Things We Learned » Galway figures

Galway figures

So that was Galway, a colossus on the Irish racing calendar that just appears to get more colossal with every passing year.

The figures were impressive again. Total attendances of over 139,000 were 9% up on last year, Tote betting of over €5 million was a really impressive 17% up on last year and – most remarkably of all – on-course bookmaker turnover of almost €8.5 million was 7.6% up on last year. This in an era during which on-course bookmaker betting just doesn’t go up.

A measure of the value of the contribution that the Galway Races makes to the Irish racing year can be seen in the figures. Last year’s attendance figure for Galway week constituted over 10% of the total attendance figure at Irish race meetings for the year.

Tote betting at the Galway Festival last year represented almost 9% of total Tote betting for the year, while on-course betting in the ring at Galway last year represented 10.5% of total betting with the on-course bookmakers at Irish racecourses for 2013.

Shows you how important Galway is, taking up, as it does, less than 2% of the calendar.

Accolades and awards

You could have presented many accolades at the end of the week. Noel Meade for his first Galway Plate, Shane Shortall and Sean Corby and Gary Halpin and David Mullins and Finian Maguire and Johnny Burke for top shop-window rides, Gigginstown House and JP McManus for their first Plate and Hurdle respectively, AP McCoy for his no-nonsense Hurdle-winning ride, Davy Russell for defying just about every law of physics on Vexalco, Paul Townend and Pat Smullen (again) and Dermot Weld (yet again) for, well, achieving the accolades.

That said, if you had just one accolade to award, it might go to Tony Martin.

The Meath trainer had 18 runners at Galway last week, including Artful Artist and Spacious Sky twice, and he had six winners. That is a strike rate of 33%, and that is fairly remarkable at Galway. As well as that, five of the 12 beaten horses finished placed, and only three of them finished outside the first five.

Not only that, but three of his six winners were in three of the big handicaps. Quick Jack in the 20-runner Connacht Hotel Qualified Riders’ Handicap on Monday, Greatness in the 20-runner Tote Handicap Hurdle on Wednesday and, of course, Thomas Edison in the Galway Hurdle (20 more runners) on Thursday.

Not only is Tony Martin a Grade 1 trainer now, but he is still a man to be feared in the big handicaps, and he obviously has his team in tip-top form.

Taking Shergar Cup seriously

Mark Johnston has a lot of time for the Shergar Cup, a factor that is evident in the results.

He had 12 runners in the Shergar Cup on this day last year. He had the 1-2-3 in the Classic, led home by the 7/1 shot Royal Skies, and he had the 1-2 in the Challenge, led home by the 5/1 shot Star Lahib, while Oriental Fox finished third in the Stayers at 17/2, beaten a neck and a short head.

Johnston didn’t have a winner at the Shergar Cup in 2012, but most of his five representatives ran well. Three of them ran in the Classic, in which Scatter Dice was third at 12/1, while Galician was only beaten a half a length into second place in the Sprint.

The Middleham trainer has had four Shergar Cup winners in the last 10 years, two in the Classic and two in the Challenge, and his Shergar Cup horses invariably run well. It is difficult to know why that is. Perhaps he targets the day, perhaps he readies his horses for it. Perhaps his horses generally run their races even with unknown bodies on board. His 1-2-3 in the Classic last year were ridden by Gerald Mosse, Kieren Fallon and Andrasch Starke, while his 1-2 in the Challenge were ridden by Ioritz Mendizabal and Gerald Mosse.

The Johnston horses go into today’s meeting on a high after a fantastic Glorious Goodwood that saw them amass four wins and 10 places from 29 attempts. He only has three runners in the Shergar Cup heats today, Sir Frank Morgan in the Stayers and Swivel and Snow Squall in the Classic, but all three are worth a second look.

Other trainers who have done well in the Shergar Cup include William Haggas, who had one winner and one second from two runners last year, and one winner and one fourth from two runners in 2012, Ed Dunlop, whose sole runner in 2012, Lyric Street, finished fourth in the Stayers, and whose sole runner last year, Homeric, won the same race, and Andrew Balding, who has had six Shergar Cup winners in the last decade.

Haggas has three declared runners today, Wrangler in the Classic, Telmeyd in the Sprint and Homage, a reserve in the Mile, Dunlop has two, Bantam in the Challenge and Trip To Paris in the Classic, while Balding is well represented as ever, with Swan Song and Dungannon (reserve) in the Dash, Debdebdeb in the Stayers, Communicator in the Challenge, and From Frost and Spectator (reserve) in the Classic.

Buick fillip

Last Saturday’s renewal of the Markel Insurance Nassau Stakes may not have been the best renewal of the Markel Insurance Nassau Stakes ever run, and when we get to the end of the season, we may not look back on it as one of the more memorable Group 1 races of 2014. However, you can only ever beat what they put in front of you, and it was won in fine style by Sultanina, who remains highly progressive. It was a massive Group 1 win for the filly and for her owners Normandie Stud, and it was massive for her rider William Buick.

It was also big for trainer John Gosden obviously, all Group 1 races are big for all trainers, but Gosden had already had two Group 1 winners last week before the Nassau Stakes was run. The difficulty for Buick is that, while King George winner Taghrooda and Sussex Stakes winner Kingman are trained by his boss, they are owned by owners who have their own retained riders.

As John Gosden’s stable jockey, William Buick has one of the top jobs in British racing. However, because two of the most prominent owners in the yard – Sheikh Hamdan and Prince Khalid Abdullah – retain Paul Hanagan and James Doyle respectively, opportunities for the stable jockey are slightly curtailed.

The numbers suggest that it shouldn’t be that big an issue for Buick. Gosden has had 128 individual runners this season so far. Sheikh Hamdan owns 16 of them, while Prince Khalid owns just seven. Of the 55 Gosden horses who have won, Sheikh Hamdan owns nine of them while Prince Khalid owns just three of them.

It just happens that, this year, those two owners own two of the best horses in the yard, whose contribution is immense. Between the pair of them, they have racked up five Group 1 wins. As a consequence, of Gosden’s seven Group 1 winners this season so far, his stable jockey has ridden just two of them. It must be frustrating for Buick, but all he can do is continue to do what he is doing: head down and wait for the Group 1 horses to come his way.

Overheard in the winner’s enclosure

Interviewer: So what’s the plan with him now?

Trainer: I have to talk to the owner, but we’re thinking of aiming him at the Mongol Derby. We think he’ll appreciate the step up in trip. No distance is too far for this fellow.