was super stuff.”

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