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Unpicking the Plate: the key questions that could decide the Galway feature

Mullins fields five runners in bid to land second Galway Plate
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7.20 Galway Galway Plate Handicap Chase (Grade A) | 4yo+| 2m6½f | RTE2/ATR

This year’s Tote-sponsored Galway Plate, which has a whopping prize-money pot of €250,000, again involves the usual suspects. Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Henry de Bromhead and Joseph O’Brien are among the trainers in the mix, but who will come out on top? Here’s what you need to know.

Can Mullins make it two with one of his five runners?

Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead dominated this season's Irish jump championship and supply 14 of the 22 runners in the biggest chase of the summer.

All three have enjoyed success in the race, with De Bromhead claiming the prize twice in the past three years, including Shanahan's Turn in 2015 and Balko Des Flos last year.

Elliott got his name on the roll of honour two years ago when Lord Scoundrel, who runs again, landed his sole success.

Mullins, too, has won the Galway Plate only once, courtesy of Blazing Tempo in 2011. He runs five this time, with Patrick's Park bubbling under as first reserve.

Patricks Park and Paul Townend (far side) winning at Punchestown last time
Mullins said: "We're hoping Patrick's Park gets in as he's in good form. We definitely run Alelchi Inois and Ballycasey, who ran second and third in the race two years ago, Saturnas, who is Ruby's pick, Koshari and Haymount.

"Alelchi Inois hasn't run since being pulled up in the race a year ago. He's in good form and has shown he acts well at Galway. Although Ballycasey hasn't won for over a year, he's got loads of experience.

"Koshari is in good form for his first handicap run, while Saturnas has only run four times over fences, but has a nice low weight for a horse who was a Grade 1 winner over hurdles.

"Haymount hasn't run since being pulled up in the race 12 months ago, but Paul [Townend] is happy to be on him."

Can Blackmore match Collen?

Rachael Blackmore, who rides three-time Grade 1 winner Valseur Lido for De Bromhead, will be attempting to become only the second female rider to win the race after Sarah Collen, who rode Bold Flyer in 1989.

De Bromhead said: "Rachael picked Valseur Lido, who is in good form following a break. Sub Lieutenant is top weight so Dylan Robinson is claiming 3lb.

Rachael Blackmore bidding to make history in the Plate

"Calino D'Airy, who is running in his first handicap, has won two chases over the course, admittedly over a shorter distance. He was a progressive novice last season and we hope he's still improving, while Conrad Hastings at the bottom of the handicap could have a squeak if the ground doesn't get too testing."

He added: "Devils Bride was fourth in the race two years ago and was in contention when falling at the last a year ago. He's won over the course and has dropped in the ratings since last year."

Will Russell follow up 2017 triumph?

Davy Russell, successful on Balko Des Flos a year ago, rides Jury Duty for Elliott and will be bidding to become the first jockey to ride back-to-back winners since Adrian Maguire in 1992 and 1993.

Of his team, Elliott said: "Jury Duty has never run in a handicap but has plenty of good graded race form and is in good order. He has plenty of weight though. 

"Lord Scoundrel lost his form after winning the race two years ago and has been disappointing since. He ran okay over hurdles last time but will need to come back to his best.

"Clarcam is far from consistent, while De Plotting Shed is in good order. He hasn't won a chase but has enough experience and was going well when badly hampered at the Punchestown festival in April."

What they say

Noel Meade, trainer of Snow Falcon
He's in good form and I'm very happy with him. He's had a break and is fresh and well. If it's soft ground that won't be a problem.

Jessica Harrington, trainer of Rock The World and Neverushacon
Both horses are in good order. The rain means the ground has probably gone a bit against Rock The World, but Neverushacon will go on it.

Alan Fleming, trainer of Tully East
All is good with him. He's been in great nick since his run over hurdles at Tipperary and we couldn't be happier with him. With a clear round and no traffic problems he should be thereabouts.

Frank Berry, racing manager to JP McManus, owner of Kitten Rock, Drumcliff and Slowmotion
Slowmotion ran very well in the race last year, finishing third. She lost her way a bit afterwards but ran quite well over hurdles at Tipperary last time. She wears blinkers for the first time. Kitten Rock has been off the track a long time and lacks experience over fences, but Edward [O'Grady] is very happy with him. 

Drumcliff and Aine O'Connor winning at Ascot earlier this year

Peter Fahey, trainer of Peregrine Run
He's in great form and had a nice run on the Flat last time. We're hoping they don't get much more rain and if they don't then we'll be hopeful he can get some prize-money.

Harry Fry, trainer of Drumcliff
We’ve upped the ante somewhat going for one of the most competitive handicap chases in the calendar but we’re very happy with him. We thought about stepping him up in trip for the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter but decided to keep him for this. We’re under no illusion how competitive a race it is. Galway is a unique track and we’ll need plenty of luck but Aine O’Connor has a very good record on him and we’ll give it our best shot. There was never any hesitation about who would ride. If we’re in the shake-up we’ll be delighted.

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We're hoping Patrick's Park gets in as he's in good form
E.W. Terms
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