Gordon Elliott chases more big-race glory in Galway

Galway preview: Galvin heads trainer’s handful of runners in Tote Galway Plate

Galvin ridden by Aubry McMahon. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Galvin ridden by Aubry McMahon. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

The Tote Galway Plate dominates the return of National Hunt action to this week’s festival in Ballybrit, and that could be Gordon Elliott’s cue to secure more big-race glory.

The trainer has dominated the summer’s most coveted steeplechase prize with three Plate victories in the last four years.

Admittedly none of the three winners have been favourite and Clarcam’s 33-1 rout in 2018 was a “skinner” for bookmakers.

But in the unique circumstances of a behind-closed-doors Galway, many punters tuning into Wednesday evening’s big race – shown live by RTÉ2 at 6.45pm – will still seek reassurance in Elliott’s handful of runners.

They include one of the topweights, The Storyteller, as well as The Big Lense, one of four JP McManus-owned hopefuls, at the other end of the ratings.

However there appears little doubt that the combination of Galvin and Davy Russell is the stable’s number one hope.

That’s something bookmakers are well aware of, and Galvin has been top of ante-post lists in the run-up to the first major €200,000 pot of the week.

However, even those who habitually avoid favourites in big handicaps might conclude that opposing Galvin on this occasion might prove an expensive prejudice.

Trainer Gordon Elliott has dominated the summer’s most coveted steeplechase prize with three Plate victories in the last four years. Photograph: Alan Betson
Trainer Gordon Elliott has dominated the summer’s most coveted steeplechase prize with three Plate victories in the last four years. Photograph: Alan Betson

High-class over hurdles, his first start over fences at Galway last October wasn’t encouraging when he fell at the fourth-last behind his stable companion Battleoverdoyen.

Two other starts hardly set the world on fire either, but when Galvin pitched up for a handicap at the Cheltenham Festival in March he looked a very different proposition.

Considering how much went wrong in that Northern Trust Chase, between a mistake at the first and meeting interference, Galvin did well to chase home the very decent Imperial Aura.

The progressive six-year-old warmed up for the Plate with a smooth first win over fences at Killarney earlier this month.

Versatile

Galvin looks to have a reasonable weight to carry off 11st and is versatile in terms of ground, which might be important with up to 12mm of rain forecast for Wednesday afternoon.

Admittedly it is 14 years since the winner of the Galway Plate carried 11st or more. But it’s a stretch to dismiss Galvin just on the basis that he’s set to carry 1lb more than Clarcam did.

Those in thrall to the 11st trend, however, have 14 of the 22 runners to pick from, with Rachael Blackmore likely to fancy her chances on one of them, Spyglass Hill.

No woman has ridden the Plate winner since Sarah Collen’s breakthrough victory on Bold Flyer 31 years ago. However, Spyglass Hill has plenty going for him, not least of which is his trainer’s record in the race.

In fact, over the last five years when Elliott hasn’t won it, then Henry De Bromhead has.

The Co Waterford trainer also has Sub Lieutenant in the line-up which means that, with Willie Mullins’s half-dozen runners, as well as Joseph O’Brien’s trio, the top four jumps yards in the country are responsible for 16 of the field.

Opposing such strength in depth will be a major task for last year’s third, Snugsborough Benny, and the admirable Peregrine Run, who is also lumbered with topweight.

However, Elliott’s Plate record in recent years is hard to argue with, and Galvin, one of the youngest in the race, could be ahead of the handicapper. The same might also be apply for Upgraded in an earlier handicap hurdle, despite a 12lb hike for winning at Bellewstown.

Tony Martin’s mare still sneaks in on 10.6 which looks exploitable for a horse that won on the flat at last year’s festival and could hardly have been more impressive last time out.

That appeared to be a surprise judged by her 28-1 SP, but the Tony Martin team can get a timely boost here ahead of Tudor City’s attempt to win the Galway Hurdle back-to-back a day later.

The champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins has a dozen runners in all on Wednesday and can get the day off to a positive start with the mare Getaway Gorgeous, who gets a lot of weight from Elliott’s The Very Man.

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