With just two days to the start of the 2014 Galway festival, ground conditions are near-perfect at the Ballybrit track although a mostly dry weather outlook for the week ahead means the potential need for some watering can't be ruled out.
The National Hunt course was officially “good” yesterday with the flat track “good to yielding” as Galway basked in sunshine that could also appear well into next week.
That may provoke a mixed response from trainers ahead of the seven-day extravaganza which has over €2 million in prize money up for grabs and is likely to see almost €12 million bet on-track. However officials are not jumping the gun in terms of the likely going.
“It is 27 degrees here today but we are being told we could get some heavy showers overnight. We were told the same thing about last night and we only got 3mms while out the country got some really heavy bursts. So it’s hard to say,” said the Galway manager,
“Next week is supposed to be generally dry with very little rain, just some light showers here and there,” he added.
“We will play it by ear with watering. If we have to, we will. But there’s no getting excited about it yet.”
What a festival attendance – forecast to reach near the 150,000 for the week – can get excited about however is an increasing Anglo-Irish element to Galway with Moloney reporting “stacks” of cross-channel raiders contemplating raids west of the Shannon.
Yorkshire-based Brian Ellison is preparing for a tilt at Monday's big amateur prize with Pride Of Newyork and could also have runners in both Tuesday's Topaz Mile and Friday's €100,000 Guinness Handicap.
There will be plenty of interest in John Ferguson’s plans for Thursday’s €250,000 Galway Hurdle as the trainer based near Newmarket is teasing out options for four possible runners, including the current topweight, Purple Bay.
t One horse missing from the Galway Hurdle however will be the ante-post favourite Pique Sous. The Willie Mullins-trained grey was ruled out for the season yesterday.
Most interest of all however will inevitably fall on Dermot Weld with some bookmakers making a tally of 14 to 16 winners their 7-4 favourite as a likely outcome for the perennial leading trainer at Galway.
Weld has just the single runner at Ireland’s only weekend fixture in Wexford this afternoon and Juddmonte’s Renown is making his debut in a maiden that also contains the Aga Khan-owned Sindarban.
Considering this one blew the start on his own Navan debut and then didn't get a clear run a furlong out, Sindarban looked to do well to finish runner-up to The Big Cat, a place ahead of the 77-rated Hurricane Volta.
An Fear Cuin wasn't well away on his previous start at Killarney but ran on well to be third to Rayna, and with a first-time visor on, shouldn't be far away at the end of the first of the handicaps.
Both Ana and Donnacadh O'Brien will be in action in an apprentice handicap that could see the in-form Ballinrobe winner Hangar Five successfully follow up while Celestial Fable looks the one in the opener provided ground conditions aren't too quick.