Galway Hurdle Tips: Willie Mullins to strike gold in Thursday showpiece

Willie Mullins tipped to saddle the winner of the Galway Hurdle
Willie Mullins tipped to saddle the winner of the Galway Hurdle

We are set for a hugely competitive renewal of the Galway Hurdle on day four of the Galway Festival, and you can check out our big-race tip here...

One of the flagship races of the entire week, the Galway Hurdle has long been a real punting head-scratcher and the 2021 renewal is no different with a stellar field heading to the 2m 11y start for what looks another devilishly difficult handicap event to work out.

Hugely impressive County Hurdle winner Belfast Banter will be attempting to emulate that fabulous Cheltenham Festival success on Thursday, but Kevin Fahey's star will face a much tougher assignment, as he lines up off a 15lb higher mark than his County winning mark, and 144 could just be beyond him. He built on his Prestbury Park success by landing a win in the Grade 1 Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree's Grand National meeting, but that has caused his mark to rise further, and he will now have to come on significantly to land this prize.

There's no doubting Belfast Banter has to be respected, but it could the horse challenging him for favouritism that could prove to be a more notable contender, and off a featherweight Winner Takes Itall looks interesting. Joseph O'Brien's six-year-old son of Nathaniel has snuck in at the bottom of the weights after he recorded a comfortable win at Bellewstown earlier this month. Easing to a four-and-a-quarter length success that day, the JP McManus-owned raider shaped like he could be significantly ahead of the handicapper, and he is a fascinating runner.

This test will be a whole new experience for him, but having shown signs that he could be on the sharp upgrade then he is entitled to be a key figure at the head of the betting, and has to be on punter's shortlist.

Willie Mullins will saddle a three-pronged attack and the Closutton trio will be spearheaded by the top-weighted Saldier, who has competed in some red-hot races in recent times, and was a creditable seventh behind star mare Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. However, he has been seen on the Flat in his last two races and having bagged a win at Listowel on the level he then went on to Royal Ascot, but could only finish mid-division in the Copper Horse Stakes.

While there's no doubting he's the class act in the race, the seven-year-old may just find this contest beyond his reach, as he has to give significant weight away to all his rivals, and he could be pipped by a more attractively handicapped adversary. One runner that fits that bracket is his stablemate CIEL DE NEIGE, who has run some fine races in competitive handicap hurdles, and he could well run a stormer once again.

Runner-up in the 2020 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, the seven-year-old took on Belfast Banter in the County Hurdle, but could only finish ninth, but with that rival rocketing up the handicap then Ciel De Neige will be much better off at the weights on Thursday. He showed he was in fabulous form last time out when just being edged out by Koshari in a 2m 4f event at the Punchestown Festival, and while he's been upped in the handicap for that fine run, he should enjoy the drop back to two miles, and he can be the jewel in the Mullins' crown, and can at least make the frame.

Cape Gentleman is another that has been switching between the Jumps and Flat, and the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices' Hurdle winner was a warm order for the Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting, but could only finish fifth. That wasn't an awful run, and he could be one that enjoys a return to the jumping sphere, and a mark of 140 looks workable. He featured in the same Punchestown race as the aforementioned Ciel De Neige did, but could only finish ninth, but he does line up off the same mark on Thursday, so should get closer to Ciel De Neige. However, he still may not have enough to reverse that form, and is one that can be avoided.

Magic Tricks catches the eye in the lower echelons of the handicap, as the Denise Foster-trained star ran a decent race in a tough handicap at Fairyhouse in April, and having had a spin on the Flat to get him right for this then he has to be considered, while others at the bottom of the weights include Noel Meade's Jesse Evans, who was victorious in his last spin over timber and Eclair De Beaufeu, who was a decent fourth in the County Hurdle.

But, it's Willie Mullins that is the man to follow here, and having won three of the last five renewals, the master of Co. Carlow can claim the gold medal once again with Ciel De Neige, who looks the one to beat in a hugely exciting contest.

Thursday 29th July - Galway Hurdle
Ciel De Neige silk

Ciel De Neige (EW)

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