The Galway Plate is one of Ireland’s biggest betting races over the summer and in the entire horse racing calendar on the Emerald Isle. A Grade A handicap steeplechase over an extended two-and-three-quarter miles, it is the historic centerpiece of the seven-day Galway Festival held at the end of July and beginning of August at Ballybrit just outside the city of Galway.
This year’s running of the Plate on July 28 looks just as competitive as ever, and it’s no surprise that leading Irish owner JP McManus has many entries. His famous green and gold hooped silks have been carried to victory in the race six times before over the last 20 years.
According to the latest Galway Plate betting, The Shunter goes into the race as the early favorite. McManus purchased this horse in the Emmet Mullins stable after the Stowaway gelding won five of his first seven starts last season. Those wins included the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso and a valuable handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
McManus is guaranteed four other runners in the Plate if he wishes. They include Darasso and Top Moon from the stable of last year’s winning trainer, Joseph O’Brien. Both of his horses must prove they get the trip.
Off You Go is another potential McManus runner and represents the best of the Irish Grand National form after finishing sixth at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday. That followed a fine win at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown in a Grade A handicap steeplechase.
The veteran Modus, who has experience of the famous Grand National fences at Aintree near Liverpool, could also run for this owner after leaving the Paul Nicholls stable and joining Enda Bolger. His future may lie in the Cross Country discipline, though.
Irish jumps racing’s other powerful long-term owners are Gigginstown House Stud. They have had four Galway Plate winners since 2014, and Samcro frames the handicap as topweight. This was a nominated target for him, following his Grade 3 success at Killarney in the spring.
Battleoverdoyen could also run, alongside O’Brien-trained pair Assemble and Embittered, yet it is the improving Cavalry Master for Henry De Bromhead who is most prominent in the betting among Gigginstown entrants. That one has a four-race winning sequence under his belt and crucially fits the profile of many recent horses that have tasted victory in the Plate.
Cavalry Master represents a stable coming off a defining and hugely successful season in which De Bromhead won the three biggest races at Cheltenham, including the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup, and also saddled the first two home in the Grand National. Confidence is high in the camp, then, and seven-year-olds with a low weight have a fabulous record in this particular race.
Willie Mullins could have six runners in the Galway Plate, including four for wealthy stable backers Rich and Susannah Ricci. They are Brahma Bull, Annamix, Livelovelaugh and Koshari. Mullins also has last year’s runner-up, Royal Rendezvous, entered alongside Easy Game, who would assume topweight if Samcro didn’t race.