Willie Mullins made it a fourth feature race success in five days at the 2018 Galway Festival and the theme of it not being the leading market fancy from the yard continued as Nessun Dorma caused an upset in the Guinness Handicap in the hands of Billy Lee.
Following Uradel in the Connacht Hotel QR Race on Monday, Riven Light in the Colm Quinn BMW Mile on Tuesday and Sharjah in the Guinness Galway Hurdle, the winner outperformed some better-fancied stablemates to land the spoils.
Lee had the winner on the front end from the outset and, after moving a couple clear in the straight, held the renewed effort of Princess Yaiza by a neck, with stable-companion and even-money favourite Limini back in third.
Mullins said: “He improved since his run in Ballinrobe. It was a race where everyone was watching everyone else, but he got a great ride from the front by Billy. He waited in front and kept a bit up his sleeve.”
Mullins brought his tally for the meeting into double figures when Wicklow Brave justified odds of 1-6 in the Rockshore Race.
The victory, under Colin Keane, gave the winning trainer a third consecutive win in the race, having taken it with Renneti in 2017 and Ivan Grozny a year earlier.
“He’s an extraordinary horse,” said Mullins. “We bought him as a bumper horse for €35 or €40,000, and to win a Punchestown Champion Hurdle and an Irish Leger and to run in Melbourne is extraordinary.
He has his own way of doing things now. I’d like to go for something similar for him next, but I know his owner is keen to go jumping fences with him to try to be the first horse to win a Group 1 on the Flat and Grade Ones over hurdles and fences, so the Drinmore is an option.
“I don’t know if he’s good enough to win an Irish Leger at this stage, but he’ll have an entry.”
Dermot Weld got off the mark for the week with a win in the listed Corrib Stakes on Thursday, and he added two more to his tally when Zuenoon and Lure Of The Sea shed their maiden status in their respective races.
The well-backed Zuenoon took the James’s Gate Irish EBF Median Auction Maiden under Declan McDonogh.
The Havana Gold colt had finished a close fourth on debut at Limerick and showed the benefit of that run.
Ridden to take up a prominent position early, the 13-8 favourite quickened clear early in the straight and, despite tying up late, he had enough in hand to fend off the late run of Cosmic Horizon.
“He tired a bit going to the line, but I thought he did it well,” said Weld.
“He’s a big, progressive sort but we’ll see how he comes on from this before making plans.”
Lure Of The Sea had to work hard to win the Guinness Irish EBF Fillies’ Maiden but the daughter of Sea The Stars showed a good attitude and was well on top at the line.
Weld felt the conditions were not to the filly’s liking and is confident of more to come.
“She did what we thought she’d do,” he said.
I was a little concerned beforehand that the ground was not ideal for her — it was good to firm on her first start, when she ran second at the Curragh — and I think she’s got the ability to progress to be a stakes filly. She’s a lovely big mare, very immature as a two-year-old, and we’ve given her lots of time. Patience pays dividends, and I think it will come with this one.
Pat Fahy is another trainer who does well here, and he notched up his first winner of the week when Shane Foley got 16-1 chance Dani’s Boy home in front in the Arthur Guinness Handicap.
The Liam Cusack-trained Snugsborough Benny ran out a well-backed winner of the Guinness Galway Blazers Handicap Chase.
Denis O’Regan produced him with a strong challenge in the straight to reel-in A Rated, who had been clear in to the home turn.
Top Othe Ra completed back-to-back victories in the Guinness Handicap Hurdle, which wrapped up the evening’s proceedings.
In a pulsating finish, the David Mullins-ridden and Tom Mullins-trained 9-2 chance edged out Stormey by a neck, with favourite On The Go Again in third.
It was a third win in five runs at the track for the ten-year-old, who finished a close third behind Wicklow Brave in a bumper here back in 2013.
The evening meeting attracted the biggest crowd of the week to date, with 30,159 racegoers attending, compared with 29,421 on the Friday of last year’s meeting.
The Tote figure was €896,088, €62,910 down on last year’s figure of €958,998.
Bookmaker activity amounted for €1,226,775, €104,173 down on the 2017 total of €1,330,928.