Borice keeps up Gordon Elliott’s Galway Plate domination
Trainer wins race for third time in four years as English rider Bryony Frost has to settle for second
Trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Luke Dempsey celebrate winning the Galway Plate with Borice. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Those keeping faith with the long-time ante-post favourite Borice got rewarded with a thrilling Tote Galway Plate success at Ballybrit on Wednesday evening.
The Luke Dempsey-ridden winner gave trainer Gordon Elliott a third victory in four years in the €300,000 highlight in front of an official 16,634 attendance.
Popular English jockey Bryony Frost had to settle for the runner-up spot in her first ride at the track as Borice eventually proved over three lengths too good for the gallant topweight Black Corton.
His chance wasn’t helped by a loose horse in the closing stages but ultimately Borice overcame everything to justify the confidence that last week saw him backed down to ante-post favouritism.
On the day, however, Elliott’s runner drifted in the face of sustained support for JP McManus’s Movingwiththetimes and Snugsborough Benny, who started 8-1 joint-favourites.
The former, who had been second reserve at Monday’s 48-hour declaration stage, fell six out. Snugsborough Benny plugged on to be third while another of the higher weights, Peregrine Run, was fourth.
It was the biggest success of 23-year-old Dempsey’s career.
“Gordon has been good to me over the years and it’s great to repay him with a big win,” Dempsey said. “The Plate is a massive race and it’s not easy to even rides in these races. It’s what you get up in the mornings for.”
Elliott admitted he had been worried about the ground drying out but saw his confidence that a big handicap was in Borice get vindicated in style.
“I thought it was too dry for him and I was ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ about whether to run him,” he said.
“This has been a lucky race for us. We thought he was [our leading contender] all along. He was paper favourite this morning, but obviously drifted a bit with the ground,” added Elliott who nominated the Aintree National as Borice’s long-term target.
Frost admitted the loose Poker Party, who’d exited at the second, didn’t help her chance but Black Corton’s trainer Paul Nicholls was delighted and said: “It’s not easy carrying that weight in these races and he’s run a blinding race.”
This year’s Plate once again saw racing’s reserve system come under the microscope after Some Neck’s withdrawal from the race was referred to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board by the stewards for further investigation.
For the first time 48-hour declarations were used. Both the Mullins trained-Rich Ricci owned Some Neck, and JP McManus’s Drumcliff, were taken out before Tuesday’s 10am deadline due to ‘clerical error’ and a ‘temperature’ respectively.
They were replaced by two reserves, Pylonthepressure, representing Mullins and Ricci, and the gambled-on Movewiththetimes.
Mullins appeared before Wednesday’s stewards who referred the matter to IHRB headquarters.
“I don’t know why. I’m surprised. There was a bit of confusion about the excuse but I’m disappointed it has come up again,” Mullins said.
“It’s a very straightforward thing. Owners put a lot of money into this game and it’s a big race. We’ll have to see what the outcome of the enquiry is,” he added.
Mullins was out of luck in the big race but saddled a cross-code double.
Diamond Hill gave owner Annette Mee a third winner of the week when breaking her duck over flights in the opening maiden hurdle.
Later Buildmeupbuttercup justified 1-2 odds with a minimum of fuss in the amateur riders’ maiden.
“We’ll see how she comes out before deciding whether she runs again here on Friday,” Mullins said of the latter. “If she’s sound we’ll be keen enough to run.”
McManus’s well-backed 2-1 favourite Ilikedwayurthinkin ran out an easy winner of a handicap hurdle.
It was a first win in six starts for the horse who made headlines last December after finishing an eye-catching fifth at Fairyhouse.
That performance forced the IHRB into defending the decision by the stewards on the day not to hold an enquiry.
Ilikedwayurthinkin didn’t cut much ice on a subsequent run in March but looked a different proposition here, quickening before the last to win under claimer Darragh O’Keeffe.
“He’s had plenty of problems as a young horse and was very sore after Fairyhouse. The break did him good,” said the winner’s trainer Gavin Cromwell.
Jessica Harrington’s 7-2 favourite Tauran Shaman just got the better of a titanic finish with Insane Bolt to make it two wins from two career starts in the mile handicap.
Harrington’s Conron was one of the favourites for the final two mile handicap but Robbie Colgan’s front-running tactics on Upgraded proved successful.
– The worrying slide in attendance for the Galway Plate fixture in recent years continued on a sunny Wednesday evening at Ballybrit with an official 16,634 crowd figure down almost 300 on 2018.
It was the second year Irish racing’s steeplechase feature has been run as part of an evening programme. There was also a €50,000 boost to the Plate’s prize-fund.
Tote betting slipped on Wednesday to €687,536 from last year’s €776,109. However bookmaker turnover increased to €1,021,969 from 2018’s tally of €881,296.