Mister progressing towards Galway
Brendan Duke is at a loss to explain the the sudden improvement in his Guinness Galway Hurdle candidate Mister Benedictine.
The nine-year-old has found a new lease of life this summer and after 75 races he has reached a career-high handicap mark of 129, but he is still only 31st on the list for the ultra-competitive race.
Easy wins at Ballinrobe and twice at Kilbeggan mean he will go to Ballybrit as one of the more fancied runners, but his participation is not definite as yet.
"I'm very glad I've been out walking for 361 days as I'm holding my breath to see if he gets in or not," said Duke.
"At this stage I'd say he's slightly favourite to get in as Willie Mullins has six, Edward O'Grady has three, Eddie Harty has three and Oliver McKiernan and Gordon Elliott have two each. You'd think only half of those would run and maybe another three might drop out for the ground or whatever reason.
"I've been very happy with the horse and I'd love to run him. If we don't get to run him, he'd go for the Ladbroke on the Saturday, but this is the plan.
"I've no idea where his improvement has come from if I'm honest. Maybe he's realised how good he's got it. His improvement really has been astonishing, but why it's happened at nine and with 70-odd races behind him is a mystery.
"It might be because he had a very long break for the first time since he was a yearling. He was turned out last July and didn't come in until October. He amused himself.
"His improvement has amazed me though, even since Kilbeggan. He should handle Galway too, as pace is no problem and people say if you can handle Kilbeggan you can handle Galway. He even won at Ballinrobe, but that was a penalty kick without a goalkeeper as he was thrown in.
"I'm obviously very excited. We give him a bottle of Guinness every evening but I'd better not say that's why he's improved or else the country will all turn into alcoholics!"