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Mark your Card: Galway Festival day one
We take a look at the runners and riders on day one at Ballybrit. Go on ya good thing …

THE BIGGEST SINGLE week in the Irish racing calendar kicks off in Ballybrit this evening as the 2011 Galway Races gets underway with a seven-race card.

It wouldn’t be Galway without Dermot Weld and the Rosewell House supremo will have plenty of chances to open his account on day one.

Today’s most intriguing contest is perhaps the Maiden for two-year-olds (18:10) in which Weld’s Riviera Poet goes up against Aidan O’Brien’s Learn, with little to choose between the pair.

Weld’s track record will almost certainly see his charge go off as favourite for the seven furlong sprint, but Riviera Poet’s impressive showing in finishing a good third to Power – who subsequently won the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot – at the Curragh in May speaks for itself.

Learn finished third in the Barronstown on his debut outing as well and is sure to improve in Colm O’Donoghue’s capable hands. The race will almost certainly be a match, though of the other contenders who could come from the pack, perhaps David Wachman’s Fight is the one to watch.

Weld also has an attractive prospect in the day’s opening race, the Novice Hurdle (17:05), in the form of Sulwaan. He impressed on his seasonal debut, staying on well to win by a half-length from Tavern Times in a novice hurdle in Sligo. He runs off six pounds more this afternoon, but should be more than capable of coping with the additional load.

At the top of the weights is Devil’s Bit, a son of Montjeu who romped to a seven-length victory over a pretty average field in Gowran five weeks ago. Davy Russell and Banyan Tree will also pose a challenge and shouldn’t be discounted at big odds.

The day’s feature race is the Handicap (18:45), with 20 going to post for the flat two-miler.

Again, at the head of the market is a Dermot Weld horse. Natural High is a three-time winner on the flat and, although he has always seemed slightly off the pace in handicap contests, today could be the day when he breaks his duck.

This is one contest which has a reputation for throwing up high-priced winners though, and it will pay to look further down the betting for some value. Jessica Harrington’s Dreamy Gent won over course and distance at the festival four years ago and, though nine-years-old now, could run a race if he gets in.

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Charlie Swan’s Zaralabad, saddled by Nina Carberry, and Fosters Cross are two more to be aware of at double-digit prices.

Nap of the day

Dermot Weld’s Sulwaan (5/4) is tipped to get punters off to the best possible start in the opening race at 17:05.


Zaralabad (16/1) hasn’t been particularly impressive so far this season, but off a lighter mark this afternoon, he could run into a place.

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