Cheltenham Festival hero Band Of Outlaws bids to provide Joseph O’Brien with his second victory in Thursday’s Guinness Galway Hurdle.
The four-year-old became the trainer’s first official winner at the showpiece meeting at Prestbury Park in March when running out an impressive winner of the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle.
He went on to finish fifth at Grade One level at Aintree before being touched off by Thomas Hobson on his return from a break in the Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary four weeks ago.
O’Brien, who saddled Tigris River to win the Galway Hurdle two years ago, is also represented by Gardens Of Babylon, who is fitted with blinkers for what will be his first outing over hurdles since winning at the Punchestown Festival in early May.
“Band Of Outlaws had a nice prep run in Tipperary and has been in good form since,” said the Piltown maestro.
“He has form on goodish and slowish ground, and they usually do a good job in Galway and it’s always very safe.
“The experience of running in a big field handicap at Cheltenham should stand to him, and the faster they go, the better for him.
“Gardens Of Babylon had a nice prep run in Killarney, and will also go there with a good chance.”
Willie Mullins claimed his third Galway Hurdle with Sharjah 12 months ago, and this year launches a four-pronged assault.
Paul Townend has sided with recent Killarney winner Shanning, with Danny Mullins on board Riven Light, who has won the BMW Mile at the last two Galway Festivals and has his first run over hurdles since April 2017.
David Mullins takes the ride on Sayo – not seen since finishing third in the 2018 Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham – with 7lb claimer Conor McNamara booked to ride talented dual-purpose performer Stratum.
Mullins’ assistant, David Casey, said: “Shanning won well in Killarney the other day. She’s won at the track and ran well at this meeting last year in the longer race when she was a bit too keen. Coming back to two miles will hopefully suit her better and hopefully she’ll run a big race.
“Sayo will be having his first run in a long time and it might be tough for him. Hopefully he’ll run well, but he might just need it.
“Stratum ran a couple of good races over hurdles in the spring and had a run in the Northumberland Plate. He’s a winner at the track and I think he’s got a chance, especially taking 7lb off his back.
“Riven Light is having his first run over hurdles in a long time, but if he stays the trip and his jumping stands up to it, then he could run well. He obviously likes Galway, so fingers crossed.”
Gordon Elliott runs Chosen Mate (Davy Russell) and Tombstone (Rachael Blackmore) as he goes in search of his first Galway Hurdle success.
He said: “Chosen Mate looks like he’s in good form and he has graded form. We said after Aintree we’d give him a break and bring him back for a Galway Hurdle, that’s always been the plan.
“Tombstone, on his best form he’d have a chance, but he’s a bit hot and cold.”
John McConnell feels Play The Game (Donal McInerney) and Pearl Of The West (Sean Flanagan) are both lively outsiders.
He said: “Pearl Of The West won a good Flat handicap there (Galway) as a three-year-old for Pat Fahy, so she likes the track.
“The pace of the race should suit her and she’s a good jumper. If things go according to plan and she gets a clear run, she should be competitive.
“There might be a little bit of room in Play The Game’s mark still, we think. He’s 95 on the Flat and 136 now over hurdles.
“Obviously it’s going to be very competitive.”
Other hopefuls include Norman Lee’s Sole Pretender (Jonathan Burke) and John Walsh’s Davids Charm (Phillip Enright).