Weld celebrates birthday with Galway double

JP McManus comes up trumps with first two winners

Wed, Jul 30, 2014, 06:55

Trainer Dermot Weld celebrated his 66th birthday with two winners on the second day of the Galway Races, but it was trainer Kevin Prendergast who claimed first place in the evening’s feature race.

More than 19,000 spectators watched Gary Halpin pilot winning outsider Vastonea in the Topaz Mile Handicap, the most valuable flat race of the seven-day festival, with a prize pot of €115,000 – €69,000 of which is for the winner.

The evening meetings on the Monday and Tuesday in Galway are considered to be relatively quiet affairs, free from the more boisterous goings on of Wednesday and Thursday, which is Ladies’ Day.

The crowds started to file through the gates at 3pm and as press photographers snapped any and every woman wearing a fascinator, a young man, clutching the day’s race card, dispensed tips and advice to two rapt female companions close to the entrance.

Michael Niland, from Salthill, later admitted he may not have known quite as much as he was letting on. “I haven’t actually looked at the card,” he said. “I told them, ‘Go for JP McManus if you see him’.”

It wasn’t bad advice, with the McManus owned Shield winning the first of the seven-race card race and taking the second with Jacksonlady.

Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, meanwhile, had no tips whatsoever to offer. “I haven’t even thought about horses yet,” she said early on. She was here at the pleasure of her alma mater, NUI Galway, but with the Seanad due to be recalled on Thursday to discuss the ongoing bombardment of Gaza she won’t be able to stay for the week.

“It’s looking like I’m going to miss Ladies’ Day, so that’s a bit unfortunate,” she said, swiftly adding, that “Gaza is a serious, serious issue”.

Turmoil in the Middle East and parliamentary politics were far from the mind of 10-month-old Laughlin O’Connell, from Kells, Co Meath, however, who was much more focused on trying to wriggle out of his mother’s arms.

“He’s a sociable being,” said his mum, Fiona, adding that this was his first race meeting. It might all end in tears – literally, she said. “But you have to give it a try or else you’d never do anything with kids.”

This was also her first time at the meeting in Galway. “I went to university in Galway and hated the idea of going to the Galway Races,” she said, saying the crowds and “the way Galway changes” tended to put her off.

The excesses of Wednesday, which brings with it the big race – the Galway Plate – and Thursday might be a bit much for some, but Ballybrit is certain to be packed. Eyes will inevitably be drawn to the finery on display at Thursday’s Ladies’ Day, but the focus will be on JP McManus’s Alderwood, with the Thomas Mullins-trained gelding widely tipped to win Wednesday’s feature race.

The Willie Mullins trained Away We Go is also likely to be a favourite with punters while one bookie said a heavily tipped outsider to watch out for is the Michael O’Leary-owned Balnaslow, also trained by Mullins.

The birthday boy, meanwhile, will be hoping for more success this week.

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