Damp conditions meant the 2013 Galway festival will not go down in history as one of the best ever.
The torrential rain which fell on Tuesday night turned the ground from good in places to heavy, something which had an adverse effect on many of the runners.
There were plenty of talking points during the week, not least the decision by the JP McManus team to withdraw Like Your Style from the Wednesday’s Galway Plate because of the changed ground and supplement him with another McManus runner Carlingford Lough, which went on to land one of the gambles of the week under Tony McCoy.
The stewards called an inquiry into the reasons behind the move, interviewing trainer Eddie Harty as well as the senior National Hunt handicapper Noel O’Brien. Harty admitted that his charge’s best form was on soft or heavy ground, but felt that this was circumstantial rather than anything else due to the Irish climate. He added that this was the seven-year-old’s first run back after a break and he did not want to bottom him out for the rest of the season on far from ideal conditions.
O’Brien stated that Like Your Style’s best recent form was on heavy ground in the Troytown Chase last November, but Harty reported that run had left its mark and his two subsequent outings were disappointing.
This victory was the crowning glory for veteran handler John Kiely who has already two Galway hurdles to his credit. In his post-race remarks he revealed that Carlingford Lough has suffered several niggly problems and McManus was happy for him to be trained with the Plate in view.
Another highlight of the meeting saw Dermot Weld finish as the leading trainer yet again but he need to look over his shoulder as Tony Martin was in scintillating form. Eight victories, helped in no small way by the three successes of Busted Tycoon, constituted a record for the meeting.
From a local point of view Willie Mullins had a good festival with four successes while it was nice to see Shark Hanlon’s horses run well, even though he failed to visit the winners enclosure. Tom Mullins had the last word when taking the bumper at the concluding session with the 20/1 chance Merrion Row.
The opening evening saw Willie Mullins open his account when Wicklow Brave turned over the Dermot Weld-trained favourite Marty’s Magic in the bumper. He improved from mid-division to lead inside the final furlong and in spite of coming off a straight line landed the spoils by three parts of a length. A good looking son of Beat Hollow, the winner is owned by Wicklow Bloodstock Limited. Coming from these quarters, he will improve further when he has a little obstacle in front of him.
Union Dues provided Mullins with his second winner on Wednesday when he gave an eye-catching display to land the mile and a half maiden for amateur riders. A Grade Two bumper winner at Navan back in December, Union Dues encountered traffic problems early in the race and was dropped in as Courageous Fly set the early pace.
He looked to have plenty to do heading into the dip but he showed his undoubted class by coming wide into the straight and racing clear to win by six lengths from Darwins Fox. Where he goes from here remains unclear, but the winner is sure to be among the leading novice hurdlers when the season hots up on the run into the Christmas period.
For the second year is succession there were truly amazing scenes in the winners enclosure when Michael Winters took the Galway Hurdle, this time with Missunited. As a former factory worker and hospital attendant Winters has emerged as a serious player and his eccentric nature adds to the mystique.
Based near Kanturk in Co Cork, Winters became the first trainer to score back-to-back victories in the race since Noel Meade did it in 1982 and 1983 with Pinch Hitter, and the first in well over half a century to achieved the feat with different horses since Paddy Sleator sent out Tymon Castle and Knight Errand back in 1957 and 1958.
A teak-tough mare, Missunited won for the fourth time over hurdles to add to five wins on the level. Travelling well throughout, she took over after the penultimate hurdle and stayed on strongly up the hill to score by almost four lengths. It was difficult to get a word in edgeways with Winters post race but when the celebrations died down he revealed that the mare will revert to the flat, with a Listed race at the Curragh the target.