Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

Our Irish expert Tony Keenan reviews the Galway Plate and Hurdle and looks for pointers for later in the year

  • Wednesday 07 August
  • Blog
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The Galway Plate and Hurdle were contrasting races in terms of pace, the former run at a strong but even gallop, the latter anything but and that might be the defining factor when considering the worth of the form of both contests.

A pair of UK-trained runners, Azzuri and Black Corton, the first of whom is typically a pace-setter over shorter, ensured the Plate was a test, and Black Corton deserves plenty of credit not only for that but also how other aspects of his race went.

Bryony Frost always wanted to lead on her mount but she was caught a bit further back than ideal at the start and had to use energy to get to the lead which isn’t an easy task over the first in the Plate; Ruby Walsh has described that dash to opening fence in front of packed stands as ‘a game of chicken’ where none of the riders on the prominent racers want to blink first.

Nor was Black Corton helped by the presence of a loose horse in the finish, this coming after he had beaten off the other front-runners, and it must go down as a career-best, 160-type effort, a level of form he hadn’t achieved before.

Borice was a big winner for Gordon Elliott in more ways than one, his first major win since Gigginstown announced they would be withdrawing from national hunt racing on a phased basis over the next five years.

It was a likeable performance from a horse that should have no issue stepping back up to three miles, a trip over which there are many valuable prizes, and could be a non-Gigginstown headline horse for him at a time when he faces the difficult balancing act of managing their horses while also building for life without them.

Another horse that could prove useful for Elliott for races like the Kerry and Munster Nationals is the Plate fifth Ravenhill. The Plate was a messy race in some ways and Ravenhill proved a magnet for trouble, hampered by the departures of both Poker Party and Movewiththetimes, which in turn impacted his jumping.

Though a nine-year-old, he has very little chase experience, this just his fourth run over fences, and he looks up to winning off 136 while it is also worth mentioning the horse that finished just behind him on his previous start, Mindsmadeup, had looked like a big runner in the Blazers on Friday before being taken out with lameness. He seems to have improved a lot for joining the Matthew Smith yard.

The Galway Hurdle produced the time-figure of a run-of-the-mill handicap rather than a high-class one with a finishing speed percentage of 111.5% per Timeform; quite simply, it was a dawdle early and then a sprint.

Theoretically that would suit front-runners as they are in the right place but the winner Tudor City came from off the pace and perhaps wants upgrading but against that he was one of the speed horses in the race, a ten-furlong horse off the flat, and I had him down as a mile and six hurdler that didn’t really get home, his trainer commenting afterwards that it has only really been this season that he is finishing out his races.

If there was an unlucky horse in the race it looked the fourth Davids Charm. A slowly-run race was against him and while he had a decent early position, he lost out in some barging between Chosen Mate and Gardens Of Babylon heading out on the final circuit which meant he had to come from further back than ideal.

Things have not gone his way recently. He was held up in another slowly-run race at Cork in June when running on well late before meeting trouble when third in a flat handicap at the Curragh over Derby weekend. He’ll need things to fall right but has a good race in him if they do.


Much of the post-Galway analysis these days seems to be about finding the next one and there are numerous candidates from the novice hurdles, bumpers and flat maidens that are plentiful across the seven days.

It’s the last group I’m looking at for my pick, the Jessica Harrington-trained juvenile filly Alpine Star. The trainer had intimated before the meeting that Chasing The Dawn might be the pick of her two-year-old fillies going to Galway and she ran that one in the better race, the fillies maiden on Tuesday, whereas Alpine Star ‘only’ ran in a median auction maiden on Friday.

But Alpine Star posted a big effort in that race beating the colts and geldings, showing early pace to get away quickly from a wide draw, settling the race with ease up the hill and looking strong through the line.

The race produced a good time-figure while her closing sectional was the fastest on the card by some margin, so it looks a case on onwards and upwards for the half-sister to Alpha Centauri.


It would be remiss not to mention the record-equalling One Cool Poet here, a three-time winner in five days having managed just one in the five years previous, the track having a transformative effect on the seemingly exposed handicapper.

Overall, it was a good year for horses doubling up at the meeting with four horses managing to do so, the highest total going back in recent years going back to 2003.

In that period there have been 20 dual (or treble winners) at the meeting though it is worth pointing out that they generally struggled in their subsequent starts, as a group managing 6 wins from 47 starts over the rest of that calendar year.

Some did come back and win at the meeting again, My Valley and Rock Critic the following year, Maundy Money, Kalellshan and Fit The Cove some years afterwards, but I doubt what will happen in the near future to One Cool Poet (or Linger or Make A Challenge or Ilikedwayurthinkin) will bother connections for the moment with the week they are after having.

Tony Keenan's Irish Angle
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