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'He's in great shape and working well' - can Samcro bounce back in Galway Plate?

Samcro: sports cheekpieces for the first time in the Galway Plate
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Wednesday: 6.15 Galway
Tote Galway Plate | 2m6½f | 4yo+ | RTE2/RTV

When you consider classy sorts such as Balko Des Flos, Shanahan's Turn, Road To Riches and Carlingford Lough have won the Galway Plate in the last decade, it is hard to fathom that Ansar's second success in the race back in 2005 was the last time a winner carried more than 10st 13lb to victory.

It really is an extraordinary stat given Balko Des Flos went on to win a Ryanair Chase, Road To Riches was third in a Cheltenham Gold Cup and Carlingford Lough landed five Grade 1s in his career.

That stat raises serious question marks about the top two in the market – The Shunter and Royal Rendezvous.

The Shunter has soared to a mark of 152 so will carry 11st 1lb thanks to Simon Torrens' 3lb claim. Using a claimer certainly worked to his advantage when he won the Paddy Power Plate at Cheltenham under Jordan Gainford, so Emmet Mullins has called on another one here.

The Shunter was snapped up by JP McManus from Paul Byrne before finishing second in the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree and, given he has won at Downpatrick, Kelso and Cheltenham in his career, the undulations of Ballybrit should hold no fears. He is an eight-year-old on the up and could be a Grade 1 performer masquerading as a handicapper just as Carlingford Lough was eight years ago.

That said, Carlingford Lough won the Plate off a mark of 133. The Shunter has to do it off 19lb higher. It won't be easy.

Royal Rendezvous is back to try to go one better under 11st 5lb. You could certainly argue he was unlucky in the race last year when tightened up on the home turn but still managing to get within three-quarters of a length of Early Doors at the line.

Royal Rendezvous: bids to go one better after finishing second in the race last year

He’s 7lb higher than last year but has to go right-handed and has had a light prep. We have only seen him twice in the interim and you sense this has been the aim for a while.

Willie Mullins is bidding to win the prize for only a second time too. Blazing Tempo in 2011 was his sole winner in the race and he has supplied the beaten favourite on four occasions since 2015.

Alelchi Inois (2015), Shaneshill (2017), Patricks Park (2018) or Royal Rendezvous (2020) could not justify their position in the market but the most recent three did finish second so he has been pounding the crossbar of late.

Joseph O'Brien hit the back of the net with Early Doors last year and he has a horse with a broadly similar profile in Top Moon in that you sense we have not seen the best of him yet.

It took an age for Top Moon to win over fences, ten tries in fact, but now he has that Wexford victory under his belt you get the impression there is more to come. He has it all going on as far as the trends go – carries less than 10st 13lb, aged between six and eight, rated between 136 and 147 and no more than ten chase runs. It is surely noteworthy that Mark Walsh has chosen him too.

Samcro would be of some interest if the rain stayed away. Getting up late to deny Cilaos Emery at Killarney in May is form that should not be sniffed at and his Marsh win was only 16 months ago.

Stablemate Battleoverdoyen is a big disappointment but if you rewind back to Down Royal last October he beat Easy Game by six lengths while giving him 2lb with Samcro finishing third.

Of the outsiders, a case could be made for Snugsborough Hall and Annamix, but Top Moon is put forward to provide his trainer and owner with back-to-back wins in the race.

What they say

Denise Foster, trainer of Samcro and Battleoverdoyen
We think Listowel came a bit quick after Killarney for Samcro. He's in great shape and working well, but it's a big ask off topweight. He's wearing cheekpieces for the first time. Battleoverdoyen's last run wasn't actually too bad as he was giving away loads of weight. He's in good order. We know he has the ability.

Willie Mullins, trainer of Easy Game, Brahma Bull, Royal Rendezvous, Annamix, Livelovelaugh and Koshari
Royal Rendezvous had a nice prep when winning a hurdle at Ballinrobe last time. He was unlucky in this race last year and with a little improvement should go close again. Patrick [Mullins] has elected to ride Annamix who jumps well enough and has been working well. He'll like this nice ground and has a good chance. Easy Game has a lot of weight and faces a tough assignment. Too much rain would curtail his chance. Brahma Bull won over three miles last time and might just find this trip a little short. With his rider’s 7lb claim, he has an each-way chance. Livelovelaugh will be suited by this trip but might find things happening a bit fast around this tight track. Koshari has a lovely racing weight and could be well handicapped. He improved hugely to win over hurdles at the Punchestown festival and has a decent chance if he keeps his jumping together.

Koshari: "He has a lovely racing weight and could be well handicapped"

Emmet Mullins, trainer of The Shunter
He's 100 per cent. He got a little break after Punchestown and seems to be in great order again now. He's schooled well and that was a bit of a relief after the way he jumped at Aintree. He brings a bit of class to the race on the back of that second in a Grade 1 but it will be hard off his weight.

Joseph O'Brien, trainer of Darasso, Home By The Lee, Assemble and Top Moon
Assemble was running a good race at Killarney when he caught the second-last and came down. He's been in good form since. Darasso has been in really good form of late. He handles a bit of juice in the ground so hopefully he can run a nice race. Home By The Lee didn't really fire in the Irish Grand National but this has been the plan since. Top Moon won nicely at Wexford. We think he'll enjoy the course and the trip.

Gearoid O'Loughlin, trainer of Mitchouka and Ben Dundee
This has been the plan for Mitchouka since he won at Leopardstown. He looked a ready-made contender for the Galway Plate. He runs well fresh and we haven't missed a day with him, so he looks to have a good each-way chance. So too does Ben Dundee. He was in training with Willie Mullins all last year and was being aimed at the Galway Plate before he met with a setback. We have the right man to get him around in Denis O'Regan and I think he'll run a big race.

Enda Bolger, trainer of Modus
I was happy to see the rain coming for him as he likes a bit of juice in the ground. He's been on the go a long time but he came out of his race at Tipperary very well and hopefully he can run a nice race.

Wednesday's race previews:

1.50 Goodwood: 'Hopefully this is just the start for Kolisi' – Marquand keen on mount's chances

2.25 Goodwood: who will relish soft ground in the Oak Tree? Graeme Rodway has the answers

3.00 Goodwood: ground the major concern as host of speedy juveniles gear up for Molecomb

3.35 Goodwood: no ground concerns for Jim Bolger as Poetic Flare takes on top fillies in Sussex

3.35 Goodwood: Keith Melrose thinks the value against Poetic Flare can be found down the market (Members' Club)

5.10 Galway: Paul Townend nominates Dark Voyager as his best chance of a winner on Plate day

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He runs well fresh and we haven't missed a day with him so he looks to have a good each-way chance
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