I have been acutely aware that during my time with WhichBookie, I haven’t delved into the ante-post markets too much over the last couple of weeks. I was perhaps a little bit late to the party to put up anything for Royal Ascot, and the one I ended up siding with – was a Non-Runner. These are the perils of Ante-Post betting, but with the Galway Festival providing some juicy jumps handicaps to get stuck into – I will be trying my best to find a few decent ante-post selections, which will hopefully run, and run well. Today’s attention focuses on the Galway Hurdle, which is one of the trickiest handicap hurdles of the year to try and solve.
Over the last few years of the Galway Hurdle, it is clear what is required. Usually, it takes a fairly high-class horse, who has the ability to travel sweetly, but to keep enough in reserve for what can be a gruelling final furlong and a half going uphill in Ballybrit. As much as Robbie Power executed one of the best rides in recent years to get Tudor City up from the rear in this race a few years ago, it usually takes a horse who can travel nearer the pace – as there often can be a lot of hard-luck stories.
Looking at the current market for the race this year, it is quite clear to be drawn to Belfast Banter, who won the County Hurdle before adding a Grade 1 to his CV at the Grand National meeting at Aintree. He is still attractively weighted off 144 if he can step up once again, and you couldn’t put it past him. My only issue with this horse is how he has to be ridden, and I’m not sure how effective that is going to be around Galway. Kevin Sexton gave him the ride of Cheltenham this year, when smuggling him through the County Hurdle field off a fast pace, to pounce right at the death to collect the spoils. Those daring tactics could leave him vulnerable to being hampered at Galway, and at a favourites price – I would have enough doubt to leave him be.
Instead, the one who is calling my name in this competitive renewal is Copperless, for Olly Murphy and more than likely to be ridden by Aidan Coleman. This is a horse who is on a sharp upward trajectory and it still remains to be seen just how far he can scale this year. Having been a silent progressive horse this spring, he went off favourite for the conditional jockeys handicap hurdle at the Grand National. He was travelling all over a strong field when he came out of Lewis Stones’ hands at the second last and fell, leaving connections to rue their luck.
However, he was then targeted at the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock, where he made amends off a three pounds higher mark than Aintree. It was as destructive a performance of a handicap hurdle as you will have seen all year, as he powered clear to win by a widening 8 and a half lengths from Cormier and Comprond. That was off a mark of 126, and he runs here off a stone higher on 140. That causes an issue, but the way he won at Haydock would indicate that it may not stop him whatsoever. Even looking back to some of his earlier form this spring, when beating Hooper at Market Rasen or just denying Chez Hans at Taunton – it’s all strong form. Those two mentioned horses have won 9 races between them since being defeated by Copperless, which is a strong indicator of how good this horse might be.
Not all bookmakers have prices up for the Galway Hurdle just yet, but Copperless is 12/1 with Paddy Power with 5 places available – which looks very enticing. He is not officially confirmed to come over yet, but he was earmarked for this race after Haydock, and Murphy has no issues bringing some of his horses over for these sorts of contests. With all this in mind, I think it is a due risk to take the price currently – because I believe he will shorten up considerably if he is entered in the race in the coming days.