Willie Mullins aiming to maintain Galway dominance

Jarlath Farley's Dream Walker has Sunday festival feature hat-trick in sights

Willie Mullins has dominated this week's Galway festival so it's only apt he once again looks the most important figure in terms of Saturday's feature event.

The champion jumps trainer has won the €100,000 Galway Shopping Centre Handicap Hurdle three times in the last five years.

It took Rachael Blackmore and Ballyegan Hero to interrupt the bandwagon a year ago when Mullins saddled five runners.

This time he is responsible for eight of the 20 runners including Monday’s big amateur race winner Uradel.


The way he came up the hill under Aubrey McMahon earlier in the week is enough to suggest he has a first-rate chance of following up over flights – except Uradel doesn’t even appear to be Mullins’s number one contender.

Ruby Walsh has opted instead to ride the unexposed light-weight Shanning, a course winner last October who hasn't run since then.

The resultant shuffle of jockeys puts Paul Townend on Uradel while Wednesday's Plate hero Mark Enright is on board Lareena.

In possibly gluepot conditions though David Mullins, who took advantage of Walsh picking wrong on Calie Du Mesnil on Thursday, could have the ultimate solution to this puzzle through Bargy Lady.

Mullins has a runner in each of the other two National races where the newcomer Miss Chevious Girl will be the focus of a lot of attention in the bumper.

If the going is testing for National Hunt horses it promises to be a gruelling flat test which shouldn’t be a problem for Shifted Strategy.

He lines up for a maiden having run behind Premier League in a handicap here earlier in the week. However he blew his chance with a slow start on that occasion and twice ran well at the track last year on soft ground.

Apprentice Gavin Ryan’s claim cancels out a 6lb penalty Truffles picked up for winning on Tuesday although it can’t do anything for a 16 of 16 draw in the seven furlong handicap.

Wide draw

Riven Light’s big race victory on Tuesday proved a wide draw isn’t necessarily an insurmountable obstacle. But a contrasting rail position might allow the course stalwart Beau Satchel win for a fourth time at the track.

Sunday’s €100,000 feature is the Ahonoora Handicap where Dream Walker bids for three-in-a-row.

He led home a famous 1-2-3 for Brian Ellison a year ago and the Yorkshire -based trainer is pursuing his own remarkable five-in-a-row in the final day festival feature.

His 2014 and 2015 winner Baraweez is back again but once more has been done no favours with a wide draw while Be Kool is a first-reserve. Five cross-channel raiders are guaranteed a run including the lightly-raced Safe Voyage who could still be ahead of the handicapper even on a mark of 99.

Dream Walker is now with Jarlath Fahey however and proved his prowess once around Ballybrit again on Tuesday when getting to within two lengths of Riven Light despite a wide passage.

They stalwart grey has a decent draw this time and is just a 1lb higher in the rating compared to last year when managing to win from stall 14.

Half the 10 runners in Sunday’s conditions chase contested Wednesday’s Plate. The top-rated Sub Lieutenant did best of them in fifth while the fancied Saturnas was only tenth after being hampered at the sixth fence.

His stable companion Haymount made a bad mistake at the third and never figured before being pulled up. With a better round of jumping though he can prove a better proposition to some higher rated rivals now.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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