THE Galway Races take centre stage this week, with racing behind closed doors, beginning on Monday.
While the annual trip to the famous Ballybrit track is part of the summer holidays for casual racing fans, this seven-day extravaganza has some high-class action.
Punters are keen to find the winners of the two main races, midweek. The Galway Plate is the highlight, a fiercely competitive contest.
It looks a wide-open renewal, with Early Doors and Galvin the two horses that stand out.
Joseph O’Brien trained the talented Early Doors to victory at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
His form has tailed off, but he is one for the shortlist. Gordon Elliot always targets Galway and Davy Russell is likely to team up with Galvin, the pair having enjoyed a lovely prep run in Killarney.
Willie Mullins has won the Galway Hurdle three times and has 13 entries in his attempt for a fourth victory.
Paul Townend faces a tough decision, as stable jockey, but he rarely gets it wrong and his choice is likely to go off as favourite for the Mullins team.
The Goodwood Festival also takes place this week and the Sussex Stakes looks like being the race of the season.
Ger Lyons is enjoying a brilliant year, after bagging his two Classics this summer. Having waited more than 20 years to win a Group One in his homeland, Lyons wasted no time in doubling his tally, with victory in the Irish Oaks, last weekend.
He now has his sights set on the Qatar Sussex Stakes, with Siskin. It was the same colt who provided him with an all-important first Classic in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Ger Lyons said: “Touch wood, he’s in great form. He’ll have a light piece of work today (Saturday) and then it’s all systems go.
“Obviously, the Irish Guineas wasn’t our initial plan — that was to go to England for the 2000 Guineas and then, hopefully, the St James’s Palace — but Covid knocked that on the head,” Lyons said.
“As it happens, the Sussex has turned into one of the hottest races of the year, but that’s just typical.”
Lyons is not wrong — among the opposition is the Andrew Balding-trained Newmarket Guineas hero, Kameko, Marcus Tregoning’s Summer Mile winner, Mohaather, and last year’s runner-up, Circus Maximus, trained by Aidan O’Brien. Lyons said: “The opposition is scary, to say the least, and the one that stands out, for me, is Mohaather.
“I thought he looked very impressive at Ascot.
“You have to respect Circus Maximus, then there’s the English Guineas winner stepping back from the Derby, and I’ve even read Earthlight might come over. The only one missing is Pinatubo.”
Ballyhea trainer Ken Condon quietly goes about his business and his stable star, Romanised, put on a brilliant performance at the Curragh last weekend.
It was the first leg of a memorable double, as Laws of Indices was a shock winner of the Railway Stakes, at 66/1.
Condon had certainly talked up the chances of Romanised, in these pages last week, but was taken by surprise with his second victory.
All roads lead to France, now, for Romanised, and the consensus after the race was that he really does look as good as ever.
Condon says: “We were delighted with him and it was a stylish performance and, as comebacks go, it went very well.
“We’d done plenty with him at home, but there’s no substitute for a match — just like if you are a footballer or a hurler — and he has come on for a run in previous seasons, so I’m sure there’s improvement there. He had a nice blow half a furlong out, so it will bring him forward.”
Condon was optimistic in preparation for the weekend, but it was a step into the unknown, with any horse off the track for 10 months.
“What you can’t find out at home is whether the acceleration is still there, because it’s not something you go looking for at home,” Condon said. “But Billy (Lee) said he gave him a great feel the whole way, and that customary turn of foot is still there.
“The Marois and the Moulin, just like last year, is what we’re looking at. Hopefully, he’s in good shape going to the Marois. It will be a hot race again — it is every year, but to win it again would be lovely.”
It was a day to remember for Condon on Saturday, because he also landed the Railway Stakes, with Laws of Indices. Only ninth on debut, the Power colt won narrowly next time out and caused a 66-1 surprise at the weekend.
Condon feels there were no excuses for the others and his youngster is improving markedly with racing, with the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes on August 9 set to be next. “To be fair, you’d have to say he took a big step forward — there’d be no point staying otherwise,” Condon said. “The juvenile races all close early and we put him in them, though — it wasn’t an afterthought. He’s always had something about him, but it was a big leap from his first to his second and second to third runs. They all had a go at him, spread right across the track. But it seemed a fair result, and he seems a very nice horse.”