I’ve gone for Shaneshill in the Galway Plate, and despite him being a graded hurdle winner, he hasn’t raced over fences since finishing runner-up to Blaklion in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham 2015.
He’s never run in a handicap chase and while some may see that as a negative, I’d be hopeful that’s where he might still be ahead of the handicapper.
Graham Wylie’s runner could be well treated on the best of his chase form. He races off a rating of 153 on Wednesday, is in good form at home and the 2m 6f trip will suit.
His last two runs were over hurdles in France and while not quite as big as fences, the French obstacles are bigger than our traditional hurdles.
He looks to have a very good each-way chance in what is always a very competitive race, but make no mistake, it was a tough decision.
Basically, it came down to a choice of Shaneshill, Arbre De Vie and Haymount for me.
There’s a massive handicap chase to be won with Arbre De Vie – but it might be over a longer trip than Wednesday’s 2m 6f test. That’s the main reason I didn’t pick him.
He ran a cracker when second to Woodlands Opera at Punchestown, finishing ahead of Wednesday’s rival Balko Des Flos back in third. That’s good form.
Haymount didn’t see out the trip in the Irish Grand National so should appreciate dropping back in distance here. His form has been rock solid all year and as a second-season novice, could still be ahead of the handicapper.
Of the others, Gigginstown Stud’s A Toi Phil and Balko Des Flos look the main dangers – I just hope I’m on the right one from the Mullins’ yard. I can see the winner coming from these five and there’s only 8lbs between them in the handicap.
I’ve two other rides on the card, starting off with point-to-point winner Minella Beau in the opener at 3.15pm who seems in good form. However, stable-mate Castello Sfoorza’s form has been a little disappointing since his Champion Bumper fourth to Ballyandy in 2016. Off a rating 135 in a summer maiden hurdle could be hard to beat.
In the 3.50pm, I ride Just Janice was second at Bellewstown to William B, having earlier won at Clonmel. I don’t know a whole lot about John Kiely’s mare other than what’s in the form book, but she stayed on well at the Co. Meath track and hopefully Galway’s stiff course will suit her.
Jessica Harrington’s The Birdie Crowe, who won a maiden hurdle at Limerick, could be unexposed in this 2m handicap.
It was fantastic to win this prize last year aboard Clondaw Warrior, but he’s plenty of weight this time as does stablemate Ivan Grozny.
I’m favouring Max Dynamite in Thursday’s feature, unless the ground gets soft or he doesn’t make the race for some reason. Owned by Rich Ricci, he’s already finished second to Quick Jack here in 2015 – and went on to finish runner-up in the Melbourne Cup also.
While he hasn’t run in 13 months since disappointing in the 2016 Ascot Gold Cup, he’s in good form at home.
It was a close call between him and Airlie Beach, who won the Grade One Royal Bond Novices Hurdle last season, is a course winner and will carry the same weight as Max Dynamite.
It will be interesting to see who Barry Geraghty rides. JP McManus looks to have a strong hand here again with possibly six runners, including Princely Conn ran a cracker last year and so whatever Barry picks from him, Tigris River and Timiyan will be fancied.
Of the others, Noel Meade’s Joey Sasa – who won his bumper here last season – has good form in a couple of graded races and looks a fair each-way price.