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'He's the best horse we've ever had' - local trainer dreaming of big Galway win

Sole Pretender (cloth 7) and Paul Townend land the Grade 3 Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary
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Norman Lee says Sole Pretender is the "best horse he's ever had by a long way" and wishes the Guinness Galway Hurdle was tomorrow such is the form the seven-year-old is in ahead of his big day. 

Sole Pretender had to shoulder top weight in the €250,000 contest two years ago when a creditable fifth to Tudor City but Lee, who is based just over 20 miles from the track in Gort, is convinced he is a better horse now.

Lee told the Racing Post: "It's all systems go for Thursday. He did his last piece of work this morning [Saturday] and it went great. We brought him to the Curragh on Tuesday and everything went the way we wanted as well so we couldn't be happier with him. He's in the form of his life and hopefully he stays that way until Thursday. 

"He's the best horse we've ever had by a long way and I think he's better now than he was two years ago when he was fifth in it. He's much stronger now and his Grimes Hurdle win at Tipperary was as impressive as he's ever been. We actually thought he was a little short going into there so there could be more improvement to come."

Norman Lee: has a live Galway Hurdle contender in Sole Pretender

If that is the case then Sole Pretender is a big player because the way he dismissed Darasso, one of six JP McManus representatives at Tipperary, was very easy on the eye. The handicapper has left him on the same mark of 150 too. 

Lee added: "His two main assets are the way he cruises through his races and how accurate he is over his hurdles. Touch wood, he has never made a mistake so far and hopefully that remains the case on Thursday."

WATCH: Sole Pretender wins the Group 3 Kevin McManus Bookmaker Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary earlier this month

So, then, what would it mean to Lee to win the summer showpiece at his local track? "It would be unbelievable, absolutely brilliant," he replied.

"A Galway Hurdle or a Grade 1 or anything like that are always the races you want to win. This fella has already won a Grade 3 and he never runs a bad race. He's never been out of the money. He's won seven, finished second twice and he's always finished in the first five. He's been so consistent. It's incredible really."

Sole Pretender is as short as 11-1 with Sky Bet for the Galway Hurdle, while the best price available is 14-1. 

Sole Pretender is not the sole Lee runner at Galway this week. He runs She Is Electric in the mares bumper on Wednesday, a horse the trainer really likes.

Lee added: "We have a really nice mare running in the mares’ bumper on Wednesday. We ran her in Sligo but she was a bit keen and let's hope she settles a bit better this time. I really, really like her. She's very nice. A real good mare."

Not So Simple could also contest the beginners’ chase on Thursday for the stable, but the captain of the team is undoubtedly Sole Pretender, and what a story it would be if the local horse could win the biggest local prize of all. Stranger things have happened.

Guinness Galway Hurdle

Bet365: 8 Belfast Banter, 9 Cape Gentleman, Winner Takes Itall, 10 Magic Tricks, Milkwood, Zero Ten, 12 Call Me Lyreen, Jesse Evans, Saldier, Arcadian Sunrise, 14 bar

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The Front Runner is our latest email newsletter available exclusively to Members' Club Ultimate subscribers. Chris Cook, a three-time Racing Reporter of the Year award winner, provides his take on the day's biggest stories and tips for the upcoming racing every morning from Monday to Friday


He's in the form of his life and hopefully he stays that way until Thursday
E.W. Terms