Royal Rendezvous goes one better to land Galway Plate glory

Paul Townend steers last year’s second to an impressive victory for Willie Mullins

Royal Rendezvous and Paul Townend (R) hold off Easy Game en-route to victory in the Galway Plate. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Royal Rendezvous and Paul Townend (R) hold off Easy Game en-route to victory in the Galway Plate. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

 

Last year’s runner up Royal Rendezvous went one better in style to secure Tote Galway Plate glory on Wednesday evening.

Under jockey Paul Townend the 5-1 favourite led home a Willie Mullins one-two and beat his stable companion Easy Game by a length with the 20-1 shot Modus in third.

It was a second Plate for Mullins and Townend who struck 10 years previously with Blazing Tempo.

The champion trainer had half a dozen in the field but despite support for Koshari and Annamix, both Mullins and Townend were happy that Royal Rendezvous was the stable’s No 1 hope.

That was despite the horse being rated 7lbs higher in the handicap compared to a year previously when narrowly beaten by Early Doors, as well as having to carry 11-4 in a race where no horse had carried more than 11st to success in 16 years.

Townend had been left cursing his luck in 2020 after meeting interference on the run-in but despite the big weight appeared determined to keep fortune out of the equation, making much of the running in the €250,000 feature.

Royal Rendezvous was flamboyant in front and even an error at the second last couldn’t prevent his decisive momentum up the final punishing hill.

This time it was Easy Game’s jockey Bryan Cooper who was left wondering ‘what if’ as he lost his whip over a furlong out and still closed all the way to the line.

“He had 7lbs more than last year but he looked a stone better this time,” Mullins said of the winner.

Paul Townend celebrates his victory on board Royal Rendezvous. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Paul Townend celebrates his victory on board Royal Rendezvous. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

“The dapples in his coat, he was like a horse getting ready for the Dublin Horse Show rather than coming here. He was blooming in front of me. He just looked a picture and I was counting down the days and hoping we might have a bit of luck.

“Paul said his jumping kept gaining him a length or two over his fences and he was able to pull him back and get a breath of air into him after each one so he had enough in reserve,” he added.

Townend reported: “His jumping was unreal. If I didn’t wing the last I might have struggled to get going again up the hill and that’s what cost me a little bit last year.

“I was looking for jumps in the dip and when I jumped the first of them I was thinking ‘Oh no, is this going to be like last year again.’

“(But) I jumped the second of them really well and that momentum kind of got me up around the bend until we straightened up to fully commit.”

Royal Rendezvous was a well backed favourite despite two of his stable companions failing to fire as market leaders in the previous two races.

Dark Voyager was third to Annie G in a novice hurdle but the odds-on Lasparas was only 12th in the following maiden behind Desir Du Large.

Faith in the Mullins No 1 hope for the big race was unwavering however as he brought to an end a frustrating run of near-misses for the champion trainer who had finished runner up in five of the previous Plate renewals.

Henry De Bromhead’s two runners made no impression in the big race but the trainer still managed to add to Annie G’s victory when Abbey Magic edged out the 50-1 outsider Benefit Run in a later handicap chase.

The Co Galway based team of Paul and Jack Gilligan enjoyed a popular local victory as Shanwalla edged out Molly Wedger in a close finish to a handicap hurdle.

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