Jockey Tony aims Sky high in bid for Galway history
Tony Martin and Steven Clements will tonight combine with Ted Veale in the quest for an unprecedented third successive triumph in the Connacht Hotel Qualified Riders' Handicap at the Galway Races.
Three times previously a trainer has won the competitive €80,000 two-miler in successive years, with the same jockey utilised on two of those occasions.
The first to achieve the feat was none other than Dermot Weld, who trained and rode Spanner to back-to-back victories in 1972 and 1973.
Weld has since gone on to forever etch his name into Ballybrit folklore. Few, though, have challenged his superiority in his own personal fiefdom as Martin has in the past couple of years.
When Weld accumulated a mammoth 17 wins at the seven-day western gala in 2011, Martin departed with one. It was his first there for three years and he drew another blank in 2012.
Then 2013 and 2014 happened, with an aggregate 14 wins initiated by success in the opening night feature for Edeymi two years ago and Quick Jack 12 months ago.
Martin had identified many of his colleagues' indifference toward Galway, a sentiment that doubtless had its roots in Weld's unerring annual onslaught. He saw something in the challenge that he felt he could master, and Weld has since been looking over his shoulder.
This evening, the heir apparent will saddle two others alongside Ted Veale, which looks likely to start favourite in the John Breslin silks that Clements carried to glory aboard Quick Jack.
Spacious Sky and Encrypted Message, formerly of Weld's Rosewell House establishment, complete the wily Co Meath handler's delegation.
Weld relies on Sierra Sun, which will sport the Lady O'Reilly silks carried to victory by Midnight Music in 2012. Jane Mangan was in the saddle on that occasion and her fellow Co Cork native Finny Maguire gets the nod today.
Son of the legendary Adrian, the stylish seven-pound-claiming Maguire had his first ride for Weld at last year's festival when scoring on Whitey O'Gwaun, and their only other Flat association also resulted in a win for Silver Concorde at Killarney recently.
They boast a strike-rate together under National Hunt rules of 1-3, so Sierra Sun is sure to have a say in a race that Weld has won four times in 10 years.
Mangan partners Johnny Murtagh's Eye Of The Tiger this time, while the indomitable champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins has two live contenders in Whiteout and Wood Breizh.
Mullins' son Patrick has opted for Whiteout, with Katie Walsh booked for Wood Breizh. Surprisingly, this is one of the few marquee amateur riders' events that none of the three has conspired to win. It is unlikely that scenario will continue much longer for such a distinguished trio.
The festival will begin on slow ground, though the forecast is for brighter weather as the week unfolds.