Twelve months on from Rebel Fitz’s Guinness Galway Hurdle victory, Mick Winters shoots for glory once again with Missunited at the Ballybrit track.
Winters enjoyed the biggest win of his career when Rebel Fitz ran out a narrow winner in the handicap feature and he is under no illusion as to the task Missunited faces this time around.
The six-year-old was a Grade Three winner at Limerick last season and has been plying her trade to good effect on the level of late, being placed three times at Listed level.
She proved a bitter disappointment when last seen at Roscommon at the beginning of July, but Winters believes the mare is now back in top trim for this competitive assignment.
“She seems well in herself, she looks in great order and is going there nice and fresh,” he said.
“It would be nice to win the race again, but like all these things, it’s twice as hard the second time.
“One or two bits of things came up after her last run at Roscommon and we’ve freshened her up since. She’s looking great now and I think she’s starting to hit top form.
“The ground should be spot-on for her and you’d like to think if she runs up to her best, she’ll run a blinder.
“When you look at what she’s done and what she’s rated on the Flat, you’d like to think she maybe had a bit in hand if she produces her best, but I’m sure a few others are in the same boat.”
Tony Martin saddles two in the race as he seeks a first Galway Hurdle success.
Ted Veale appears to be his leading contender after winning his prep race on the level at Bellestown at the beginning of July.
Also the winner of the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last term, Ted Veale had the reopposing Pique Sous back in third at Bellewstown, although the latter is favoured by the weights this time.
Martin’s second runner is the JP McManus-owned Thomas Edison, who was beaten 11 lengths into second on his latest Flat outing at Bellewstown.
He is the mount of Tony McCoy, with 5lb-claimer Jody McGarvey on McManus’ other runner Cause Of Causes, who shoulders top weight after finishing second in the race last year.
“Ted Veale ran very well last time and we’re happy with him, he’s in good form and we will go from there,” said Martin.
“It’s a different track this time, there’s jumps in there, a lot of different things, so it’s hard to predict (if Pique Sous will be closer this time).”
“I’m happy with the two horses, they’ll both take their chances and we’ll go from there.”
Pique Sous is one of five runners for champion trainer Willie Mullins and is the pick of Ruby Walsh.
He finished sixth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on testing ground at Cheltenham before going on to land a Grade Two event on yielding ground at Fairyhouse’s Irish Grand National meeting.
Pique Sous was then sent off the 8-11 favourite for that race at Bellewstown but was beaten four and a half lengths into third by Ted Veale, giving him 7lb.
However, Pique Sous will be getting 7lb this time and Steve Massey, manager for owners the Supreme Horse Racing Club, believes he can take full advantage, as long as the ground does not get too testing.
“It’s quite exciting for us. We have got Ruby, the best jockey in Ireland, to ride and we all we want now is for any further rain to stay away. Yielding would be fine, we just don’t want it to get too soft there,” he said
“I think the rain would be our biggest concern as he’s on a cracking mark with 10st 10lb.
“He was a bit keen the last day and it was a mile and a half so I don’t think you can draw too many conclusions from that. We were giving Ted Veale the best part of a stone that day which is quite a big ask and we are much better off at the weights this time.”
A full field of 20 has been declared but Massey thinks Pique Sous and Ted Veale are the standout contenders.
“I think Pique Sous and Ted Veale are the class horses in the race,” he said.
“We need a little bit of luck as Galway is a tricky track and quite tight, so you need fortune on your side.
“We’d be hoping for a bit of luck and it’s just a thrill to have a horse in the Galway Hurdle.”
Drive Time fell when sent off favourite for the race last year and he takes his chance for Mullins again along with Midnight Game, Make Your Mark and Viconte Du Noyer.
Davy Russell has opted to ride Make Your Mark rather than fellow Gigginstown Stud-owned runners Midnight Game and Il Fenomeno.