No one would believe it, but I’ve had just five rides at the
Galway festival in the past four years. And they were over two and a-bit-days 12
months ago. My bad run with injuries has been well documented but I’m in good
shape ahead of next week. And I’m looking forward to it.
I’ve had plenty of luck at the September and October
meetings at Ballybrit but just never got the chance at the summer festival. I
missed the 2013 festival with a broken left leg, I was out of action the
following year with a broken right leg and sat out the 2015 festival with a
dislocated thumb that took an age to come right.
I even missed the first day last year but got to ride on the
Tuesday and Wednesday. I took a bad enough spill from Tiger Roll in the second
race on the Thursday and that cost me another five weeks on the sidelines.
Last season all but took off without me. I broke my arm at
Fairyhouse in early October but was back in time to ride Apple’s Jade to win
the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse and then Petit Mouchoir in the
Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas festival. Two days after
that I did my pelvis at Punchestown on New Year's Eve.
But I had a great second half. I won the Ryanair Gold Cup at
Fairyhouse on Road To Respect and then had three more Grade 1 winners at
Punchestown, Disko for Noel Meade and Champagne Classic and Apple’s Jade again
for Gordon Elliott. All for Gigginstown, which was brilliant.
I haven’t been that busy of late and was able to get away to
Greece for ten days earlier in the month. I’ll be at both Limerick on Thursday
and Wexford on Friday and then it’s Galway all the way. I’ve only ever ridden
two winners at the festival. The first was Banna Man for Thomond O’Mara back in
2010 and the other was Sarteano for Dessie Hughes the following year. I was
still claiming 3lbs then!
And now surely, I’ll get the chance to add to that. It’s a
funny week though. There are plenty of Flat races and the amateurs get loads of
chances too. But the jumps jockeys are well looked after and have the Plate and
the Galway Hurdle to look forward to in the middle of the week. Any horse we
run will be going there with a good chance.
We have won the Plate for two of the past three years. It’s
no surprise that Gigginstown has ten entries in the race on Wednesday. Michael goes
for that staying type of horse. I’ll have quite a choice to make as regards to
what I ride in the race but it’s a good position to be in.
I have a fair idea of what I will go for but I won’t fully
make up my mind until next Tuesday morning after the declarations are made. I’m
under no pressure from anyone. We will see what the weather brings to start
with. I went for Road To Riches last year but unfortunately that didn’t go so
well. He had won the race in 2014 and went on to be a Grade 1 winner but he lost
his confidence after an early mistake and that was the end of it really. He
likes to get things his own way and that wasn’t his day.
My ride in the Plate will almost certainly come from the top
four or five we have in the weights. The bookmakers look to fancy the chances
of Balko Des Flos and it’s easy to see why. Novices have a good record in the
race and he had a good run in a valuable handicap chase at the Punchestown
festival. That experience will certainly stand to him. He has a nice weight at
the moment and if he can put the fall in the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase at
Cheltenham behind him, he certainly has a chance.
Lord Scoundrel won the race last year but he was a bit
disappointing in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in April. I sat on him
in Gordon Elliott’s yesterday and he’s fresh and well. He had a light
enough weight last year but that’s certainly not the case this time around.
The Game Changer is Gigginstown’s only entry in the Guinness
Galway Hurdle. He has been a great servant and finished third in this race
behind Thomas Edison three years ago. Running in Grade 1s over fences has been
a struggle for him but on good ground in this company, you would never know. We
wouldn’t have many two mile hurdlers.
But we have some nice novices and hopefully a few of them
will make the trip next week. Clara Sorrento might run in the novice hurdle on
the Thursday. He won at Punchestown in May and was second at Roscommon last
time. Noel Meade has him. Earlier in the week, Henry de Bromhead’s Cinema De
Quartier could run in the first race on Tuesday evening. He won well at
Kilbeggan and the form looks to be working out as the second was a winner next
time out. Over fences, Ballela Boy might be one for the beginners’ chase on
Thursday afternoon. He did nicely on his first run over fences at Wexford
earlier in the month.
Overall, it is an exciting time of the year. Boxes that have
been empty for the early part of the summer are beginning to fill up again.
Some of the big names from last season are back in and the ones I’ve seen are
looking well. We can start to dream again.
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