Ruby Walsh: Road to Riches has the Galway Plate at his mercy while this 12/1 shot looks value in the Hurdle

The top jock pays tribute to JT McNamara and looks ahead to the feature races at Ballybrit

Ruby Walsh rides morning work at Cheltenham

It was sad to hear of the passing of John Thomas McNamara on Tuesday.  He leaves behind a wife, Caroline, two sons Harry and Dylan and a daughter Olivia. My sympathies are with them all on this sad day.

JT was a great man and a brilliant jockey that I first met at Enda Bolger’s stable when I was starting out in racing.

I was 17 or 18 and he was a few years older – maybe 21 or 22. I looked up to him. He was a genuine guy and someone whose opinion you respected.

Honesty was one of his main characteristics and if he had something on his mind, he wasn’t long about letting you know. I appreciated that in him back then and all the times since.

It’s such a sad loss.

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The Galway Plate is Wednesday’s feature and one of the great days in the Irish racing calendar.

I start off with Comehere Hi for James Nash in the mares handicap hurdle at 3.35. She’ll have to handle Galway’s undulations and while it’s a competitive race – there’s not really a stand-out pick in it. But she ran a good race at Bellewstown last time and could be coming into form.

The 2m 6f Galway Plate though revolves around Road to Riches. Noel Meade’s runner is a genuine Grade One performer and will be very hard to beat if he’s in peak condition.

He’s a former winner of this race in 2014 but has progressed since then to win a Lexus Chase at Leopardstown and was placed in a Gold Cup the season before last. He went toe-to-toe with Vautour in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and in my opinion would have won the Heineken Gold Cup at Punchestown in April had he not fallen at the second last.

The handicapper has given him a real chance off a 162 rating, leaving him to carry 11 stone 10 lbs.

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Will Mullins has three entries in Alelchi IniosDevils Bride and my mount Ballycasey

The grey gets 17lbs off Road to Riches and I’m hoping he can put in the sort of run that saw him beat reigning Gold Cup champ Don Cossack and Carlingford Lough in his novice days.

Alelchi Inois won at Punchestown last time and Devils Bride is a course winner but they only get 9lbs and 15lbs – respectively off the likely favourite – and I’m not sure that will be enough. Barry Connell’s The Tullow Tank jumps a bit too deliberately for me in a race like this.

Last year’s winner Shanahan’s Turn was possibly a little fortunate as future Aintree Grand National winner Rule the World fell when cantering at the bottom of the hill and badly hampered Shanpallas. 

Well handicapped

One who could be well handicapped on his best form is Mouse Morris’ First Lieutenant who still seems to retain his ability despite being an 11-year-old now. He was denied by Don Poli in the Lexus Chase last Christmas and is a good ground performer who has been given a chance by the handicapper.

Henry de Bromhead’s Home Farm has dropped right down the weights, but was previously good enough to get placed in an Irish Grand National.

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I’ve a choice to make between Max Dynamite and Clondaw Warrior in Thursday’s Galway Hurdle and that’s not going to be easy.

Max Dynamite had little luck in running last year but rattled home to be second after Thomas Edison fell at the final flight. Clondaw Warrior has won twice around Galway but looks to have plenty of weight at 11 stone 5lbs. Max Dynamite might be a little better treated off 2lb less.

But both will face a stiff task to beat Dan Skelton’s Superb Story who won the County Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The stable is in great form and he’s an improving, unexposed horse, who will give the home challenge plenty to do. He races here off just a 7lb higher mark since Galway but the trainer comes from the Paul Nicholls’ academy so he’ll be ready.

Dermot Weld’s Silver Concorde will probably run in a maiden hurdle on Wednesday but even if he wins I wouldn’t fancy him in Thursday’s big one.

One of the outsiders who definitely has a squeak is Moon over Germany. Eddie Harty’s runner was an improving novice who didn’t get much luck-in-running at the Fairyhouse and Punchestown festivals but had a nice comeback run behind Ivan Grozny at Tipperary.

He should be better suited to Galway than Tipp’s flat, fast-track as he won a maiden hurdle at Navan so should handle the hill and has a nice weight on his back.

What do you think?