Dermot Weld, universally recognised as the king of Ballybrit, took the first stage of the Galway Festival by storm last night when landing the first three races.
His Summer Soul started the ball rolling, showing tremendous battling qualities to wear down the flattering Serve Time in the GPT Sligo Novice Hurdle.
Serve Time tried to make all and looked the likely winner when kicking away going to the second last for Paul Carberry, his first ride back after injury.
But gradually the winner reeled him in, under a powerful Ruby Walsh drive, and outstayed his rival on the flat to score by a hard-earned length.
“Once again a brilliant ride from Ruby”, commented Weld. “I think that was a decent race, they are two very good horses. I think there is a good flat handicap in my fellow. He could be an English Cesarewitch horse, although I am not saying he is as good as that!”
The Rosewell House maestro's Zeroberto booked his place in the Galway Hurdle on Thursday with a smooth success in the GPT Dublin Handicap Hurdle. Partnered as well by Walsh, he was pulling double over his rivals from a fair way out. Walsh released an inch of rein coming away from the second last and Zeroberto lengthened clear.
Said Weld: “He had to win tonight to be sure to get into the Hurdle on Thursday and will now run in that race. I did the same with Ansar a few years ago.
“I'm not sure what the riding arrangements will be, but my other horse, Kinger Rocks, will be ridden by Tony McCoy.”
Weld's Fleeting Shadow put up a fine performance to beat Aidan O'Brien's Chivalrous in the GPT Access Equipment EBF Maiden. He caught the eye on his debut at the Curragh (runner-up behind Finicius) and has clearly gone the right way in the meantime.
Pat Smullen had him out and away in a flash and the son of Danehill produced plenty in the straight to hold his opponent with a degree of ease, scoring by a cosy length.
“He ran a nice race on Derby weekend and I was quietly confident he would win tonight”, reported Weld.
“The Futurity Stakes (Curragh) over seven furlongs would look the logical next step. He has a lot of natural pace, however, and I might consider the Group One Phoenix Stakes (Curragh) over six.”
Chivalrous was partnered by Seamus Heffernan, instead of Kieren Fallon, who was riding in Turkey on Sunday and reportedly missed his flight.
This was the 17th time Weld has won this particular contest.
The featured GPT Galway Handicap was won with almost embarrassing ease by the long-absent P'tit Fute. This was a smashing piece of training by Francis Flood, considering the five-year-old hadn't run since last September. He shrugged off any drawback that might have been by destroying the opposition, cantering ahead going down hill to the dip to score unextended by 12 lengths.
It was the biggest success to date for talented pilot James O'Farrell, whose father, Seamus, trained Perugino Diamond to win a Galway Hurdle.
Commented Flood: “There were no half-measures! He might come back here on Thursday for the Hurdle, but he's in on Saturday as well. We didn't manage to get a run into him because of the firm ground.”
P'tit Fute is owned by the JRM Racing Syndicate, headed by John Mahon, a publican based in New York, who was on site to greet his charge.
Almighty Jade, carrying the colours of local builder Joe Joyce, was a popular winner of the GPT Van and Truck Rentals Handicap. Given an excellent ride by Wayne Lordan, the Definite Article colt shot away off the home turn and the late rush of Cabo was never a worry.
Trainer David Wachman wasn't at the meeting, so plans are on hold, but Almighty Jade is progressive and should go in again.
The layers got a screamer in the Bumper when 20-1 shot Glaczer Flyer swept ahead in the dip to score for Jessica Harrington. The Glacial Storm gelding was a fifth success for pilot Mark Fahey (19), who comes from Monasterevin, Co Kildare.
Some major wagers went astray on Joe Crowley's The Black Lion, backed from 6-4 to 9-10. He was beaten over two furlongs down and was virtually pulled up in the closing stages.
The GPT Cork Handicap was as moderate as you could get, with Raspberry Beret staying on best close home to beat Careless Abandon. Fallon was to have ridden Ger Lyons' filly and was replaced by Seamus Heffernan.
The attendance last night was 19,212, as against 19,902 last year. The Tote was also down from 965,263 to 900,421.
The layers bucked that trend, however, and were up 497,871, from 2,265,036 to 2,762,907. It was no surprise that the two-year-old maiden was the biggest betting race of the evening.