PAT HEALY: Pat looks back at the Galway Festival where the rain didn’t spoil the fun or the flow of Willie Mullins trained winners …

Galway dazzles in the drizzle

We have to send our congratulations to Michael Moloney and the whole team at Galway, it was a fantastic week.

It’s always a major event in Ireland’s social calendar, there was great racing and the city was packed with racegoers. The crowds were up by nearly 6,000 people on the seven days last year, and there were over 122,000 people over the week. That’s great news for Irish racing and it’s a trend at the moment this season, the bigger meetings are holding their own.

The logistics of running seven days on the same track with the amount of rainfall we’ve had this summer takes some serious planning, so huge credit has to go to Clerk of the Course Lorcan Wyer and the ground staff team in Galway lead by Gerry Broderick. In the week ahead of the meeting, Galway had 45mm of rain, so to map out a different track for all seven days is no mean feat.

As we saw with part of Goodwood’s Saturday card being called off, when you get a lot of rain in a short space of time, it can cause racing to be abandoned. Even on the Friday night after the fifth day of racing they had 28mm of rain. That’s the guts of nearly 100mm of rain over the week. It just shows you the drainage that Galway has and the amount of rain that they can take. All the horses came home safe and sound and there were no problems, thank God.

Galway a big draw for the top guns

There was no surprise that Willie Mullins had 10 winners over the week from 61 runners to be leading trainer. Paul Townend was leading jump jockey with four winners, including his Galway Hurdle win with Zarak The Brave. Dylan Browne McMonagle was the leading Flat jockey with five winners.

With Zarak The Brave, Willie obviously told the owners Simon Munir & Isaac Souede that he fancied the horse to win because Simon made the trip from the south of France and Isaac made the trip from Alaska, would you believe! That just shows you what Galway means to people in the higher end of the racing game. They were rewarded with a fantastic success; Zarak The Brave being the first four-year-old since Perugino Diamond back in 2000. Yet again it’s a case of Willie Mullins defying all the stats.

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Making their mark

We also have to give a mention to young Danny Gilligan, who is a local boy to Galway Racecourse. Danny rode three winners, including in the Galway Plate for Gordon Elliott on Ash Tree Meadow. It was great to see both Danny’s mum Natalie and dad, Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer, Paul Gilligan, bursting with pride.

Jack Kearney rode his first winner at the Galway Festival. Jack is an apprentice on the Flat, and his dad Ian is a valet helping out Robbie Fox’s team.

We also had young John Gleeson, son of RTE and ITV presenter Brian Gleeson, ride his first Galway Festival winner. John is well known for his association with Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner A Dream To Share.

Another jockey marking their first Galway success was Cian Horgan, who rode Bells On Her Toes to success in a handicap on the Flat for Andy Slattery on the Tuesday.

Amateur jockey Ray Barron had six rides at the Galway Festival and three winners, including the feature on the opening day with Teed Up, so it was a great week for him.

They’re all names to look out for and I’m sure that Galway 2023 will be one that they remember.

Galway specialists

In last week’s blog we named some other trainers to look out for during the week and they didn’t disappoint. Peter Fahey bagged four winners and Emmet Mullins had three. It just shows you that they obviously target Galway every year and everyone has to look out for them.

Paddington strides on

What a horse. He’s now following in the footsteps of the famous ‘iron horse’, Giant’s Causeway, but he has managed to do what that great horse didn’t in winning an Irish 2000 Guineas on the way to picking up his St James’s Palace, Eclipse and now Sussex Stakes victories.

To win on the heavy ground at Goodwood just shows you how tough Paddington is and the resolution he has. He’s another testament to Aidan’s [O’Brien] ability and foresight – winning the Madrid Handicap in March and now he’s dancing every dance on the biggest stage.

Hopefully we’ll see him in York in a couple of weeks’ time for the Juddmonte and we could be treated to another memorable duel similar to when Giant’s Causeway beat Kalanisi in 2000.

Dingle Races this week

It’s a week where I’d like to be in a lot of places at once. The racing continues up the west of Ireland, with Roscommon on Tuesday and Sligo on Wednesday and Thursday. There’s the Dublin Horse Show this week too, which is always a great social event.

In County Kerry alone, we have the famous Puck Fair, which is three days in Killorglin. Then we also have the famous Dingle Races – the biggest event in the pony racing calendar – for the young riders coming through. That starts on Friday and runs to Sunday, with the world-famous Dingle Derby being run on Sunday.

These young riders are the names we’re going to be hearing about in the future. We already mentioned Dylan Browne McMonagle riding five winners at Galway, but only four or five years ago he was going around Dingle. Colin Keane rode at Dingle. In England, you’ve Rossa Ryan and David Egan who started out there, the list goes on.

Some of the riders that would be at the top of the table this year would be Kian ‘Tubs’ McNally, Adam Grant, Sam Coen, Dylan O’Connor and Darragh O’Sullivan.

If you can get to Dingle at all this weekend, you’ll get to see some of the stars of the future and I’m sure you’ll have a great time.


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