Always among the highlights of any Galway Festival, the
lucrative Tote Galway Plate takes pride of place on Wednesday’s card, writes Paul Martin.
Now worth €250,000, a €50,000 increase on last year, with
€147,500 to the winner, it promises to be a captivating battle at Ballybrit.
Here’s a look at those who are looking to etch their names
into Festival folklore…
Denise Foster’s dual Cheltenham Festival winner tops the
weights for this year’s Plate, going in at 11st 10lb.
Question marks remain around consistency, with this year so
far a case in point as a Grade 3 win at Killarney was followed by a
disappointing sixth at Listowel.
2 Easy Game
The heaviest of Willie Mullins’ six contenders, which son
Patrick - who rode him in the Plate last year - feels could count against him
in a race ‘where weight does matter’.
Mullins junior also revealed to Off The Ball that the
seven-year-old’s ‘game doesn’t play’ when it rains, so any potential backers
are advised to check the forecast.
Victorious on his only previous visit to Galway in October
2019, this eight-year-old is a Grade 1 winner over hurdles and jumps.
Looked excellent in winning the Lough Construction Ltd Chase
at Down Royal last October and though without a win since, this could be the
stage to rediscover his touch.
4 Brahma Bull
Led home a field of 20 at Punchestown last time out and goes
into this one off a career-high mark.
Has a different man in the saddle, with Jack Foley replacing
Brian Hayes, but this Mullins contender can’t be discounted.
5 Royal Rendezvous
Came within a whisker of landing Plate honours for Mullins
last year having gone in as favourite only to be edged out by Early Doors up
Goes in 8lb heavier this time around but Paul Townend has
again opted to take the reins as he looks to go one better - Townend also rode
Blazing Tempo in 2011, the last time Mullins took home the Plate.
6 The Shunter
The current Plate favourite at 11-2, Emmet Mullins’
eight-year-old is looking for more Festival glory having triumphed in the Paddy
Power Plate at Cheltenham earlier this year.
Goes in off a mark 16lb higher this time around but his
consistency is remarkable, having not finished outside the top four in his last
Patrick Mullins has opted to saddle a horse who has so far
disappointed his yard on the big occasion, but there would be no better time to
put that right.
Should like the ground, and Mullins will be eager to get the
best out of him.
Enters in good form with two wins in his last three outings,
combined with a runners-up finish in the Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary.
One of four contenders for Joseph O’Brien as he looks to
record back-to-back Plate wins.
9 Home By The Lee
Another for Joseph O’Brien, this six-year-old was
disappointing in the Irish Grand National on his last outing but comes back
down in trip for this one.
Three wins in five before the National showed what he was
capable of and he can’t be ruled out.
Was well fancied in the Guinness Handicap Chase at
Punchestown in April and started well but faded before being pulled up two from
Has not raced since so will be refreshed and raring to go as
he looks to rediscover the form which saw him cruise to the Topham at Aintree
earlier this year.
11 Off You Go
Recent outings offer hope for Cathal Byrnes’ eight-year-old.
Victory in the Leopardstown Chase over a similar distance to
this preceded a solid sixth in the Irish National - should relish this trip.
Falls in three of his last four don’t inspire a wealth of
confidence but was going well at Killarney before being stopped in his tracks
at the penultimate fence.
Fifth in the Paddy Power Plate at Cheltenham offers more
reason to be optimistic for Joseph O’Brien and Gigginstown.
Another to go in off a career-high mark, Mitchouka led home
Livelovelaugh in the Equestrian Handicap Chase at Leopardstown in March.
Finished well down the field in only Festival appearance two
years ago, but should fare better on return.
14 Snow Falcon
Noel Meade’s veteran has two wins over fences under his belt
but has not tasted success anywhere since Gowran Park in October 2019, 13 runs
Three successive runner-up finishes heading into this one,
and Meade’s sole contender as he looks to land a second Plate following Road to
Riches’ victory seven years ago.
15 The West’s Awake
Fourth in this race at 66-1 last year and looks set to enter
at around half that price this time around.
Will need to step up to repeat the feat having finished down
the field at Wexford in his last outing.
16 Top Moon
Perhaps Joseph O’Brien’s best chance of retaining his crown,
a victory for Top Moon would see owner JP McManus do likewise.
Won well over a slightly shorter trip at Wexford in June and
has a Plate-winning jockey on board, Mark Walsh having steered Bob Lingo to
glory in 2012.
Impressed in finishing second to The West’s Awake in the Galway
Plate Trial at Kilbeggan.
A good stayer who could be worth a look in the each-way
18 Ben Dundee
Impressive performances at the Cheltenham Festival in recent
years but without a win since November 2018.
Third in the Grimes Hurdle on his first run-out since
switching to Edna Bolger’s yard having previously been trained by Paul
Wily veteran with a string of Class 2 victories under his
belt in the UK, sixth in the Plate two years ago on his only previous visit to
Excellent handicap victory having gone off at 25-1 at
Punchestown in May.
Has ‘a lovely racing weight’, according to Willie Mullins,
while son Patrick feels Koshari could be the best bet from the Mullins stable.
21 Snugsborough Hall
Third in maiden at Killarney in June on the flat and now
switches to chase looking to make an impression.
Henry de Bromhead scooped the Plate in 2015 and 2017 and
Somptueux looks his best shot at completing a hat-trick.
Edged out by Top Man at Wexford earlier this month but won
three times in six starts last season.