Galway Hurdle Preview – See What Stats & Trends Tell You About Grade A Handicap

Any good Galway Hurdle preview will tell you carrying a heavy weight is no barrier to success at Ballybrit in this Grade A 2m handicap. This is Ireland’s most prestigious handicap hurdle with many stats and trends to consider before you bet. Learn all about the feature race on day four of the Galway Festival below…

2021 Galway Hurdle preview – Ratings topper is Saldier this year

Irish master trainer Willie Mullins saddled Aramon to defy topweight in the race 12 months ago, so Saldier cannot be discounted. A Grade 1 winning hurdler on his day, he has become delicate and fragile but always had ability. His mark of 155 sees Saldier concede 8lb and upwards all-round here, because others high in the handicap have claimers taking weight off their backs.

Mullins has son and crack amateur jockey Patrick in the plate here. There are first-time cheekpieces for Saldier too. He has proved he retains ability by winning on the Flat this spring, but these are infinitely deeper waters than a Listowel maiden. Although only seven, Saldier needs to roll back the years and reproduce his best form if he’s to win this.

If anyone can draw that out of him, then it is surely Mullins who has won the race twice with horses running off 155. The fact is that the stable probably has better handicapped horses than Saldier. However, the bookmakers aren’t taking any chances with him at all. That is reflected in best odds of 12/1 with BetVictor for Saldier emulating Aramon and landing the Galway Hurdle with a welter burden.

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Stable to follow – Willie Mullins

It won’t surprise many readers that Mullins has saddled three winners of this valuable prize in the last five years. Prior to Aramon, the Galway Hurdle crown went back to Closutton courtesy of Sharjah (2018) and Clondaw Warrior (2016). Mullins only has three guaranteed runners in this year’s line-up.

As well as the aforementioned Saldier, they are 2020 Triumph Hurdle scorer Burning Victory and Ciel De Neige, who has been threatening to win a big handicap for a long time. Getaway Gorgeous is a reserve. We haven’t seen much of Burning Victory since her Cheltenham Festival success.

The five-year-old daughter of Nathaniel returned from a lengthy lay-off at the Punchestown Festival, but has won on the Flat since. That shows Burning Victory retains plenty of ability. Jack Foley takes 7lb off her back, and the Mullins mare should be staying on when others have cried enough. Burning Victory is a 16/1 shot with Betfred for Galway Hurdle glory.

Ciel De Neige has first-time blinkers and the services of Mullins stable jockey Paul Townend in the plate. That may be a tip in itself as he doesn’t often ride for owner JP McManus. Ciel De Neige, now a six-year-old, has finished runner-up in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and in a graded handicap at the Punchestown Festival. Despite a career high mark of 141, he could be involved and odds of 14/1 with William Hill reflect that.

Age profile – All about youth

The horses to concentrate on for the Galway Hurdle are those aged five, six and seven. Only one horse older than that, Clondaw Warrior, has been successful in the last 15 years. That only three or four out of contention, so trainers have smartened up to the types of horse needed.

In terms of rating, those on a mark of 135 or 136 enjoyed success in the mid-2010s. That isn’t a good enough standard to get into this renewal of the Galway Hurdle, however, so something classier will be required this time around. Those rated between 143 and 146 have won four times since 2010, and that does underline a couple of horses.

Burning Victory has already been noted above, but BELFAST BANTER who brings strong form claims into the race may be prominent in the betting for this very reason. Trained by Peter Fahey, this six-year-old won the County Hurdle at Cheltenham off 13lb lower than his current mark but has also landed a Grade 1 at the Aintree Grand National Festival since.

Belfast Banter could be a big player in this off 144. His earlier second at Naas to Echoes In Rain has been advertised in spades by the winner, who has gone in again twice thereafter. Those successes include at the highest level against the geldings at the Punchestown Festival. Belfast Banter ticks a lot of boxes for the Galway Hurdle, then, and he is 8/1 with Boylesports to carry on where he left off in the spring.

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Owner to follow – JP McManus

Legendary gambler and leading Irish owner McManus has had two winners of this, but crucially nine other horses placed in the race since 1998. His green and gold hoops take aim at the prize money once again through the aforementioned Ciel De Neige but also others. McManus also has Band Of Outlaws, Magic Tricks who is the choice of retained rider Mark Walsh and Winner Takes Itall guaranteed to run.

The latter sneaks in at the foot of the weights for trainer Joseph O’Brien. Connections book Simon Torrens, taking off a hugely valuable 3lb with his claim, so he has even an lighter burden. Winner Takes Itall is 8/1 with Bet365 to make his feather weight tell, even though a mark of 132 would make him the lowest rated winner for a decade.

Where blinkers go on Ciel De Neige, Magic Tricks gets first-time cheekpieces. Runner-up in a Grade A handicap at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival, he had a recent spin on the Flat. That should have brought Magic Tricks on, and he’s 10/1 with the same bookmaker for Galway Hurdle success.

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Grade 1 class – Skyace

Belfast Banter, Burning Victory and Saldier are just some of the previous winners at the highest level. SKYACE landed a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday on her penultimate start. This bargain buy for the Shark Hanlon stable then fell at the Punchestown Festival, but now drops down in distance.

A strongly-run 2m should suit her. Skyace should stay on when others tire. That’s what she did when fourth at Cheltenham earlier in the spring. Jody McGarvey again takes the ride and a 140 rating means a nice racing weight of 10st 9lb. The Westerner mare fits the age profile for the Galway Hurdle too.

Hanlon isn’t putting anyone off Skyace. Her exploits on the track after leaving the Mullins yard for just €700 earned her many last term. Whatever happens here, she is a mare to follow in the jumps season proper. Skyace is a top-price 16/1 with Bet365 for glory in this.

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2021 Galway Hurdle Shortlist

  • ***** Belfast Banter
  • **** Skyace
  • **** Burning Victory
  • *** Ciel De Neige
  • *** Winner Takes Itall
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