I have a feeling that Galway and Goodwood would jump to the top of my list of favourite racecourses, once I actually get to them. Probably for varying reasons – Glorious Goodwood would be calm, picturesque tranquillity compared with the seven day slog of frivolity that the Galway festival would bring.
As racing enthusiasts we are treated to them both next week, and I am keen to get the betting portfolio for the two meetings underway. That comes in the shape of the JP McManus-owned Carlingford Lough in the Galway Plate next Wednesday.
Already ante-post favourite at odds of 8/1 with William Hill and other major firms, he was backed into ante-post favouritism for last year’s Galway Hurdle before being balloted out of the race at the declaration stage. He went for the 2m 6f handicap hurdle two days later and won doing handstands.
Destined to be a better chaser than he is hurdler, being a half-brother to decent chasers The Tother One and Thisthatandtother, he has been expertly campaigned for a tilt at the race by trainer John Kiely – who came so close to winning it in 2011 with Wise Old Owl (for JP also.)
He is off a rating just 4lbs higher than when hacking up last year, and this will have been the plan ever since.
On his first few starts over fences his jumping lacked conviction, but on his last start at Killarney he was much more fluent. Presumably he was much more forward fitness-wise that day, which suggests he will travel and jump with the same verve as last year.
There are two worries: that the ground goes very soft, but as only showers are forecast we should escape that; and that he doesn’t make the cut again.
He is 30th on the list and the maximum field size is 22. However Rebel Fitz and Hidden Cyclone are both very doubtful, there will be others that pull out, and McManus owns three horses above him in the list which he could pull out if necessary.
The final piece in the jigsaw would be the jockey, and were AP McCoy to get the leg-up then he would be half the current price. That said, Mark Walsh has ridden him regularly, so it would be no hindrance if the champ wasn’t on board.
Galway Plate – Carlingford Lough 8/1 (generally)