Irish Derby third Festive Cheer hard to oppose in Galway’s finale

Jim Bolger’s Teoirim fancied to land the feature Guinness Handicap

This evening's €100,000 Guinness Race may be the big money pot but the most intriguing Galway contest is surely the six-runner finale where last year's Irish Derby third Festive Cheer can prove that class can be permanent.

Festive Cheer is faced with the 100-rated mare in Shu Lewis whose credentials for a mile and six need no further advertising than the three-parts of a length she ran Missunited to in the Saval Beg in June.

It is Dermot Weld’s bumper winner Forgotten Rules, however, that is a real unknown. He could hardly have won his sole start any easier at Punchestown and the Moyglare-owned runner holds entries in both the upcoming Ballyroan Stakes and next month’s Irish Leger.

That’s ambitious stuff for a horse that’s only won a bumper and tonight’s race will be a real test of those aspirations.

Festive Cheer has run just twice since chasing home Trading Leather in last year’s Derby. A run at Meydan in March fizzled out and he was notably weak in the market when reappearing in the recent Meld Stakes.

Remote last

Festive Cheer

eventually finished a remote last of four but it was only at the furlong pole he started to fade and the half mile step-up in trip should surely suit the son of Montjeu. He, too, holds an Irish Leger entry and if Forgotten Rules can beat Aidan O’Brien’s runner, then those that tried to take on the Weld horse in a bumper might be able to argue about competition law!

Weld and O’Brien will also be at the forefront of consideration for the mile-and-a-half maiden and punters could pounce on how Weld’s Massinga holds a Group entry next week. The Selkirk filly did a lot wrong on her Roscommon debut in June but finished well and takes a significant hike in trip for this task.

Ballydoyle's Falkirk hasn't been seen since Gowran in April when runner-up to a Weld runner but both could get trumped by the John Oxx hope, Awesome Star, who looked desperately green for much of his own Curragh debut a couple of weeks ago until running on encouragingly once the penny started to drop in the closing stages. As a son of Sea The Stars, the step-up to a mile and a half can't hurt his chance either.

The big-race weights are topped by El Salvador but Aidan O’Brien’s son Donnacadh takes off 10lb which could bring him right into the equation.

Will centre

Most focus, though, will centre on the prolific Panama Hat, a winner off 60 back in June and who, four wins later, is now on an official mark of 96. Andy Oliver’s runner is 16lb higher for his last win at Naas where he had Jim Bolger’s Teoirim three and a half lengths back in fourth.

Teoirim has since sluiced up over 10 furlongs at Fairyhouse though and Bolger clearly has no problem taking another crack at the in-form three-year-old.

Bleu Ciel Et Rouge failed by only a nose on her Bellewstown debut and will be a popular fancy in the juvenile maiden as will her stable companion Keyboard Melody whose three starts to date have come at sprint distances but has first-time blinkers to help him on his first try at a mile in the three-year-old handicap.

The form of Bashful Beauty's recent Wexford win got boosted on Wednesday by Cacheofgold and Adrian Heskin's mount is still at the right end of the weights in the opening handicap hurdle.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column