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big week The Shunter has the bookies running for cover as the Galway Races get underway

Mullins-trained eight-year-old the obvious choice, but Battleoverdoyen is better value

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The Shunter and jockey Brian Hayes on their way to winning the SalesSense Beginners Steeplechase at Punchestown last September. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The Shunter and jockey Brian Hayes on their way to winning the SalesSense Beginners Steeplechase at Punchestown last September. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The Shunter and jockey Brian Hayes on their way to winning the SalesSense Beginners Steeplechase at Punchestown last September. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Shunters is a nickname bookies use for punters and ironically, a JP McManus-owned runner called The Shunter will have the layers running for cover from the Billy Bunters in the Galway Plate on Wednesday!


The Emmet Mullins-trained eight-year-old has already stung the big firms many times, not least in the Paddy Power Chase at Cheltenham in March, where he also won a £100,000 bonus for his then owner Paul Byrne, before being snapped up by the legendary JP.

Yet, while the bookies evasive action is clearly called for, current odds of 7/1 look skinny in the extreme, and he could be even shorter on the day. Just think, class act and track-and-trip winner Battleoverdoyen is still 16/1 in places! Get on!

However The Shunter fares, fledgling trainer Mullins has another livewire contender in the other big feature of the week, the Guinness Galway Hurdle on Thursday in Cape Gentleman.

His last run was on the flat at Royal Ascot, where he was hammered in from 7/1 to 5/2 jolly in the Ascot Stakes but had to settle for a close up fifth, with Emmet blaming himself for his instructions to Rachael Blackmore, which had them too far off the pace for too long.

Speed

Ironically then, the normal fast pace on Thursday should suit this sharp operator, who has the speed to stay with them and accelerate up the famous hill at the business end. A little inexperienced over hurdles, perhaps, but the Irish Cesarewitch winner is a chilled customer who bagged the Dovecoat Novices Hurdle at Kempton last spring and will take the normal helter-skelter of this race in his stride.

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Royal Illusion will love the ground in Galway

Royal Illusion will love the ground in Galway

Royal Illusion will love the ground in Galway

A disappointing crowd limit of only 1,000 each day will mean the usual electric buzz and carnival air will be missing, but it’s still a massive upgrade on last summer, when an almost eerie atmosphere in the deserted stands and enclosures made Ballybrit resemble a large mausoleum.

Like last year, we start and end the week with two flat-racing cards, with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday providing three days of jumping action sandwiched in between.

While this arrangement was brought in to aid Covid protocols and is not set on tablets of stone just yet, it is proving popular with both trainers and jockeys and might well become the norm from now on.

The Connacht Hotel Qualified Riders is the big race tomorrow evening, and with Willie Mullins supplying six strong fancies to the 20 runner line-up, Patrick had a tough choice to make!

Royal Illusion – who will love the ground – must have been tempting for him, but he plumps for exciting mare Hook Up, on which he may have to carry 2lb overweight.

She’s good, no question, but Jody Townend, who won this for Willie two years back on Great White Shark, may be on best Closutton hope Royal Exchange, who will love track, trip and ground.

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Main

On Tuesday, the Colm Quinn BMW Galway Mile is the main attraction and is, as ever, a fiercely competitive, cut-throat handicap. The locally-owned Soaring Monarch has been laid out for this since two fine efforts here last summer, though it’s borderline if he’ll make the cut.

Ado McGuinness dominated all the big flat handicaps at the Festival last year and while Saltonstall bids for a hat-trick in this race, a 105 mark really puts the handbrake on. Yet, the popular Dublin trainer has a few other tasty entries, not least Star Harbour, who loved dropping back to this trip at Killarney.

Jessica Harrington has a strong squad, too, with last year’s fourth Tauran Shaman particularly interesting, though he sometimes is slow to hit top gear – and this is not a track for any hanging about.

To my mind, Visualisation stands out in this company. Joseph O’Brien’s highly progressive sort brings hot recent Curragh and Royal Ascot form to the table, though he meets totally different ground this time. Being by No Nay Never, he should handle this faster surface, but it’s not a given.

While Dermot Weld’s Galway dominance is no more, the Curragh maestro travels west with his team in sparkling form, and whichever of Butterfly Island, Dabana or Radiyka he runs in the fillies maiden on Tuesday should win.

Colin Keane will ride most of his prime fancies this week and they will be regular visitors to the Winners Enclosure.

Paddy Twomey’s Artician will make a belated seasonal debut in the opener that day and should take all the beating.

The standard of flat racing at this week-long extravaganza continues to improve and Donnacha O’Brien’s April Showers, second to Insinuendo in the Kilboy Estates at The Curragh last Sunday, adds real class to the Colm Quinn Corrib Fillies Stakes.


OUR TOP TIPS FOR GALWAY

TOMORROW

4.10 Anchorage (Duke De Sessa); 4.40 Rock Etoile (Cisco Disco); 5.15 Mary Salome (Fridtjof Nansen); 5.45 Mr Coldstone (No Thanks); 6.15 Exchange Rate (Hook Up); 6.45 National Ballet (Port Sunlight); 7.15 ZERO TEN Nap (Ciel D’Afrique)


TUESDAY

4.35 Artician; 5.10 Butterfly Island; 5.45 APRIL SHOWERS (Nap); 6.15 Visualisation; 6.45 Royal Blend; 7.15 Imposing Supreme; 7.45 Coventry


WEDNESDAY

4.35 Jazzaway; 5.10 Dark Voyager; 5.45 True Faith; 6.15 Battleoverdoyen; 6.45 FLYING SCOTSMAN (Nap); 7.15 Winter Escape; 7.45 Agritime; 8.15 Esperti


THURSDAY

4.35 Loved Out; 5.10 Low Sun; 5.45 Gin On Lime; 6.15 Cape Gentleman; 6.45 Clonbury Bridge; 7.15 FERDIA (Nap); 7.45 Sweet Home Chicago; 8.15 Spanish Present

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