Galway an Irish phenomenon

WHAT price Galway Hurdle day next year to attract an attendance in excess of 50,000?

Not so long ago such a crowd at an Irish race meeting would have been quite unthinkable, but as far as Galway is concerned nothing is impossible.

The new €22m stand will be up and running for the 2007 Festival and that magical mark now has to be regarded as more probable than possible.

There is no defining Galway, no way to explain what has become an Irish phenomenon. Some of the figures from last week are mind-boggling. Thursday's attendance, more than 48,000, was spectacular.

So was Friday night's. It is staggering to think that 31,500 plus came through the gates, which is more than the Irish Derby can attract. The bookmakers, betting with them was way up, held over €4.5m on Thursday and almost €22m for the week.

An old Irish proverb has it that a good start is half the work and Dermot Weld certainly looked after us on the Monday night. He saddled the first three winners and, for many punters, a losing week was never a possibilty after that.

All three of his well fancied two-year-olds won and are horses with a bright future.

Fleeting Shadow, who beat Aidan O'Brien's Chivalrous, looked to have a great attitude and Pat Smullen has a particularly high opinion of Khalid Abdullah's filly, Supposition.

The biggest disaster for punters, at least those who bet in four and five figures, was the defeat of Hitchock on Friday night. He was the medium of a sustained gamble which went on from the time the offices opened in the morning, almost to the raising of the white flag. That he went off at 10-11, in a fiercely competitive 17-runner handicap, was amazing.

Mind you he was the medium of some savage bets on track. Hitchcock would have to be regarded as an unlucky loser and it wasn't one of Kieren Fallon’s better efforts. In his defence, however, is the fact they went no gallop and the gaps didn't appear in a manner which might have been expected.

The contest, for instance, was run a whopping 3.4 seconds slower than the following maiden won by Rajeh.

From a personal point of view a couple of races gave me a fair amount of pleasure, none more so than the aforementioned Rajeh's. He was surely seriously over-priced in some quarters in the morning at 8-1. Worldy Wise, in a handicap, was another enjoyable result. Again offers of 6-1 about him in the morning represented real value.

Trainer, Frank Ennis, spent much of Friday night walking his box, waiting for his hot-pot Ferneley to contest the concluding Auction Maiden. He was a good thing on form, third to Duke Of Marmalade and Supposition on his debut at the Curragh, but all trainers know that the form book is one thing, doing it out on the track another.

He duly did the business and Ennis, a popular figure, admitted in the winner's enclosure to being on his third packet of fags for the day. Now that's what you call pressure.

AT Cork on Monday, Tony O’Hehir of the Racing Post and myself waited for Kieren Fallon to weigh in after he had partnered the Ballydoyle debutant Trinity College to an easy win in what looked a run of the mill two-year-old maiden.

Aidan O'Brien wasn't at the meeting, so when the trainer is missing you often hope the jockey might say something worth recording. We both stood open-mouthed when Fallon described the son of Giant’s Causeway as “good, he might be as a good as his father.”

Giant’s Causeway was one of the best flat horses there has ever been. As a three-year-old he won the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, the Juddmonte International at York, the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, the Eclipse at Sandown and the St James' Palace at Royal Ascot, all Group Ones.

He was also a desperately unlucky loser of the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs, beaten a neck by Tiznow.

Can you wait for Trinity College to reappear?

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