Mission impossible for punters at Galway

This week confirmed something that has been nagging one for a while — it is actually easier to show a profit at Cheltenham than Galway.

No wonder bookmakers turn up in droves for the seven-day spectacular. They know they are involved in a profession that is dying a slow death and this meeting represents a real chance of getting some serious, and possibly badly needed, dosh in the coffers.

For punters this really was an impossible Galway, with very difficult to solve racing in the first place made even more complicated by unseasonal ground.

Take Wednesday’s Galway Plate card for instance. I mean, it was framed in such a way that punters had absolutely no cause for optimism.

Once Henry de Bromhead’s heavily-backed Too Scoops had been grabbed late and beaten by Gold Ability in the first, a maiden hurdle, then there was literally no place to go for the majority of punters.

There were seven more races and five of them were those awful bloody handicaps. Add in a long odds-on Dermot Weld-trained certainty in the last and what it amounted to was a programme which saw punters sunk without trace.

Overall, however, this was another very successful Galway. Betting with the layers was well down, but that was only to be expected, given punters spent half their time trying to escape the elements. The weather was often shocking and there was little incentive to actually go racing.

But the crowds were good and testament to the remarkable and unique pulling power of this festival.

The highlight for any red-blooded Corkman had to be the victory of Rebel Fitz in Thursday’s Hurdle.

His trainer, Michael Winters, is an easy man to like and the scenes of jubilation in the parade ring, after the horse had scored, even by Galway standards, were quite extraordinary.

I couldn’t get over Dermot Weld’s pair, Train Of Thought and Thunder Mountain, proving good enough to win on Monday night.

Train Of Thought had looked decidedly ungenuine on the flat and, I have to admit, here’s one who had given up on him. But Weld then decided to launch the horse over flights, but ignored maiden company and pitched him in against winners.

Indeed, one of his rivals, Discoteca, was a four-time winner. Train Of Thought made virtually all, bolted in and all you could do was ponder what you’d missed.

Thunder Mountain had looked just about worthless first time up at the Curragh and Ted Walsh, before the race, said that if Weld got the horse to win then he would be inclined to compare him to Our Lord, Houdini and Merlin The Magician.

Thunder Mountain, of course, was gelded after his first run, but that surely wouldn’t be enough to turn him inside out totally, or at least not enough to worry Aidan O’Brien’s 2-5 shot, Line Drummer.

All of us clever dicks agreed if the race was run on say a Wednesday night at Leopardstown then Thunder Mountain would be a largely unconsidered 10-1 shot and few would want to be with him.

But Weld horses often take on a life of their own at Galway and we watched with our mouths open as Thunder Mountain bolted in. Two Weld winners then and not a shilling earned. Oh dear!

And he topped off the night by taking the featured Carlton Hotel Handicap with Midnight Music.

It has been well documented how Weld lavished praise on 18-year-old, Jane Mangan, who partnered Midnight Music, and it was richly deserved.

But the youngster was equally impressive when hosting an impromptu press conference in the weigh room after the race.

She was bright, intelligent and entertaining and certainly endeared herself to the hard-nosed hacks gathered round.

You’d have to love the way Michael Halford’s Sure Reef won a mile and a half handicap.

He bucked away in front and maintained a proper gallop throughout. Sure Reef stays remarkably well for a son of Australian sprinter Choisir, although his dam, Cutting Reef, did win over a mile and six.

The three-year-old is certainly an imposing individual and it isn’t hard to envisage him making a decent jumper.

On Tuesday night the Weld camp suffered a reverse when Famous Name’s sister, Big Break, never got a break in a maiden.

She found all the trouble that was going, before eventually taking third behind Aidan O’Brien’s Magical Dream and Jim Bolger’s Diamond Sky.

Weld really believes in her, says she wants nice ground and so we will have to wait for another day to see if he’s right.

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