Dermot Weld, the undisputed king of Galway, made a spectacular start to this year’s Festival with victory in the three races that opened the evening card at Ballybrit.
The trainer struck first in the GPT Sligo Novice Hurdle over two miles, with the four-year-old Summer Soul always prominent under Ruby Walsh as the previously unbeaten Serve Time took the field along.
Walsh waited until after the final flight to collar Paul Carberry’s mount and go on for a length success on the 15-8 favourite. Miss Ailbhe was third.
Weld said: “That was a very true run race and the first two are obviously decent horses. It was a brilliant ride from Ruby.
“I think there’s a very good Flat handicap in this horse. He’s a real good staying type. He’s also adaptable as I’ve always thought before of him as a fast ground horse.”
Weld and Walsh wasted little time in following up as Zeroberto ran out a convincing winner of the GPT Dublin Handicap Hurdle just 35 minutes later to possibly book his ticket to a bigger engagement later in the week.
The 9-2 joint-favourite loomed large on the turn into the home straight and skipped clear after the last for a four-and-a-half-length call over Thunder Road, with Quai Du Roi in third and Artistic Lad back in fourth.
“A penalty for this win will hopefully put him in the Galway Hurdle on Thursday,” Weld said.
“He was unlikely to get in before this race but we did it with Ansar (winner of both races in 2001) so hopefully we can do it again. The horse jumped super.”
The attention switched to the Flat after those two races but that made little difference to Weld as he sent out Fleeting Shadow to claim the GPT Access Equipment European Breeders Fund Maiden.
Chivalrous, with Seamus Heffernan deputising for the absent Kieren Fallon, threw down a challenge turning for home but Pat Smullen had saved a bit on the 11-8 favourite and the Danehill colt went away to score by a length.
“He did it nicely. He had a lovely run on his debut when second at the Curragh on Derby Day and he came on from it,” Weld said.
“There was a big gap to the third and he’ll move up to Group level now with the Futurity a logical race. He’s also entered in the Phoenix Stakes and while that’s going back to six, it’s still a possibility as he has a lot of natural pace.
“He’ll make a nice miler next year.”
Meanwhile, P’Tit Fute turned the feature €75,000 GPT Galway (Q.R) Handicap into a procession, scooting clear on the final bend and coming home some 12 lengths clear of Navajo Chieftain, with Athlumney Lad third and Hasanpour fourth.
It was a marvellous training performance by Francis Flood, as the winner was having his first start since September last year.
He said of the 14-1 chance: “He won here last year (over hurdles) and we always planned to come back this year.
“The plan was to give him a run earlier in the year but the ground was so firm we were unable to. John Mahon (head of winning owners the Jim Racing Syndicate) has a couple of pubs in New York and likes to come back to Galway races each year.
“We’ll see how he comes out of this race. He’s in the Galway hurdle but I’m not sure whether he will get in, and he’s also in the two mile, five handicap hurdle on Saturday.
“The drop of rain definitely favoured him and he stays very well.”