Willie Mullins goes all out in race for leading trainer title
Prominent businessman Luke Comer has first runner after four-month suspension
Trainer Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh after winning with Minella Beau during day three of the Galway festival. Photograph: PA Wire
Willie Mullins is pulling out the stops this weekend to repel Joseph O’Brien in their race for the Galway festival’s leading trainer award.
The champion jumps trainer could have up to 16 runners over the final two days, including potential favourites for each of the weekend’s €100,000 features.
O’Brien’s hugely successful festival was highlighted by Tigris River’s Galway Hurdle victory on Thursday, and he has 11 weekend declarations.
A noteworthy Saturday runner is Stoked in the seven furlong handicap. The horse will be Luke Comer’s first starter in over four months. The prominent businessman is free to have runners again after satisfying the Turf Club his Kilternan stables in Co Dublin meet regulatory body standards.
Comer had his trainer’s licence suspended until the end of July after a hearing earlier in the month when a referrals committee panel found he was in breach of five rules and imposed fines of €2,260.
Comer had been given a suspended six-month licence suspension in April, and fined €10,000 after refusing permission for Turf Club officials to inspect his yard the previous month.
Three inspections carried out in late May and early June revealed issues that were referred to the regulatory body.
The rules breaches were described as major, but a decision on penalties was adjourned to see if Comer’s operation could be put on a proper footing. Comer employed trainer Jim Gorman to address operational issues.
The Turf Club’s chief executive Denis Egan confirmed on Friday that Comer’s stables had been inspected recently by officials. “Everything is fine. There will be a review again in mid-November to make sure that continues to be the case.”
Comer will try to secure a first success as a trainer in almost six years when Stoked has his first start for the well-known property developer in the Ardilaun Hotel Handicap.
Gorman, the Curragh trainer brought in to sort out Comer’s yard, will hope to saddle a runner himself in the following handicap where his entry Athenry Boy is a second reserve.
Willie Mullins has a third reserve for Saturday’s €100,000 Galway Shopping Centre Handicap Hurdle, but four are guaranteed a start, including Ruby Walsh on The Crafty Butcher. Walsh’s lowest riding weight in the last year is 9.13, which is what Lagostovegas carries here.
Danny Mullins takes the spin on a mare who was pulled up in her sole hurdles start for Mullins at Killarney, but ran a fine third in Monday evening’s big amateur race.
Riven Light won Tuesday’s big mile event for Mullins, and drops a furlong for Sunday’s Ahonoora Handicap. However, he is drawn wide in 15 of 16.
The British pair Baraweez and Dream Walker have dominated this race for the last three years, but in stall one the course and distance winner Tithonus could continue his rapid progress up the ratings.