Festival glory proves to be the work of Artful Artist
Artful Artist won the big Guinness Handicap yesterday for Meath trainer Tony Martin – but it has been a relatively quiet Galway Festival in terms of Ulster success, unlike the boxing at the Commonwealth Games.
Caledon-based Andy Oliver won the Claytonhotelgalway.ie Handicap on Monday with Expensive Taste, but otherwise the pickings have been slim for Ulster raiders.
The Galway Festival is a major showcase for training and riding talent, and Blackwater-based handler James Lambe describes the marathon seven-day extravaganza as a "monster".
Ulster trainers mainly focus on the traditional national hunt and point to point seasons during the winter months, so few have a Galway-type horse other than a few dual purpose handlers.
Lambe said: "I have been lucky enough to win two big chases at the festival. It's a great place to have a winner – it's worth three or four winners elsewhere.
"However it's not the be all and end all – I'll have a few runners over the next couple of days but I am already working out what goes to Sligo for the two-day meeting next week."
Oliver, while holding a dual purpose licence, is now firmly established in the flat ranks with high class and Group successes to his credit.
The Tyrone handler, with several festival winners to his credit in recent seasons, said: "Dodging Bullets was the best horse to win at the festival for me before being sold to Paul Nicholls."
The British champion national hunt trainer saw his purchase from Oliver finish fourth in the 2012 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the now five-time winner over jumps is pursuing a successful chasing career.
Oliver said: "There is a race for everybody at Galway and everyone wants a festival winner.
"You know the going is due to be good summer ground barring exceptional weather.
"Horses need to handle the tight track and experience is an advantage for the bends and undulating track – front runners do well.
"You need a nicely balanced horse and every race is ultra-competitive, even the low grade handicaps," he added.
Sligo is also on the agenda for the Oliver team.
Banbridge-based rider Stephen Clements is the perfect example of marketing your talents at the Galway Festival.
Clements was previously attached to Nicholls' stable in Somerset as a professional jockey and recorded Cheltenham Festival success in the 2011 Grand Annual on Osineau De Nuit but decided a couple of years ago to return home and ride as an amateur.
Victory last year in the premier flat race for amateur riders on the Martin-trained Edeymi saw Clements propelled to the top rank of amateurs and he consolidated his position when repeating the achievement on Monday on Quick Jack, again for Martin.
Crossgar trainer Colin McBratney and Newry owner Cathal McGovern showed how it's done when capturing the festival feature chase with Ballyholland in the 2009 Galway Plate.
Meanwhile, Navan trainer Noel Meade said last night at Galway that the James Nicholson Wines Chase – the Down Royal Festival's Grade One feature in November – is the likely next target for Wednesday's Galway Plate winner Road To Riches, owned by Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary.