John Quinn expressed relief and anticipation in equal measure after Project Bluebook narrowly made the cut for the Guinness Galway Hurdle on Thursday.
The JP McManus-owned five-year-old scraped in at the bottom of the weights for the big race on day four of the Galway Festival, but his trainer is nonetheless expectant of a big performance.
Project Bluebook finished a creditable sixth in the Galway Hurdle 12 months ago, but now runs off a lower mark and will also have the assistance of Brian Hughes.
North Yorkshire-based Quinn said: “He’s in good form and it’s great that he got into the race.
“Last year he was running as a novice, but he ran a good old race in spite of that.
“He’s now an older horse and knows what the game is about a bit more, so that should stand him in good stead.
“I’m pleased with him and it’s very handy that Brian is riding as he knows him well.
“We’re really looking forward to it.”
Bedrock, trained by Iain Jardine, and Dr Richard Newland’s Leoncavallo are the other British challengers in the 20-runner field.
McManus won the race last year with Tigris River, who bids for the double for Joseph O’Brien.
O’Brien also saddles fellow McManus runners Le Richebourg, Ivanovich Gorbatov, Monarch and Plinth.
McManus’ nine-strong team is completed by Jessica Harrington’s Don’t Touch It, the Gavin Cromwell-trained Jer’s Girl and Blazer, from the yard of Willie Mullins.
Mullins holds a formidable hand, with the in-form County Carlow handler also responsible for top weight Sharjah, Max Dynamite – the mount of Ruby Walsh – and the hat-trick-seeking duo of Good Thyne Tara and Voix Du Reve.
But perhaps Mullins’ most potent attacking force in the Galway Hurdle is Grade One-winning hurdler Whiskey Sour, a fine fifth in the Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting in June.
Patrick Mullins, the trainer’s son and assistant, told At The Races: “Whiskey Sour won two races in Galway last year, so he obviously likes the track and course form around Galway is so important.
“He’s a horse who had Grade One form from the winter and also ran very well in the County Hurdle.
“The only worry is he’s not a big horse – he’s quite a small and compact Flat horse – and he’s got a lot of weight.
“That would be the concern.”
Davids Charm won a valuable handicap hurdle at Galway last year and is an interesting runner for Cork handler John Joe Walsh.
Walsh said: “It’s a close handicap, but he should run well.
“He was very green (at Galway) last year, but he got up the hill well and the fact he can act at a fairly tough track like Galway is a good thing.
“He had been off for a while, but he’s had a few runs on the Flat and that will have sharpened him up.
“The slower the ground, the better his chance, but we’d still expect him to be there or thereabouts.”
Connections of Ted Veale, On The Go Again and Top Othe Ra face an anxious wait as they have been named the respective three reserves.