Paul Townend previews Galway Festival & Leading Rider hopes
Looking straight to the Galway Plate, Easy Game and Royal Rendezvous look the two standout horses for us.
Easy Game brings great Grade 1 form from last year beating Allaho in a Beginners Chase and then running Faugheen so close at the Dublin Racing Festival. He has plenty of weight with 11-6, so that won’t make his task any easier, but he has it for a reason.
Royal Rendezvous has a lovely racing weight of 10-12. He ran in a couple of the good two-mile Grade 1’s last year without featuring but the mark he’s off could be workable and my choice is probably between the two of them right now.
The two of them are both winners around Galway which is a big plus as well.
In the Galway Hurdle, I have a choice between Aramon who was obviously very impressive at Tipperary. That surprised us a little bit in terms of the way he won. He had a great run at Cheltenham behind Saint Roi as well but it’s very hard to see him winning with all the weight off a mark of 155. It looks a hard task and I’m not sure he’s ever won going right-handed, albeit he hasn’t tried too many times either.
Buildmeupbuttercup always runs a good race in these big handicaps. She’s a course winner on the flat last year and she has a nice racing weight, but probably isn’t the strongest of finishers in the world which isn’t ideal for Galway. You’d be hoping for a bit of luck and you’d imagine all things going well you’d have a chance going down to the last and see what happens after that.
Canardier has had one run for us. He was running a cracker when he fell at the last at Cheltenham and he could be open to a little bit of improvement. He is probably the least proven of ours going into the race.
I rode Shanning in the race last year. I fancied her for that race but she didn’t get a clear run that day so we will give it another go this year.
Between the four of them, I still haven’t made up my mind as to who I will ride. We don’t have to decide for a couple of days so will probably leave it until the last minute and factor in the weather, ground and all things like that.
We have a nice horse for a maiden hurdle in N’Golo. He came from France and will start off his hurdling career at Galway. We have Bon Retour who has a mark of 121 and coming from France as well. I don’t know if she will go for a maiden or a handicap at Galway yet, but we like her.
The other handicaps are all still up in the air, but we have a big team going there and we hope to bring home some of the prizes anyway.
It would be nice to win Leading Rider at the Galway Festival and I know they’ve put up a good prize for it. When you’re winning those titles it means all is going well so naturally everyone wants to win it.
I’m expecting it to be even more competitive this year with everything that’s gone on, missing Fairyhouse and Punchestown, and most of us have really been targeting Galway. I suppose Davy Russell, Rachael Blackmore, Robbie Power and Mark Walsh will be my big competition and will have big teams behind them. Sean Flanagan was having a great season but unfortunately got injured the other day.
It will be a strange week as Galway is known for the atmosphere but once you get up on the horse and out on the track you don’t see or hear that so the racing itself will be as competitive as ever. We can’t complain as we are lucky to be there.