Galway Festival Eyecatchers
Helvic Dream was stepping significantly back in trip having finished third in a Listed race at Roscommon on his previous start, and the combination of shorter distance and poor trip played against him. Drawn in the second widest stall, he was dropped out the back early on before making a bit of headway before the first bend. Four wide around the bend, he looked to make some headway coming down the hill, but was outpaced and shoved even wider coming out of the dip as the pace quickened. He was in fourth last at the start of the straight, but once manoeuvred widest of all he ran on well to finish eighth. This was a run to forgive from Helvic Dream, as plenty went wrong for him over a distance that’s short of his optimum and he’s open to improvement once stepped back up to 1m2f-1m4f.
Having had a poor end to last season, Dance Emperor has returned this season with two more encouraging performances, the latest of which came at Galway when finishing third. Slowly away and trailing the field through the early stages, he latched onto the back of the main pack at the end of the back straight and was still a long way behind coming out of the dip. Nudged along turning the final bend, he was switched wide entering the straight and ran on very strongly to finish third. Considering the poor position that Dance Emperor ended up in after the slow start, this was a good effort. He has been raised 4lb to 67, but was only two lengths behind the winner who has been raised 11lb, while the runner up went on to win on the final day of the festival (and is now 6lb higher), while the fourth ran well in a handicap at Naas since (and upped 4lb). Dance Emperor’s record of 1-29 is a bit concerning but he looks capable of adding to that solitary victory on the evidence of this run.
Snake Oil was Barry Connell’s third runner as a trainer and the five-year-old shaped with some promise on his debut. Having raced in mid division for the first circuit, he dropped back slightly to be at the head of the second group going out onto the final circuit. After jumping three out, he was nudged along and started to make headway, soon moving into fifth turning out of the back straight. He made significant headway under gentle encouragement on the long run to two out and jumped that in a share of second place, but the effort of making such a big move started to tell from that point, and he had very little left after the last, fading into sixth. This was a promising debut from Snake Oil, and a drop back in trip or a more efficient ride over around the same distance, could see him and his trainer getting off the mark in the near future.
3rd - Play The Tote Trifecta Handicap Hurdle, Wednesday 29th July
Summer Hill ran well on his return from a long break at Killarney until falling at the last and showed no ill-effects from that fall when running well again at Galway back over hurdles. After getting the better of an early battle for the lead with Bon Retour, Summer Hill remained with a clear advantage until joined by Bold Enough shortly after two out. He responded well to pressure to match that rival on the run to the last, but couldn’t hold off Bon Retour and was headed by her just before the last. He kept going well on the run-in but was passed late on by Pilbara and finished third. Summer Hill’s performance can be marked up as he jumped out to the left on many occasions, and a return to a left-handed track will clearly be more suitable for him. I think this was a strong race for the level and he can continue to be competitive off a 2lb higher mark over hurdles, or back over fences in a ratings restricted beginners chase.
Three of All The Answers’ five victories came at Galway, and he ran very well on his return after a 322-day break on his first start for Aidan Howard. Having raced enthusiastically when jumping well in midfield on the first circuit, he moved a bit closer to track the leaders towards the end of the back straight and was still travelling very well on the long run to two out. After jumping the last in third he was pushed along and he appeared to be making a race-winning move when going around the leading pair shortly before turning into the straight (hit an in-running low of 1.25). However, once coming under stronger pressure in the straight he couldn’t continue that run and faded late on to finish fifth. The impact of racing a bit keenly on his first start after a long absence told in the closing stages, but this was an encouraging return to action from All The Answers, and he can remain competitive in big-field two-mile handicap chases this season.
Absent since being well beaten when in season at Limerick in March, Moyode Gold returned with a promising run at Galway despite some poor jumping. Held up towards the rear, she appeared to race a bit lazily in the early stages and was slow at the first hurdle and then backed off the fourth, which resulted in her dropping to the back of the field. She remained in that position until being pushed along after jumping three out, making headway widest of all running down into the dip. She briefly moved into fifth before two out, but was outpaced after that hurdle and dropped back into eighth before running on after the last to get back into fifth. Moyode Gold showed last season that she isn’t a straightforward ride and cheekpieces were used on her final two starts of the season. She clearly revels in testing conditions too, so the yielding ground would have been quicker than ideal for her, suggesting a return to heavy ground, possibly with headgear on, could see Moyode Gold gain a first handicap victory.
Diamond Hill got off the mark over hurdles at last year’s Galway Festival and hadn’t run over hurdles again until finishing fourth at this year’s festival. Stepping up in trip to 2m7f, she was held up and her jumping wasn’t convincing at various stages through the race with a mistake at the first and some careless jumps early on the final circuit. She remained towards the back of the field until starting to make some headway turning out of the back straight on the final circuit. She continued to make ground travelling well going into the dip and still appeared to have plenty left going to two out, but made a mistake and landed flat-footed, costing her ground and momentum at a crucial stage. Pushed along, she plugged on into fourth, finishing 16½ lengths behind the winner. This was a promising effort from Diamond Hill after a 271-day absence and she shaped far better than the finishing position suggests, with it being notable how easily she made headway to move into a position to challenge in the closing stages. The combination of the mistake, absence and greatest test of stamina she had faced told late on, but this run suggested she could be better than her rating of 125 over a shorter distance - something Willie Mullins may look to exploit.
Annexation had gone up 17lb in two runs since joining Henry De Bromhead and continued that improvement with a good run in defeat at Galway. He raced a bit keenly behind the leading pair through the early stages and went with them leaving the back straight as they started to open up a gap on the rest of the field. Angled outside them coming out of the dip, he was nudged along to move upsides the leader entering the straight but was then headed narrowly by Facethepuckout. Annexation responded well to strong pressure and rallied back past that rival, but couldn’t hold off the late challenge of Sirjack Thomas, beaten half a length. I think Annexation raced closer than ideal to the leaders through the middle stages of the race and did well to finish as strongly as he did, while that pair dropped away very quickly late on. He’s been raised 3lb for this, but there looks to be more to come from him, possibly on a track that doesn’t have a stiff finish.