Willie Mullins looking to bridge 10-year gap with Galway Plate success

Paul Townend has decided to ride last year’s runner-up Royal Rendezvous

Willie Mullins’s last win in the Galway Plate came in 2011 when Paul Townend won on Blazing Tempo. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Willie Mullins’s last win in the Galway Plate came in 2011 when Paul Townend won on Blazing Tempo. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Willie Mullins fires six shots at Wednesday’s Tote Galway Plate as he tries to bridge a 10-year gap to his only previous success in the summer’s most coveted steeplechase prize.

Blazing Tempo in 2011 remains the champion trainer’s sole victory in the €250,000 Ballybrit highlight.

Since then it has been a rare run of frustration with Mullins finishing runner-up in five of the last six years including 2020 when Royal Rendezvous came up just short of Early Doors.

If it hardly represents a sporting ‘famine’ along the lines of Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a Premier League title it is still a noteworthy gap for jump racing’s dominant figure over the last decade.

The Rich Ricci colours carried by Blazing Tempo are on four of the Mullins runners on Wednesday including the lightly-weighted Koshari.

He is rated lower over fences than when landing a valuable handicap at the Punchestown festival, so with first-time headgear also in the mix looks to hold a first-rate chance on the book.

Whether his old jumping failings re-emerge in his first chase start since finishing out of the money in the 2018 Plate is a query that Paul Townend for one reckons is pressing enough to desert Koshari.

Instead the champion jockey is sticking with Royal Rendezvous in an attempt to go one better than last year when the runner-up looked slightly unlucky after meeting interference after the last.

Royal Rendezvous is a year older now, 7lbs higher in the ratings and faces a mountain to climb statistically since only one horse in the last 20 years has carried more than 11st to victory.

However, he did warm up with a hurdles success in May and his proven liking for the course is always a plus around Galway.

In contrast to Mullins, JP McManus has notched three of his seven Plate victories in the last 10 years and this time has five chances.

The Shunter has dominated the ante-post betting after a hugely lucrative campaign last season which included Cheltenham festival success,

Jordan Gainford rode him on that occasion but he uses his valuable 5lb claim on the topweight Samcro. Instead Simon Torrens is reunited The Shunter who he rode once before over flights.

McManus’s No 1 rider Mark Walsh will bid for a third Plate success on Top Moon, who comes here on the back of a smooth victory at Wexford last time. Off You Go looks another McManus hope with a major chance.

Henry de Bromhead has landed the Plate twice in the last six years and with Rachael Blackmore injured, the Waterford trainer has turned to Aidan Coleman for the ride on one of the bottom-weights, Somptueux. De Bromhead also runs Visioman.

Two of the three Gigginstown hopes, Samcro and Battleoverdoyen, bring proven Grade One-winning credentials to the race. Royal Rendezvous has never got to that level but may prove good enough to go one better than 2020.

The Mullins team also look to have excellent chances on the first day of jumps action at Galway with the novices Dark Voyager and Lasparas.

Potentially up to 10mm of overnight rain could have an impact on Galway’s National Hunt going but it is unlikely to replicate the testing Flat conditions for Goodwood’s feature on Wednesday, the Qatar Sussex Stakes.

The going will be very different to what Poetic Flare won the English Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes on but Jim Bolger’s star is favourite to pull off a mile hat-trick last completed by Frankel 10 years ago. Poetic Flare’s sire Dawn Approach just failed to do the same in 2013.

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