Bayan set for bold show in feature race

Co Meath handler Gordon Elliott aiming for third time lucky in €250,000 hurdle

Gordon Elliott: also runs Midnight Game in Europe’s most valuable handicap hurdle. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Gordon Elliott: also runs Midnight Game in Europe’s most valuable handicap hurdle. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 01:00

If Gordon Elliott wins today’s Guinness Galway Hurdle no one can say it will be out of turn and in Bayan the Co Meath trainer looks to have a horse with cast-iron credentials to finally land the €250,000 festival feature.

Dirar was capable of winning an Ebor on the flat but Elliott’s star dual-purpose performer twice had to settle for third in the Galway Hurdle (2010-11). The Meath handler’s Cause Of Causes would have won in another stride in 2012 as he closed in on Rebel Fitz and last year Flaxen Flare ran into Missunited carrying just 10.8, a featherweight considering she proceeded to finish third in a French Leger and an Ascot Gold Cup.

First string

Elliott also runs Midnight Game today in Europe’s most valuable handicap hurdle but Bayan looks a clear stable number one for which a lot looks to have fallen right.

John Ferguson saddles four horses – half of the total cross-channel challenge – but for many the most important of them is top-weight Purple Bay, whose inclusion leaves Bayan on 10.12 for a race in which it wasn’t hard at one stage to envisage him topping the weights.

He comes to Galway in form having won on the flat at Leopardstown earlier this month and is a proven big handicap performer having run third in last season’s Coral Cup at Cheltenham.

A winner on fast ground at Perth last year, the usual frenetic Galway Hurdle pace before the final uphill slog looks a perfect combination for Bayan.

Tony McCoy has unsurprisingly opted for Thomas Edison from JP McManus’s big-race quartet.

Tony Martin’s runner was 11th in this race last year and has been in good form on the flat recently but is plenty short enough in ante-post betting for what he’s actually achieved to date over flights.

Three other horses who ran in last year’ s hurdle are back for another go and Dermot Weld’s Hisaabaat did best of them in 2013 when fifth.

Behind him in seventh was Rawnaq who enjoyed a prolific summer. This summer has been quieter for Matthew Smith’s runner but a couple of spins on the flat should have him spot on for a return to flights. Ground conditions will be fine for him and Rawnaq has the assistance of Paul Townend.

Aidan O’Brien won the Galway Hurdle in 1997 with Toast The Spreece and last year’s winning rider Robbie Power will team up with the O’Brien trained Plinth today. Some of Plinth’s form last season ties in with the very top four-year-old hurdlers and he has a weight that could make him a formidable opponent, especially since he should like the strong early pace.

However, twist the race around anyway you like and it is hard to knock Bayan’s claims to finally secure the big pot for his trainer.

Tylers Cottage is Dermot Weld’s runner in the Beginners Chase and comes to Galway on the back of a good second to For George at Killarney.

Elegant statesman

Our Man Zebo looks another major contender but they both have to concede experience to Tony McCoy’s mount Elegant Statesman whose recent return to action at Kilbeggan was a sixth start over fences which should leave him spot-on for this assignment.

Today’s black-type feature is the Listed Corrib Stakes and the Weld runner Tested should prove hard to beat.

She won her maiden on fast ground and shaped like this seven furlongs is her ideal trip when quickly following up a Curragh Guineas run with a Listed win at Naas in early June.

Ridestan found McKinley too good here on Monday over hurdles but can follow up a previous Killarney flat success in the mile and a half handicap.

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