It’s nearly time for the annual pilgrimage to Galway to wage war on the bookies and to catch up on old friends. The Galway Festival continues to be the standard bearer for Horse Racing Ireland and all eyes will be focused on the figures for tote and bookmaker turnover this year. Quite simply the industry needs a good Galway to stop the reduction in turnover experienced by most racecourses so far this year.
I would not be so bold as to give any specific tips a week before the races and anyway there will be more than enough of these flying around by the time of the first race on Monday.
I am happy to give the following general pointers which have served me well over the years and which you might consider when trying to pick a winner:-
1. Horses for Courses
Galway is probably the best example of this old maxim and every year we see horses come good at Galway who have run well there previously. This can sometimes happen even where they come into the meeting with poor recent form.
2. Watch the Going
This is likely to be of particular importance with all of the recent rain and with more forecast for next week. The form book often goes out the window when the ground is soft to heavy as it may well be next week. Look for horses that handle the going because horses who need good ground or good to firm ground will often struggle in softer conditions.
Like the going stamina is very important especially if the ground is soft or worse. There is a big dip before the last bend in Galway and it takes a horse with plenty of stamina to get up the hill there especially on soft to heavy ground. For a two mile race I would be looking for a horse that has won over two miles plus before I would put a bet on. Similarly for the shorter races I would only want to bet on a horse who has won over a longer trip than the race it is entered in.
Galway is a right handed track and I would tend to favour horses who have already run well going right handed. Many horses have a preference so look at horses who have run in courses like the Curragh, Punchestown, Sligo, Tramore, Ballinrobe or any other right handed track.
5. The Draw
This applies in the shorter races where there is a distinct advantages for horses drawn on the inside. Don’t overlook this as most horses struggle to overcome a bad draw.
6. Up with the Pace
Because of the dip and the fact that it is a tight track with a short finishing straight I tend to favour horses who run up with the pace. That could be particularly important this year where the ground is likely to be heavy which makes it hard for a horse to win from far off the pace.
7. Good Recent Form
Even though horses are often laid out for Galway and the trainer may have been ‘minding’ their handicap mark I tend to favour horses who have good recent form. Potential is fine but proven performance counts for more.
In handicaps where horses carry different weights it may be better to look for a horse lower down in the weights especially in the anticipated soft to heavy going. Weight tends to be more of a factor in the longer races.
9. Battling Qualities
I like to back a horse who has shown resolution in a tight finish rather than ‘bridle horses’ or horses who ‘down tools’ in a battle. This is particularly true in Galway where is a big climb up from the dip which puts a premium on stamina.
10. Trainers Record
Some trainers excel at Galway Dermot Weld being the most obvious example – the difficulty is often in deciding which of his to back as he often has a horse in most races. You can sometimes get a nice winner with a local trainer who might ‘lay one out’ for Galway.
11. Jockey’s Record
I would put more weighting on the jockey’s record as a good jockey around Galway can sometimes get an ordinary horse home whereas a less experienced one may struggle to adapt to the unique challenges of the Galway track.
12. Invest more in the longer races
This is probably a debatable point but as a National Hunt fan I prefer the longer race which allow a horse overcome a bad start and where one doesn’t have to take the draw into consideration.
13. Look at horses that ran well earlier in the week.
In particular look at ones who ran well but did not have a hard race earlier in the week. Recording the races may bring ones of these to your attention.
Hope some of these help and one final pointer – if you are having a drink do most of your punting first – doing the two together is a sure way to the poor house!!
Good Luck – you’ll need it!!