Classy mare Limini the star attraction on her return from a long absence
Connacht Hotel (Q.R) Handicap | 2m1f, 4yo+ | RTE2/ATR
You could have gone to Greece, not Galway. You could have been queuing for a Black Russian cocktail at the beach bar, not queuing to take 6-4 about a Dermot Weld-trained juvenile in a maiden. You could have had a week of sun, sea and sand, instead you have opted for a week of betting and banter. You know what you are letting yourself in for and you love it.
Ireland's richest hurdle race, the Guinness Galway Hurdle, takes centre stage on Thursday while thetote.com Galway Plate, which was won by subsequent Ryanair Chase winner Balko Des Flos last year, is the feature race on Wednesday.
Mullins looks to Limini for inspiration
It is the amateur riders who are in the spotlight for day one, though, and Patrick Mullins will try to win the Connacht Hotel Handicap for the first time.
He recently broke Ted Walsh's record as Ireland's most successful amateur rider and the ten-time champion amateur teams up with the exciting Limini for the first time as he attempts to break his duck in the Monday showpiece.
A Cheltenham festival winner in 2016, Limini has not run since finishing third in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham last year and Mullins feels that she is not fully exposed on the Flat.
Mullins said: "It would be fantastic if I could win a race all amateurs like to have on their CV and do what my father, Willie, did on Pargan before I was born.
"I'm really looking forward to riding Limini. It'll be her first run on the Flat for us so she's potentially unexposed. The slight concern is that she's been off the track for a long time, but she's going there in good form.
"It wasn't an easy decision to pick her as Chelkar ran very well at Royal Ascot and is a horse with a lot of potential. However, I went for Limini as she has less weight."
Doing it for the girls
Jane Mangan and Kate Harrington are the only females to have won the race.
Bidding to join them on the roll of honour are Lisa O'Neill (Batts Rock), Aine O'Connor (Waaheb), Maxine O'Sullivan (Golden Spear) and Jody Townend (Updated).
Aubrey McMahon, successful on Whiskey Sour a year ago, and Derek O'Connor, who won on Rapid Deployment in 2003, are the only riders involved to have been successful in the race. They ride Uradel and Brazos respectively.
Gordon Elliott, who is doubly-represented by trainer of Brutal and Batts Rock, said of his chances: "Brutal has been a bit hit and miss over hurdles. He's having his first run on the Flat for us and should get the trip although he wouldn't want the ground too soft.
"Batts Rock won well at the Curragh last time and is in good form but he, too, wouldn't want it too soft."
Martin on a mission
Tony Martin won back-to-back runnings of the prestigious prize with Edeymi (2013) and Quick Jack (2014) and he is triple-handed in his attempt for victory number three.
"Golden Spear has won over the course. He seems in good form and deserves a shot at this good prize. Tudor City has also won over the course although his three Flat wins have been over shorter trips. We're very happy with him. Updated is back from a long break. We're not sure about the trip for her and, hopefully, she'll stay."
Benkei is already a course winner and makes his seventh trip to Galway with Harry Rogers hoping the eight-year-old can strike again at his happiest hunting ground.
Rogers said: "He's very well, The ground will be right for him and he's shown that he likes the track. We've got a good 7lb claimer in Eoin O'Brien, so he has plenty going for him."
Maiden masterclass from Weld
When Spiorad Saoirse won the 7f claregalwayhotel.ie (C & G) Irish EBF Maiden (6.25) a year ago, Andy Slattery became the first trainer other than Dermot Weld and Aidan O’Brien to win the race since 2005.
Normal service could resume with O’Brien and Weld supplying two of the main players – Mount Tabora and Third World who finished second and fourth at the Curragh nine days ago.
Mount Tabora was beaten a head on what was his third start and finished five and a quarter lengths in front of Third World who was making his debut.
O’Brien said: “Mount Tabora seems in good form. We’re trying blinkers as he can be a bit lazy and hopefully they should help. Once the ground doesn’t get too testing it should be fine for him.”
Weld, who has sent out 24 winners of the race and who was last successful with Right Honourable two years ago, said: “Third World is a nice colt who ran quite creditably first time out. I think and hope he has improved since and the ground shouldn’t be a problem for him.”
Ruby returns with a bang?
Ruby Walsh makes his belated return after four and a half months out with a broken leg and will fancy his chances of getting on the scoresheet in the opening galmont.com & galwaybayhotel.com Novice Hurdle (5.20) on the impressive Killarney winner Easy Game.
WHAT'S GOING ON THIS WEEK AT GALWAY?
The Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap, now with a winner’s cheque for €70,800, has been a punters paradise in recent years with Riven Light (7-2) and Creggs Pipes (11-2) justifying favouritism in 2017 and 2016. Last year’s winner could be back to defend his crown while wide-margin 2013 winner Brendan Bracken is also likely to line up in what is always one of the most fiercely-contested handicaps of the summer.
The Galway Plate will be served late for the first time as organisers have decided to change Wednesday from an afternoon fixture to an evening one. The feature race is due off at 7.20 and Henry de Bromhead, who has won the race in two of the last four years with Balko Des Flos (2017) and Shanahan’s Turn (2015), is responsible for topweight Sub Lieutenant, who brings rock-solid Grade 1 form into the race.
The Guinness Galway Hurdle, Ireland’s richest hurdle race, takes centre stage with 2017 winner Tigris River set to spearhead a five-pronged attack from the Joseph O’Brien stable. Whiskey Sour, who produced a fine effort to be placed in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, has been favourite since betting opened and leads a strong team from the Willie Mullins stable.
The Guinness Handicap over a mile and a half and worth €59,000 to the winner was won 12 months ago by Whiskey Sour, who has top weight this time around. We could see Ascot Stakes heroine Lagostovegas bid for another big Flat handicap.
Stayers come to the fore in the Galway Shopping Centre Handicap Hurdle, which produced the most thrilling finish of the entire festival in 2017 with Ballyegan Hero getting up in the final stride to deny Mine Now. This year’s Ascot Stakes winner Lagostovegas was back in third.
The Galway Summer Festival draws to a close on Sunday with the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Ahonoora” Handicap the highlight of the final day. Dream Walker has made this race his own in recent years, winning back-to-back runnings of the race in 2016 and 2017, and is set to return to try to complete the hat-trick.
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com